Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. After a very quick round of Conference Semifinals series, all of which ended in at most five games, it's time for the NBA Conference Finals. In the East, the Boston Celtics continue to surprise the league with their incredible play despite not having their two best players, and the Cavaliers continue rolling behind LeBron James's incredible play. In the West, the inevitable match up of the NBA's two best teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, will be possibly more watched than the actual Finals. Both should be very interesting series, and at least one should come down to seven games. Today I want to give my predictions and my preview for both series, and hopefully inform some of you who are on the fence about who to pick yourselves.
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:
This series has serious implications for the future of the NBA. Boston, without their two best players, has been so good that they're one of the top four teams in the NBA right now. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward, this team could be possibly the best in the NBA. If LeBron manhandles this young roster, though, we could see some acquisitions for more established players in the NBA. On the Cavs side of things, if this roster can't beat a cripples Celtics team, then LeBron James will 99% not be returning. The Celtics with Kyrie and Hayward would kill this Cleveland team, so there will be zero reason for LeBron to return if they can't beat Boston right now.
Back to the present, this series should be incredibly fun to watch. I think it's going to go seven games, and I think it should be close every night. The biggest concern for the Cavs has been players besides LeBron stepping up and scoring the basketball, but in their sweep of the Raptors, on multiple occasions other players were helping take on that scoring load. If they keep that up in this series, LeBron will have a lot less pressure on his shoulders, allowing him to be more present defensively. On the Celtics end of things, they should be a little worried about what happened to the Raptors. I thought that the Toronto Cleveland series was going to be close because of Toronto's depth counteracting LeBron, but their depth didn't do anything to help. I think partially DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry's underwhelming play had more to do with the Raptors struggles than the depth, but what does that say for the Celtics? The Celtics don't have star players at all, and if depth isn't effective against Cleveland than Boston is rendered ineffective. Boston does have one thing going for them that the Raptors didn't though, which is why I'm calling this a seven game series. That thing is Brad Stevens.
Brad Stevens (incoming: hot take) is the best coach in the NBA right now. I don't care what people say, but Stevens is doing more right now with what he has than what Gregg Popovich did with the Spurs, who I think have a better roster right now than the Celtics. Pop still had star players like LaMarcus Aldridge, while Stevens is working with a ton of people on rookie contracts. Stevens ability to draw up plays and prepare his team in the final moments of games has been incredible these Playoffs, as we've seen on multiple occasions. Stevens should keep Boston in this series, especially with his great game planning going up against LeBron. There is no way to stop LeBron James, but the way Stevens creates matchups to hinder star players is incredible; his placement of Al Horford on Ben Simmons defensively made it hard for Simmons to finish inside (cause Simmons can't shoot for his life) and it left the more athletic players to guard the other shooters on the court surrounding the passing proficient Simmons. Philly was minus 63 when Ben Simmons was on the floor in that series. Yeah. If he can do anything to slow down LeBron or the surrounding members of the Cavs, then Boston can win this series.
I'm personally picking the Cavs to win, since they were my pick to go to the Finals out of the East from the beginning. I don't like Boston being treated like the underdog though, because people need to remember how poor the Cavs looked just a week or two ago against the Pacers. That version of the Cavs could show up at any moment. I just can't pick against LeBron, though, so I'm taking Cleveland in a thrilling series.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors:
Welcome to the NBA Finals everyone...wait what?...the two best teams aren't playing in the Finals?...why are they playing in the Western Conference Finals?...that must mean the East is garbage...oh the East is garbage...okay thanks. So yeah, the real matchup of the leagues two best teams in now, not later. The Warriors, who everyone hates now for some reason, and the Rockets, who I think are way more hatable, are facing off in what should be an intense series. Houston and Golden State play very different styles of basketball which to me is funny since the Rockets claim to have been built specifically to beat Golden State. Golden State is one of the top assisting teams in the NBA, as well as one of the top defensive teams in the league. Houston is near the bottom in both categories. Houston shoots more threes than anybody else, and they play more isolation basketball than the rest of the NBA. The Warriors are obviously known for their three point shooting, but don't shoot as many as Houston, and they also are towards the bottom of the NBA in iso basketball.
When thinking about who to pick, this difference in style of play made things easy for me. The Warriors without intentionally doing so, are built to beat the Rockets. The reason the Warriors were so successful and historic was that they brought in a new wave of basketball, which was high percentage three point attempts and makes. This along with their selfless system destroyed teams built on iso basketball since they could outscore them for days, and the Warriors defense was also huge for them. Against the Rockets, at team with two Hall of Fame guards, things will not be so easy, but the general ideas surrounding what made the Warriors work was that they were the opposite of iso heavy teams.
This is not to say that this series won't be close though. This series is going seven games, and I think there won't be a game decided by more than ten points, but there are issues with what the Rockets are right now. James Harden has been given a huge pass from the media this Postseason, as he has been producing considerably less then what he did during the regular season. His field goal percent has only been 40%, and his three point sits at 34%. He's still averaging 28.5 ppg, but he's struggling shooting the ball, and against a really good defensive team like the Warriors, thinks could get shaky. One thing I love for the Rockets right now, though, is Clint Capela. The Warriors most effective lineup is "The Hamptons Five" which consists of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Iguodala, and Green. This lineup should struggle defensively against someone as good as Capela though, especially since Capela is a great post player. If Capela forces the Warriors to use a center a lot, and "The Hamptons Five" says off the floor, Houston will have a better chance against Golden State.
Overall though, I just like the Warriors more in the series. The style of play, the inconsistency with Harden, and the overall pedigree of Golden State point to them winning this series. When I first made my Playoff picks I reserved the right to make my pick until now since I said everything depended upon Steph Curry's health, and to me he looks great. He's playing at what seems to be 100%, and the effect that has on everyone else is amazing. Warriors, in an incredibly close seven game series, move on to the Finals for a fourth straight year against LeBron James and the Cavs.
High School Senior from Connecticut obsessed with sports stats, facts, and management.