The NBA conference finals matchups are now officially set. There are only four teams left to battle it out for an NBA title and the coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Miami Heat are facing off against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference while the Denver Nuggets square off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. So, without further ado, here are previews and predictions for each NBA conference finals matchup.
Heat vs. Celtics
The third-seeded Celtics are squaring off against the fifth-seeded Heat, the first time since 1969 that neither of the top two seeds made it to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics enter this round after sweeping the six-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. In this second round, Boston had a battle with the defending champion second-seeded Toronto Raptors, who they narrowly beat out in seven games. The Heat, on the other hand, had a much easier road to the conference finals. In the first round, they swept the fourth-seeded Indiana Pacers. Next, Miami bested the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in just five games. The Celtics are led by stars Jayson Tatum (25.7 PPG), Jaylen Brown (20.7 PPG) and Kemba Walker (19.6 PPG) throughout their playoff run. The Heat, on the other hand, are led by standout performances from superstar Jimmy Butler (21.6 PPG), Goran Dragic (21.9 PPG), Bam Adebayo (11.1 RPG) and rookie Tyler Herro (14.4 PPG) throughout these playoffs. The Celtics have an offensive rating of 110.7 and a defensive rating of 103.3 while the Heat recording a rating of 113.4 and 106.4 in each respective category. Miami and Boston match up very evenly with each other, which should make this an exciting and highly contested conference finals series. A big factor for the Celtics is getting star forward Gordon Hayward back, who is expected to return at some point in this series from an ankle injury.
Prediction: Celtics in 7
Nuggets vs. Lakers
The top-seeded Lakers are facing off against the third-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers have cruised through the playoffs so far, beating both the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and the fourth-seeded Houston Rockets in five games respectively. The Nuggets, on the other hand, have been the comeback kids of the 2020 NBA playoffs. In the first round they came back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz in seven games. Then, against the second-seeded Los Angeles Clippers, Denver came back from another 3-1 deficit to also win the series in seven games. The Lakers are led by the dynamic superstar duo of LeBron James (26.6 PPG) and Anthony Davis (27.6 PPG) this postseason. Conversely, the Nuggets are led by a superstar duo of their own in Jamal Murray (27.1 PPG) and Nikola Jokic (25.4 PPG) that have carried them throughout their deep playoff run. In terms of advanced metrics, LA and Denver match up pretty evenly with each other. The Lakers have an offensive rating of 114.4 while the Nuggets rate at 112.5 respectively. In terms of defense, the Lakers also have an edge with a defensive rating of 105.4 compared to the Nuggets’ 114.0. In this series, the Nuggets should give the Lakers a good fight with their explosive duo of Murray and Jokic, but Lebron James’ championship experience and LA’s superior talent should ultimately win out.
Prediction: Lakers in 6