Is this finally when Chris Paul breaks through to the Finals? Can Giannis take advantage of a chaotic Eastern Conference bracket? The Circuit dives deep into conference finals and predicts who will advance to the NBA Finals.
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Before diving into the second round, let’s take a look at how my second round predictions played out:
76ers defeat Hawks 4-1
Nets defeat Bucks 4-3
Clippers defeat Jazz 4-2
Suns defeat Nuggets 4-2
.500 is not great… Damn the Nets! The basketball Gods struck down Brooklyn in that series, the karma for putting together a super-team. But I’m 7-5 in the playoffs so far, so a winning record is still in sight!
3 Milwaukee Bucks vs. 5 Atlanta Hawks
How did we get here? There was a large population that had both the Heat and the Knicks advancing out of the first round. Nearly everyone had the 76ers and Nets making it out of the second round. And yet, the Bucks and Hawks are the last ones standing?
Giannis has been on a tear. If it weren’t for the heroics of Kevin Durant, we would be talking about how Giannis has “figured it out”. But he hasn’t. He still struggles from the line, and still can’t knock down a jump shot with consistency. Thankfully for Bucks fans, he at least takes them unlike a certain Philadelphia player, so he can keep the defense (somewhat) honest. But can a player who can’t shoot lead a team to a championship?
And on the other side, a similar question looms; can a point guard lead a team to a championship? We saw Isaiah Thomas do it in Detroit, and we saw Steph Curry do it in Golden State (before Durant). But those Pistons teams were historically good on defense, and Curry is taller than most people think at 6’3”. Other than that, we really haven’t seen a team win the title with their best player being a point guard (Magic is 6’9”, that doesn’t count). Trae Young is significantly smaller than Curry, and this Hawks team is a far cry from the Bad Boy Pistons. If they’re going to win, it’s going to be because they play a defensive scheme that forces Giannis away from the basket (aka zone), and they shoot the lights out four times in the series. I like this Hawks team, but the clock is about to strike midnight, so give me Milwaukee Bucks 4, Atlanta Hawks 2
2 Phoenix Suns vs. 4 Los Angeles Clippers
What a wild wild west we have. Utah proved to be frauds and the Nuggets proved to be undermanned, leading to this duel of destiny between the Suns and Clippers.
Chris Paul has had a snake-bitten career; from the collapse to the Thunder in 2014, to the 3 point barrage against Houston in 2015, to the 2018 3 point shortage with Houston in 2018, Paul has never gotten the big break so many other superstars have. Now, just when it looks like the west is crumbling around him and it’s finally his shot to make the Finals… he goes into COVID protocol and is out at least game 1, probably more. With Paul, Phoenix is probably the best team left… Without Paul, they might be the best team left if Booker can continue to be the elite Kobe-like killer he’s been so far in the playoffs. Chris Paul will be back at some point in the series, so the only question is if they can survive until then. Which leads to…
The Mother bleeping Clippers. Finally made the conference finals, which only puts the franchise 10 3rd round appearances behind LeBron James. Congrats. Now everyone wants to applaud the Clippers for the way they handled the end of the regular season, tanking their way into the 4 seed to avoid the Lakers. Yes, they did make the conference finals but no, that was not a good decision. They got lucky. They could have had the Lakers in the first round without Davis, which would have been just as ugly as it was with Phoenix. Then they would have had the Suns in the second round with Kawhi Leonard. Now they have to play the Suns without Kawhi, and had Davis not gotten hurt they would be playing the Lakers without Kawhi. That cowardly decision could have ended terribly in a million different ways, this was just the one scenario it worked for them. Without Chris Paul for at least some of the series, they could end up in the Finals if Paul George returns to his Indiana Form. I don’t think that will happen though, so give me Phoenix Suns 4, Los Angeles Clippers 1.
Here’s a recap of my conference finals picks:
Bucks defeat Hawks 4-2
Suns defeat Clippers 4-1