Today begins the Conference Finals in the NBA. With the Raptors game seven victory over the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon, there are now four teams still standing. In the East, we have the top two seeds in the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Raptors. Miami has won eight games in a row, and have been well rested, while Toronto is on their way to Cleveland for game one on Tuesday. In the west, the Warriors will look to repeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder with game one tonight. What teams have the edge? What bench players will have the biggest impact? And what stars will falter? Check out my predictions!
Tonight in the West, we have the dream match up between the Warriors and the Thunder. Two athletic teams that have MVP caliber type guards who can dominate a game on both sides of the floor. For Golden State, it is the “Splash Brothers”, two of the best pure shooters the NBA has ever seen. For OKC, it is “Lightning and Thunder” with the ability to get on a hot streak from deep, but yet throw it down with authority. Lets be honest, this is the series everyone wanted to see, not the Warriors against the Spurs. Steph Curry came back from his knee injury and put on a clinic in game four against the Trail Blazers, scoring 17 points in overtime alone to lead the Warriors to a 135-125 victory. The first unanimous MVP award winner is in search of a repeat and their is only one guard remaining out west in his way. Russell Westbrook is arguably the second best guard in the league behind the MVP. While some may criticize Westbrook for his erratic play and shot attempts, it has been the former UCLA Bruin who has been driving the ship for the Thunder.
The match up to watch however will be to see who checks Kevin Durant. Will it be Andre Iguodala or the brash and confident Draymond Green. Durant has the advantage over either player, and while they won’t be able to completely shut KD down, they have the ability to disrupt his game, especially Green. Another fun match up on the floor to watch will be the bigs. Green and Andrew Bogut against Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. Expect to see some physical play, especially if Adams and Green match up on the block. We should see some good banging and trash talk.
As mentioned above, the Cavaliers and LeBron have swept their opponents in the first two series hitting a barrage of three pointers. It appears that LBJ, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are finally gelling. After Irving and Love missed time in the NBA Finals last year, you know the fire is there to get back and win a ring for the city of Cleveland. After a slow start for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the duo picked it up and secured Toronto’s first ever appearance in the Conference Finals. Right away, the Cavaliers have the edge. They are well rested, have home court advantage, and have arguable the best player in the game in James. As always look for back up guard Matthew Delladova to have an impact on this series with his pesky play. The Australian is not afraid to throw his body around and disrupt the game. For the Raptors, the big question mark surrounds center Jonas Valanciunas. The big man suffered an ankle injury in the series against the Heat. The Raptors received excellent player from back up Bismarck Biyombo who was a difference maker.
We have seen what the big three for Cleveland have brought to the playoffs. If the Raptors want to make a series out of this, Lowry and DeRozan will have to play very well. Lowry has played well against the Cavs this season, shooting 66% of his shots this season. So who wins this series? This one is easy. The Cavaliers will advance to their second straight NBA Finals. The only way the Raptors will be able to stay alive is if the Cavs become cold from deep. You live by the three, you die by the three.
So who wins? I have the Cavaliers in five games, and the Thunder winning game 7 on the road. Let us know who you have advancing!