Bam Adebayo (#13) of the Miami Heat blocking Jayson Tatum’s (#0) layup attempt to keep the Heat ahead to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Sports Staff Writer
With the conference finals getting getting fully underway (Heat-Celtics already played Game 1), sports staff writer Darryl Williams offers his predictions for how the series will unfold.
Fresh off their miraculous game 7 upset against one of the title favorites, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets have faced adversity in every series this postseason.
Not only have they become one of thirteen teams in NBA history to come back down 3-1 in a series, but have also become the first team to come back from down 3-1 twice in one postseason.
Led by electric guard, Jamal Murray, and point-center Nikola Jokic, Denver now has to face a team who has proven haters wrong time and again this year, making their way back to the Western Conference Finals since 2010: the Los Angeles Lakers. In his 17th season, Lebron James has ignored the haters and shown every game that he is still the best player in the world. With the help of his All-Star teammate Anthony Davis, the Lakers will be on a quest to win their 17th championship.
After averaging 25.8 pts, 10.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists in the previous series against the Houston Rockets, LeBron James is far from being washed up, as critics said prior to this season. Throughout the regular season, the dynamic duo of Anthony Davis and Lebron James has been historic. Not only have they both been Top 5 MVP candidates this season, but have earned the honor of being the Lakers’ first two All-NBA first team players since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in 2002. However, the young duo in Denver of Jokic and Murray over the past two series has shown that they will never back down, especially when down 3-1. Expect this series to come down to both duos making huge plays down the stretch to send their team to the NBA Finals.
Battle of the Bigs
Jokic, who should be honored as the best big man in basketball, has a daunting task as he faces the LA Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Averaging about 20 pts, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists in these playoffs, “the Joker” has reinvented the necessity of having a center in this league. Now with a chance to get to the NBA Finals, Jokic must take on a world-renowned defender in Anthony Davis, who is expected to be guarding Jokic through most of this series.
I believe the Lakers will come up big in Game 1 and prove to everyone that they are the best team in the NBA. The Nuggets have no one on their roster who can guard Lebron on a nightly basis. With this much at stake, I believe the Lakers won’t blow a series lead if it comes down to it. I expect this series to be won by the Lakers in 5 games, respectively, and they will clinch their first NBA Finals appearance in 10 years.
Lakers win series, 4-1
Boston Celtics-Miami Heat
Just two days after the thrilling Game 1 in which the Heat pulled off a miraculous defensive effort led by young star Bam Adebayo, this unexpected series has left fans with an intense battle between two tough teams. With championship-caliber coaches such as Erik Spolestra for the Miami Heat, and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics, both teams will come out with strong defenses and dynamic plays that will ultimately lead to an Eastern Conference champion. Heat star players Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will lead the way for the mighty underdog who has come off six nights of rest after beating the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games. On the other hand, rising stars Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown lead the way for the Boston Celtics, who came away with a Game 7 win against the reigning-champion Toronto Raptors.
Game 1 News / Takeaways
Game for the ages. Block for the ages. Game 1 between the Heat and Celtics showed the importance of having players with mental toughness late in close games. With all the anticipation leading to the latter Game 7 between the Nuggets and Clippers, this unique matchup displayed a fun and energetic, yet intense, Game 1 to start the Eastern Conference Finals. The veteran leadership of star Jimmy Butler of the Heat, who poured in 20 points, along with 43 combined points from sound veterans, Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, paved the way for the Heat to counter any shots thrown their way by the Celtics. The game ultimately decided by an all-time block courtesy of all-star Bam Adebayo on Jason Tatum with five seconds remaining. Although the Celtics lost the game, expect a big Game 2 tonight, especially out of all-star veteran guard, Kemba Walker, who only scored 19 points in Game 1.
By the end of this series, the Boston Celtics will bounce back and beat the Heat in 6 games. Although he missed the game-tying three at the end of OT, I believe Jason Tatum will step up and realize that he is the top player in this series and cement himself as a top 5 player in the NBA.
Celtics win series 4-2