#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Atlanta Hawks have made their first ever conference finals, while LeBron James has made his 5th consecutive Eastern Conference Finals as a player.
The Hawks won the season series against the Cavaliers 3-1 but if there’s anything we know, injuries have plagued both teams (Sefolosha – broken leg, Love – torn labrum).
If the Hawks win, credit their bench depth. It’s no secret the Cavaliers are banged up, particularly Kyrie Irving. If the Hawks can keep the Cavaliers off balance with their bench depth and size under the rim with Millsap/Horford/Scott/Antic/Muscala, the Cavaliers could be in for some tough games.
The Hawks don’t have a superstar, per se, which is a good thing when playing a LeBron James led-attack. If they can get everybody going and then add Kyle Korver in the mix too, they could make their first NBA Finals since 1970, when they were the St. Louis Hawks.
If the Cavaliers win, credit the brilliance of LeBron James. James has averaged 26.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game so far in the playoffs and continues to embrace his do it all roll. While his shot attempts are certainly up, he’s still put a lot of trust in his supporting cast.
Maybe even too much trust; James is averaging 11.5 assists per game in the team’s only 2 losses in the playoffs versus 7.0 assists per game in their 8 victories. However, it was Matthew Dellavedova, not LeBron James, who led the team in scoring in their Game 6 victory over the Chicago Bulls with 19 pts.
If there’s anything fans are expecting, it’s more spectacular performances from James. James scored 15 in Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls, which is scary, considering they won by 21 on the road.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 6
#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Houston Rockets
The Golden State Warriors are making their first Conference Finals appearance since 1976. while the Houston Rockets are making their first Conference Finals appearance since 1997.
The Rockets carried the “Clutch City” moniker with their heads held high, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in 7 games. The Warriors, led by MVP Steph Curry, overcame a 2-1 deficit to win 3 games in a row and defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in 6 games.
The Warriors swept the season series between the Rockets 4-0, winning every game by 10+ points. While the regular season means very little, it’s a bit meaningful the Warriors won every game very easily. Their defensive prescence has carried them most of the playoffs, getting stops and scoring when needed to.
If the Rockets win, Dwight Howard will be a factor all series. The highlights are expected when it comes to James Harden but the refreshing X-Factor for the Rockets has been Dwight Howard.
Howard is averaging 17.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game for the Rockets. Howard hasn’t been the dominant force he could be but he remains to do what the team needs him to do in order to win. If he continues this performance, the Rockets could sneak by the Warriors and take the series.
If the Warriors win, well, let’s just stay “Steph was being Steph.” Curry has become the fastest player to reach 100 3-point makes in the playoffs, edging out Ray Allen in 7 less games. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry made 25 3-pointers himself, that’s 1 more 3-pointer than the Grizzlies made as a team.
And as if all that isn’t amazing, Curry became the first player ever to have 6 steals and 6 3-pointers in a playoff game. If he keeps it up, we’ll definitely see him and the Warriors in the NBA Finals sooner rather than later.
Prediction: Warriors in 5