Well, three of the four Conference Semifinals matchups are set, as the top-four seeds in the Eastern Conference all advanced, along with three of the top-four seeds of the Western Conference, although one of those three Western Conference teams, the Golden State Warriors, is still awaiting the winner of the Minnesota Timberwolves-Memphis Grizzlies series. So with that being said, I won’t blog about the Warriors until that last remaining First Round series reaches its conclusion.
But what I will blog about in this entry are my predictions for each of the three confirmed Conference Semifinals matchups via the bullet points below:
- #3 Milwaukee Bucks Vs. #2 Boston Celtics-The defending champs won in five games against the Chicago Bulls just as I predicted, while the Celtics exceeded my expectations, by sweeping the Brooklyn Nets. The Bucks, despite how frustrating that they can be, are hard to go against because they are the champs. However, they will be vulnerable in this series, as Khris Middleton is out for the entirety of it with a sprained MCL. And that doesn’t bode well for an excellent defensive team like the Celtics, as he is their only closer on the offensive end of the floor. The Celtics have plenty of bodies to contend with that jumbo-sized front line of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis, with their best player in Jayson Tatum being among them. Plus, not only is Tatum someone that can contend with that jumbo-sized front line because in addition, the Bucks don’t really have a true defensive stopper to neutralize him. Especially with the aforementioned absence of Middleton. The Bucks have lucked out one way or another in their past five series, but that luck is finally going to run out against the team that is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most championships in NBA history. I would say Celtics in six. But given the quick work that they made of the Nets, I’ll say Celtics in five.
- #4 Philadelphia Sixers Vs. #1 Miami Heat-After this version of the Sixers seemed to be on the verge of being the latest Doc Rivers-coached team to choke in the postseason, they responded big time in Game 6, with a 132-97 route of the team that won the NBA championship three seasons ago, thus avenging that 2019 Conference Semifinals series loss along the way. As for the Heat, they won a close and a hard-fought Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks to advance to the Conference Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. But advancing to this round came at a price for Erik Spoelstra’s bunch, as both Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry are dealing with injuries that cost the latter Game 5 and the former both Games 4 & 5. Plus, the time away for both of those players could make them rusty in their returns, whenever those will be. And should neither of those players return just in time for the beginning of this series, along with having only two players above 6-9 to contend with Joel Embiid, well then the Heat might not be on the winning side of such games, such as that 97-94 outcome of Game 5. I have doubts about the Heat right now, so I’ll take Embiid & Company to upset them in six games.
- #4 Dallas Mavericks Vs. #1 Phoenix Suns-Of all the teams with confirmed Conference Semifinals opponents, the Mavericks were the only team that I didn’t have advancing to this point. Yet here they are, as they exploited the Utah Jazz’ inability at holding advantageous leads, with the latest example being that they rallied from a 53-41 halftime deficit to win, 98-96, in that series-clinching Game 6. Now they face a team in the Suns that is A) The best team in all of the NBA this season, B) The best road team in the NBA for a second consecutive season, C) The first NBA team whose single-season road win total exceeds each of the other 29 teams’ single-season home win totals, D) A team is that undefeated in every game where they have led after three quarters and E) A team that’s the best in any game when the scoring margin is within five points of the last five minutes or fewer this season. Sure, the Suns got all that they could handle from the New Orleans Pelicans in a series that also went six games. But they’re battle-tested and on a mission this season. And given how they responded in Game 5 against the Pelicans in a series that was knotted at 2, along with rallying from 10 points down at halftime to eventually win their series-clincher, I can’t see Jason Kidd’s bunch beating this desert juggernaut. Suns in five.
So yeah, I have the Sixers meeting the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, along with the Suns advancing to the Western Conference Finals for a second consecutive season.
Tune in either tomorrow or Monday to find out who will win the other Conference Semifinals series.