Preview of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals
Well boys and girls, we finally made it. The best month in the basketball calander is about to begin and I cannot wait to dive into both of these game. First off, congrats to the Raptors on the best game in franchise history, that shot from Kawhi Leonard is still on the rim. I feel like we are going to watch a 30 for 30 on this Toronto season and the next scene is Kawhi in a Clippers jersey. It's going to be a long off season for Philly, and they only have themselves to blame. Second congrats to the Blazers, who have redeemed themselves from being swept in the first round last year. CJ McCollum is arguably the MVP of these playoffs, and he saved their season in Denver on Sunday.
This next round is going to be a lot of fun, and these four teams could look completely different a year from now. With free agency looming over Golden State, Milwaukee, and Toronto, this series is going to be huge for the destination of these franchises.
Giannis vs. Kawhi, the Greek Freak vs. the Claw, potential MVP vs. probably should have won MVP. Even though both of these teams are defined by their stars. the surrounding players is what is going to win this series. Milwaukee won the regular season series 3-1, including going 2-0 in Toronto. Now, I don't take a lot of stock in regular season series, but it is telling that Milwaukee was about to walk into the Raptor's house and beat them twice in a season. The Raptors have the advantage in terms of playoff experience, with multiple players on the roster having reps in the Finals. Milwaukee has home court, which is why the regular season still matters. Having Game 7 on your home court might be the difference in getting a good game out of your role players, and them being ice cold on the road.
X-factor for Milwaukee: Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe was brilliant in the Boston series, and he's going to need to do that same thing this series. Giannis is going to get his, but Toronto is so good at holding another team's second and third options down. Bledsoe is going to need to be aggressive and get to the bucket to try and get Danny Green and Kyle Lowry in foul trouble. I still remember watching Eric Bledsoe at Kentucky and what stood out most was his fearlessness and ferocity.
X-factor for Toronto: Kyle Lowry
Arguably the most polarizing player in Raptor's history, Toronto is going to desperately need Kyle to get going this series. They almost lost against Philly in Game 7 because they couldn't fine a reliable second scorer. Serge Ibaka saved Toronto, but those games from him are few and far between. They need Lowry to step up this series against the Bucks. When crunch time shows up and the sphincters get a little bit tighter, Kyle will need to be there to take some big shots.
Prediction: Toronto in 7
America and Canada both need for this series to go the distance. If this game does get to game seven, Toronto will have the distinct advantage. Kawhi, Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol have all been in wars in the playoffs. That experience will help them over the Bucks, who will be playing in the biggest game of their careers up to that point. Giannis, Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon haven't had the opportunity to be in really big spots. The biggest game this trio have had is series against Boston last year. If Milwaukee is going to win this series, they need to take care of business before game 7. The one advantage they have is that game 7 is in Milwaukee, and they have the MVP on their sign.
Golden State vs Portland
This is a series between the two best backcourts in the league. Between the four starting guards in this series, only one of them went to a Power Five school, and it was Klay Thompson who went to Washington State. This proves that if you are talented, the NBA will find you! It's a shame that these two teams aren't 100% healthy, because that's the only way this series could get any better. I know there hasn't been an official announcement on Kevin Durant, but I think he will come back at Game 3, unless the Warriors go up 2-0 and they try to save him in case of an emergency. For the Blazers, the plan is simple, Dame and CJ have to take over. If they don't get A games from those two every night, they got no shot. If anyone can do it, it's those two.
X-factor for Golden State: Klay Thompson
I get it, it's lazy to call one of the Splash Brothers an X-factor, but hear me out! Klay has more responsibility on his shoulders than what most people realize. He's going to have to guard Lillard for most of the game, while also making shots on the other end. He's also quietly one of the most clutch players in the league. For some reason, he always shows up when they need him the most. He carried the Warriors in Game 5 against Houston, and also kept them afloat in Game 6 before Steph took over in the first half.
X-factor for Portland: Enes Kanter
You gotta give hand to Enes, he's been a warrior all playoffs. Playing through a separated shoulder has got to be the most painful thing I can think of. He's the kind of teammate I would run through a wall for. Kanter is also vitally important for the Blazers in this series. Portland is going to need to get all the extra possessions they can get. Kanter is great at getting offensive rebounds, and he will have a field day against the Warriors smaller lineups. The key is always just making sure Kanter doesn't get owned on defense, which is why he was famously benched by Billy Donovan.
Prediction: Golden State in 6
I believe the Blazers will win one at Golden State, and then the Warriors bring back Durant and the world will be as it once was, under the foot of the Warriors. Ant, meet boot! The only way I think Portland will win is if Durant has a set back, and the combo of CJ and Dame just outshine Steph and Klay.