Though all four second-round series in the NBA playoffs went to a sixth game, only one of them went the distance. And the final contest of the round did not do much for the neutral fans in the form of an exciting finish. A crazy run which featured the 76ers not scoring for half a quarter happened, as the Celtics torched them to punch their ticket to a fifth conference final in the past seven seasons. Talk about a team that is continuing to go places.
Pretty soon, we’ll see the NBA Odds coming out for who is going to advance. Who wins these two series and goes onto the NBA Finals. It has been a great postseason, even though the one game 7 that actually took place turned out to be lopsided. On the bright side, though, everybody got to witness the greatest scoring performance in a win-or-go-home game in the history of the postseason. Jayson Tatum dropped 51 big ones to get Boston by.
There is a lot more basketball to be played, and the excitement is absolutely palpable. Buckle up because there is just so much hoops to be talked about in the coming paragraphs.
Heat vs. Celtics Part III
Watching the Heat and Celtics duke it out last year was a lot of fun. The series went into the seventh game where Jimmy Butler missed a three-pointer in the waning seconds. They opted to let him take the rhythm shot even though shooting from the outside is not a big part of his arsenal. It almost dropped, but the miss cost them a trip to a second NBA Finals in the past three seasons.
This is the third time in four seasons now that these teams represent the East. Only this time, Miami had absolutely no business making it this far, at least per the seedings. #8 seeds do not usually win eight games in an NBA Playoffs. But here they are, shocking the Bucks in five games, and taking out the Knicks in six. They are hungry for their first title since the LeBron James years, and may well get it if they can survive this series.
As for those C’s, all they have done with this core is win. The Jayson Tatum naysayers were all silenced and sentenced to watch him go off for one of the best playoff performances in history. Stephen Curry became the first to score 50 in a game 7 just 14 days ago. And two short weeks later, here comes Tatum beating him by a single point, not caring to let someone else have the record. This came on the heels of having three straight-field goal-less first quarters.
The cross-matchups will be entertaining as the teams duke it out to see who the better team is. And it is going to be tough to predict this one. The Heat are a tough squad and anything can happen when they take the floor. Taking out the Bucks in five games completely changed how the East was going to wind up looking. They are the ultimate wild card in these playoffs.
And obviously for Boston it feels like a championship or bust campaign. They just went to the finals a year ago and if they don’t go back, it would not reflect well on their stars. For all the talk of Jaylen Brown and his future here, he has to stay locked in and do everything he can to try and get them further and to wherever it is they believe they need to go.
Game 1 starts on Wednesday May 17. Let’s get it.
An MVP Showdown Out West
LeBron James and the Lakers also had no business making it to the conference finals, but here they have come. Kendrick Perkins said on ESPN that the team could make it this far, with Richard Jefferson audibly laughing at the sentiments during the segment taping. Of course, it took a lot for the team to be here. LA is one of two teams led by a first-year, first-time NBA head coach, which might make it even more impressive that they managed to navigate this ringer.
As a #7 seed, the Lakers had to navigate through the ringer to get here. First up was Minnesota, who they took care of. They had to win games against Memphis, who had the best home record in the league during the regular season. They stole a game in Golden State against the defending champion Warriors, winning that one in six games. A healthy Anthony Davis makes all the difference, and it makes you wonder what may have happened in 2021 if he was healthy for the series against the Phoenix Suns.
This is Denver’s second foray into the third round of the playoffs, and the first time they can have a crowd backing them. The bubble was a weird time, and it was when they last played the Los Angeles Lakers. The series followed the team coming back from a pair of 3-1 deficits. One against Utah, and the next against the Clippers. AD’s three at the horn in game 2 of that one propelled LA to a 2-0 lead.
This time around, it might be personal for Jokic. He didn’t get the MVP as Joel Embiid finally took one home. But, he has been knocked out. Joker is the last one standing. Can he get to his first Finals? If he is able to do that, it would certainly be a shot at the NBA for giving Joel Embiid that MVP award. He folded under the pressure against Boston, and it does not feel like the first time in his career that this has been the case.
Jokic has put up insane numbers all season long and heck, all career long. Nobody can stop him for a long stretch, and the team never gets eliminated because of him. But more so that because of everybody else around him not stepping up enough to get the team far enough. Murray and Porter Jr. being back should be more than enough to guide Denver.