NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview
The 2022 NBA Playoffs continue to shock and amaze in equal measure! We’re pretty much halfway finished now, with the Conference Finals just about to begin. The Celtics, Heat, Warriors, and Mavericks are all worthy of hoisting the trophy at the end of the Finals, but which team will it be?
Latest NBA playoff news
- What’s with all the Game 7 blowouts?
- Boston crushes Milwaukee to advance to Eastern Conference Finals
- Suns implode? Dallas eviscerates Phoenix by 33 points to reach WCF
- Deandre Ayton (unrestricted free agent) could be moved in the off-season
- Warriors get tough victory over Grizzlies to get to next round
- 76ers crumble to Heat as Miami faces Boston in ECF
Celtics prove why they are the NBA’s team to beat with win over Milwaukee
After Boston dropped Game 5 in spectacular fashion and went down 3-2 in the series against the Bucks, things didn’t look great for the Celtics.
With the defending champions appearing unstoppable with the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, playing some of the best basketball of his life, Milwaukee was poised to head to another Conference Finals. That was… until the Celtics stepped up a gear.
Boston took a convincing Game 6 road win to force a Game 7, and it was a true test of determination to see if this Celtics team had what it took to reach the Finals. Turns out, they did, as the Celtics absolutely destroyed the Bucks, 109-81.
Weirdly, Boston coach Ime Udoka made a bold prediction after the Game 5 trouncing, stating, “It’ll make it sweeter when we bounce back.” Udoka’s trust in his team was clearly inspirational, as the Celtics fought tooth and nail in Games 6 & 7 with stupendous performances worthy of the illustrious Boston basketball history.
Although the Bucks looked solid right out of the gate and took the first quarter, 26-20, it was the Celtics the rest of the way. It wasn’t just the great Boston defense that helped to beat the Bucks, but a lot of easy misses from Giannis at the rim, plus, the gap left by Middleton was glaring. Milwaukee could have used a second scorer to take the burden off Giannis.
One of the most interesting parts of the Celtics’ win was that the team’s top scorer was not called Tatum or Brown, but rather Grant Williams. With a flurry of three-pointers (7-18), Williams ended the night with a career-high 27 points and was instrumental in the victory.
Tatum (23), Brown (19), and Smart (11) were all useful, but this looked like one of the first games in the series where no player went for Hero Ball. Instead, everyone trusted each other to make the shot and the passing was prioritized over contested shots. Too many bad shots helped the Bucks win three games.
Most of the wins were even without Celtics big man, Robert Williams III (a.k.a Time Lord), who was resting after knee surgery at the start of the playoffs.
Williams was huge for the Celtics during the regular season and played in three games against the Bucks, but knee soreness kept him out of the remaining five games.
Williams should be back versus the Heat, where his size will be needed against Bam Adebayo, who loves to play inside the paint and use his physicality to get to the hoop.
For the Bucks, this was a rather poor ending to a pretty amazing playoff run. After going up 3-2 against the Celtics on the back of Giannis’ incredible show on the court, where he averaged 31.7 points, 14.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 37.3 minutes in the playoffs. Another day, another game, the Bucks could have won, but sadly this is the end of the road for the 2021-22 season.
Perhaps the most glaring difference between the Bucks and Celtics in Game 7 was that of made three-pointers. The Celtics shot 22-55, while the Bucks made only 4-33. This is a major disparity for the two teams and it just so happened to be a deciding Game 7 where the Bucks went cold from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee will now join Phoenix on the sidelines, as both teams in the Finals last year were now defeated in blowout Games 7s by younger, more talented teams.
“As much as it hurt to lose Game 5, I was looking forward to that challenge,” said Tatum after the game. “I believe in myself, I believe in this team. I expected to play the way I did and for us to respond the way we did.”
5 takeaways from Game 7 of Milwaukee vs. Boston
- Even a superhuman like Giannis can run out of steam
- Tatum trusts his teammates more than ever
- Game 7 displayed how badly the Bucks needed Middleton
- Boston’s depth is something special this season
- Perseverance is the key to a Game 7 victory
Who’s going to win? Previewing the NBA Conference Finals
The NBA Conference Finals are finally set! We’ve got two exciting matchups to look forward to before the Finals start on June 2nd. Here is the breakdown of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Golden State Warriors
Who’d have thought that the Mavs would have made it so far? Probably only Dallas fans, as surely every basketball expert would have picked the Suns to cruise to another Conference Finals after playing so well in the playoffs and regular season.
Dallas’ Luka Doncic has been a superstar ever since coming into the league in 2018, but we’re really now seeing just how forceful he can be when his mind is focused. Doncic is averaging 31.5 points in the playoffs, but has a great supporting cast in Dinwiddie, Brunson, Kleber, and Bullock. Remember, the Mavs traded away Kristaps Porzingis just to allow Doncic more freedom on the court!
For the Warriors, it was a bit of a shaky, rough road to the Conference Finals, after Memphis took two games and almost a third, most without star guard Ja Morant. While it’s true that the core lineup of Draymond, Steph, and Klay is not the megastar trio of five years ago, it’s still formidable and effective on a good night.
Even though he’s averaging 26.9 points in the playoffs, Steph Curry is yet to have one of those spectacular games that he’s known for. The shooting has been iffy at times, especially with a 35.9 percentage from the three-point line. But it would be a fool to ignore Curry, as he’s so great at shooting and playing off the ball.
Dallas isn’t typically known for its defense, but hey, the team managed to cruise past the Suns like they were a bunch of amateur players at a local rec league. So, the defense is clearly better than most think in the NBA.
The championship experience on Golden State has to be recognized, and as good as the Mavs look right now, we think that the Warriors will reach the Finals, 4-2.
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat
Ah, the old rivals meet again. The Heat knocked out the Celtics in the Conference Finals back in 2020, where Miami won in six games. Both teams look almost the same since then, but the Celtics have definitely improved their roster far more than Miami.
Critics of the Heat have stated that the team hasn’t really faced a tough opponent yet, after dispatching a lackluster Hawks in the first round and then a 76ers team with a bad Harden appearance and often without Embiid due to injury.
This is certainly true on some level, as the Heat might be shocked at just how good the Celtics have become. But Miami has championship pedigree too, and won’t be dazed when the lights get brighter in the East Finals.
Tatum vs. Butler will be one of the most fascinating matchups of the playoffs, as both have a similar build and style of play. Each can be red hot or ice cold when shooting, and have a way of taking contested shots when a pass to a teammate would have been better. But Tatum and Butler can take over a game when it matters, so we can’t wait for this.
After dispatching the Nets in Round One and then the Bucks in Round Two, it’s hard not to take the Celtics as the better team in the East Finals. Every player knows his role and everyone has come together like glue in the playoffs. Tatum and Brown are the stars, sure, but Horford, Smart, and Grant Williams show up when needed as well. Celtics will win 4-3.
Author: Joe Garland