NBA Conference Finals
After an exciting two rounds of the NBA Playoffs, the road to the NBA Finals comes down to the last four teams. Both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Championship are set. The defending Eastern Conference Champions Cleveland Cavaliers will take on the Boston Celtics. The defending Western Conference Champions Golden State Warriors will take on the Houston Rockets. Both series are poised to be hard-fought and mesmerizing. Will take Cavaliers and the Warriors successfully defend their thrones or will the new challengers rise above and become the new kings? Lets take a look at both conference championship matches.
The Cavaliers are back in the conference championship for the 4th year in a row. This year has been a challenging one. They entered the playoffs as the fourth seed and struggled against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, winning the series in seven games. However, in the second round against the top seeded Toronto Raptors, the Cavaliers dominated, resulting in a sweep. The Celtics entered the playoffs as the second seed. Despite missing Kyrie Irving, the Celtics have not missed a beat. They were able to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the second round after a seven game battle with the Milwaukee Bucks.
During the playoffs, both teams are close in points per game (Celtics 104.1. Cavaliers 103.5) and in defense (Both allow 102 points per game). The Cavaliers are the better shooting team, averaging 46.7% versus the Celtics' 44.6%. The Celtics are better at rebounding, averaging over 42 rebounds per game versus the Cavaliers' 38.5. The Cavaliers beat the Celtics twice out of three games in the regular season.
Keys to Victory
The Celtics will have to continue to rely on sensational rookie Jayson Tatum to carry the load offensively. Tatum leads the Celtics in scoring during the playoffs, averaging 18.8 points per game. The Celtics also need their backcourt to continue to shine. Terry Rozier has made a name for himself averaging 18 points and close to 6 assist while Marcus Smart has been a beast on defense.
The Cavaliers need Kevin Love to step up with scoring. He is only averaging 14.7 points. Although Love is getting the job done with rebounding, the Cavaliers need another scoring threat besides LeBron James. Also, the Cavaliers' bench players must provide a spark to allow James to rest more. James plays 41 minutes per game, which is taxing on his body.
This match-up is youth versus experience. Although the Celtics are very well-coached, their nucleus is very young and inexperienced. Tatum will face James. It remains to be seen if Tatum is ready. The Cavaliers have been through this road before. They always right the ship at the right time. They have beaten two teams who were arguably better. The Celtics will push the Cavaliers, but experience will prevail
Cavaliers in 7.
The Houston Rockets, so far, have lived up to expectations. They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz fairly easily in five games. The Golden State Warriors have been dominate, eliminating the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans in five games as well. Now, for the fourth consecutive year, the Warriors will defend their Western Conference Crown against the Rockets, who have been the top dogs of the NBA all season long.
During the playoffs, both teams remain offensive juggernauts. The Warriors average 110.3 points per game and the Rockets average 109.5. The Warriors are the better shooting team, averaging 46.7% versus the Rockets' 44.6%. The Rockets still shooting 3-pointers at a high volume, leading all playoff teams with close to 40 attempts per game. Defensively, both teams are evenly matched except for rebounding, in which the Warriors (48.4) are ahead of the Rockets (43.8). The Rockets bested the Warrior 2-1 in the head-to-head regular games.
Keys to Victory
The Rockets will stick to their game: shooting 3-pointers. But, they will have to become more efficient and wiser as they are going against the superior rebounding team. Too many missed 3's can lead to easy fast break points for the Warriors. Also, James Harden has to play like a MVP. The spotlight is white-hot. If Harden falters, many will write him off and he will no longer be considered a NBA great. Another key for the Rockets will be the play of Clint Capela. Capela is averaging a double-double (14 points and 12 rebounds). He has to rebound in order to eliminate second chances from the Warriors.
The Warriors must defend well the entire game. They have to punch the Rockets in the mouth early and often. They cannot let the Rockets heat up from three. The Warriors' bench must step up. For the last few years, their bench has been the best in the NBA. But this year, the Rockets' bench have taking over the conversation. Sixth man sensation Eric Gordon has torched the Warriors from the bench, averaging 20 points per game against team. If the Warriors can stop Gordon, more pressure will be added to Harden.
This match-up is poised to be a classic. These two teams were destined to face each other in the western conference finals. Many have said whoever wins will win the NBA Finals. This series will go the full seven games. The Warriors should be the calmer team. They are used to being in this spotlight. The Rockets face the most pressure. If they do not win the finals, this season will be a failure in the eyes of many. Harden and Chris Paul have never been in this position before. But, this year feels special. They are ready.
Rockets in 7