Before we get into the Conference Finals, I just wanted to give myself a pat on the back for my pre-season predictions made way back in October.
I nailed Embiid as MVP, Banchero as RotY, and Brogdon as 6MotY—none of which are too impressive, if I’m being honest. On the other side of things, I missed on Coach of the Year (I had Mike Malone), DPotY (Bam Adebayo), and Most Improved (Desmond Bane). Although I still feel pretty good about those picks. Denver had the best record in the West, Heat just struggled during the regular season, but they have started to show who they really are in these playoffs, and no one could have predicted the season Lauri Markkanen was going to have. For the All-NBA selections, I took some pretty big swings (like Tyrese Maxey making a big jump) and they all missed as I only got 7 of the 15 selections…
When it comes to the standings, I think I fared decently… I had the Cavs in the top half of the playoff teams (including play-in) and the Nets in the bottom half, which at the time was not an obvious choice. I completely missed on the Knicks who I thought would miss the play-in in favor of the Hornets, which sounds idiotic today… but other than that, I was mostly within one spot for every team in the East.
On the West side of things, I didn’t do too bad either. I whiffed on the Kings and the Thunder, having the Mavs (at 3) and the Trailblazers (at 10) over both of them. Obviously the Mavs was a huge miss there as they completely imploded and I should’ve seen the Kings coming. Again, with the exception of those two, I had the West essentially perfect with the next biggest miss being the Suns at 2 instead of 4.
Lastly for my early playoff predictions, I had two of the final four correct with the Heat and the Nuggets. My pick of the 76ers making the ECF came very close and, unfortunately, the Clippers fizzled out in the first round as Kawhi tore his meniscus. I still feel good about that pick basketball-wise, unfortunately, it still wasn’t a sound bet given anything related to Kawhi is a bet on health, which he has yet to make it through a season since Toronto (and he just barely did). So it’s safe to say my Finals MVP, Kawhi, will not be hoisting any trophies… but I did still have the Heat in Finals, which has a shot, albeit slim.
So let’s get to what I think will happen this round.
I’ve been picking against the Lakers all season (had them correctly as the 7 seed) and all playoffs. While I nailed what their regular season would look like, they have continued to make me look dumb throughout the playoffs. While Anthony Davis has been inconsistent offensively, he has proven to be a stalwart on the defensive end for the Lakers and they’ve gotten just enough from their role players to keep things moving. Unfortunately for them, I’m sticking to my guns and going with the Denver Nuggets in 6 games. Denver is too good at spacing the floor, which will allow them to limit ADs defensive impact and AD won’t be able to make up for it on the offensive end consistently enough for the Lakers to pull it off.
Even though I picked Miami to make the Finals back in October, if I would have actually gotten around to some playoff predictions back in March (like I planned), I never would have stuck to that given they couldn’t even beat the Hawks in a play-in game. But here we are and they are four wins away from making it happen with 7 undrafted guys on their roster and their second best scorer on the bench nursing a broken hand through, essentially, the entire playoffs. I don’t know how they’ve gotten this far and I can’t imagine how they can actually get past Boston, but I can’t turn my back on them now. This is me praying Jimmy Butler can reach into his bag of magic and somehow beat the odds. Miami in 7.
If somehow I’m right, I honestly don’t care who wins the Finals. I’d love to see Jimmy come through and win a championship after some of the unbelievable things he’s done during these playoffs and witnessing him develop in Chicago (even if I was wrong for being happy when the Bulls traded him). I also just love the team Denver has put together, getting to see Jokić orchestrate their beautiful offense is a majestic sight to behold. Realistically, I think Denver would probably pull it out in six, but don’t underestimate the grit in Miami.
If only one of my picks makes it, I’d take Denver over Boston (in 7) and Miami over LA (in 6).
Lastly, the favorite match-up (for the League, the gamblers, and the fans) is likely Boston vs LA, in which I’d pick Boston to win in 6. Put I’ll be rooting hard against this.
Alas, it’s just about time for the lottery. Please pray to the basketball gods that the Bulls can beat the odds and land a top 4 (preferably top 3) pick so they can add Wemby, Scoot, or Brandon Miller, and not give it to Orlando instead…