And then there were 4.
Is this how you saw things unfolding? In the East, it shouldn't exactly come as a surprise that the #1 and #2 seeds are playing in the Conference Finals, but in the West I'm not sure how many people had the #3 seed and the #4 seed advancing this far. The Warriors were one of those teams where their talent level certainly suggests they are a higher caliber team than a 3 seed, and I think their injuries played a large part in where they ended up. With the Mavs, while their record had them as a 4 seed, anyone who watched them over the last half of the year knew that they were playing at the same exact pace as the Suns/Celts who basically never lost. They are absolutely a worthy WCF team, and I think winning 4 of 5 against the Suns to win that series solidifies it.
From a birdseye view, it's hard to complain about the final four teams we're left with. You want star power? Boy do we have it. You want championship experience? It's got it. You want high level execution and some of the most beautiful basketball you could ever see? Got that too. You want tough teams that will fight to the death just to win a single game? Yup, it's there. You want teams that people love to hate? I'm pretty sure that is the case with like 3 of these 4 teams. Do people hate the Mavs? I feel like they're a little early with that stuff as of today.
So with that said, let's get you ready for what should be another epic round of playoff basketball. Now that teams are so close to the Finals and the possibility of winning the title, things are elevated. Given how the postseason has gone, each round seems to be getting better and better, so why should we expect anything else now that we've reached the final four.
Dallas Mavericks vs Golden State Warriors
Head to head: DAL won 3-1
What I love about this series is in one corner, you have the Warriors, a team that seems to have found a way to retool and become even more devastating while also still getting elite production from their 3 core guys who are proven champions. After seeing Game 6 Klay is still a thing
it was a nice reminder of just how terrifying this Warriors team is when they have their guys healthy and active. It's almost like enough already, we get it. You're loaded. On any given night Steph, Klay, Poole or shit even Wiggins can give you 25-35. There are not too many teams left in this thing that have 4 guys like that. Then you factor in that Draymond is still an elite defensive player, they have young legs to throw at you with Kuminga and if you need to go big, Kevon Looney is there. The Warriors are one of the deepest teams we have in this league, and no team has the type of postseason experience this group does. There is not a moment that will be too big for them and that matters when you realize they are facing a team who is largely doing this for the first time.
In the other corner, there's Luka and the Mavs. Is it crazy to suggest that Luka is on the path to completely taking over this conference/league? He's very much proven to be that guy.
They also are entering this series with maybe the most momentum of any team in the league. They took down the Suns and made it look relatively easy. Nobody in the league has been able to say that for the last 2 seasons other than the Bucks, and they won the whole fucking thing. They bring not just an elite defense, but a team that is built to play the Warriors style.
Do you love threes? If so, this is the series for you. The Mavs lead the playoff field in 3PA a game with 40.3, and the Warriors are 3rd at 37.9. As you can imagine, they are also 1st and 3rd in 3PM. In terms of percentage, they are 3rd (DAL) and 4th (GS). So not only do they both take a shit ton, they both make a shit ton. All this while Luka is only shooting 34% from deep on nearly 10 3PA a night. The thing with Luka though is last night was a great example of the percentages not really mattering. If it's a big game, he finds his way to be effective from deep. It's basically going to come down to who blinks first. In that regard, I think the Mavs will be better equipped to handle the Warriors shooting. The Mavs are 3rd in opponents 3PM compared to 9th for GS, and what's interesting about that is the Grizzlies don't even shoot threes all that well outside of Bane, and the Warriors are still giving up 13.1 a game (DAL 9.6).
Where the Warriors murder you though is if they have any type of lead. They were 34-10 on the season once they got up by 10. Once Steph has a lead and they smell blood, you get the three point bukkake. Just ask the Grizzlies who went from down 6 to down a billion in about 2 seconds because Steph went nuclear. How the Mavs are able to handle their perimeter defense is basically the story of this series. They can play fast, they can execute in the half court, so it's a little different from MEM/GS where the Grizzlies really struggled once the game slowed down. That's not going to happen for the Mavs who already play at the 14th fastest pace of these playoffs (there are 16 teams).
What will be interesting to see though is how the Mavs handle things offensively once the Warriors take away their P&R. So far in these playoffs, the Warriors are the #1 team at defending the P&R ball handler. The Mavs are the team who run the most P&R offense through their ball handler at a frequency of 19.1%. That Luka/Brunson battle vs Draymond is going to be a huge part of how this series unfolds. If you cut that off, it sort of screws how the Mavs operate. Conversely, that is not how the Warriors work. They thrive off all ball movement and cuts. They are the #1 cutting team in the playoffs with an 11.3% frequency, and the #1 team coming off screens at a 6.6% frequency. Their ball movement and player movement is what makes them so impossible to guard at times.
From a coaching standpoint, this really isn't that big of a mismatch as many maybe think. We all get jokes off about JKidd, but he's been GREAT with the Mavs. Kerr is proven and I know Warriors fans hate him sometimes, but it's hard to imagine he gets pansted by Kidd or anything like that.
The fun part about this series is it's either going to be some sort of passing of the torch situation with Luka now taking over the conference, or a reminder that the Warriors are still here and still really fucking good, and that their two year hiatus was simply due to injury, not talent. All I'm hoping for is good health and a long series, because I need at least 7 of these things.
Official Greenie Prediction: Warriors in 7
Boston Celtics vs Miami Heat
Head to head: BOS won 2-1
If you are curious about how I view this from the Celts side, please go on ahead and give me your pageview by clicking here. So for this section, let's spend some time talking about Miami.
For starters, I think it's fair to say that the ceiling of this team depends on what the hell is going on with Kyle Lowry. As of now, this is the latest injury report
The same is true with Smart's foot sprain who is questionable, but now that we know Lowry is out for Game 1, the question now becomes how many games will he miss? Not only that, but if he comes back, how effective will he even be? If you remember the Sixers series, he was way more of a negative while being active than it seemed to be when he sat. That's not his fault, that's just the reality of a hamstring injury. It really can fuck your shit up, especially when it comes to getting lift on your jumper.
It's important to remember though, even without Lowry active this Heat team is still very good. They have players on that roster to help fill that void, but to get to the Finals I think it's fair to say that guys are going to have to overachieve a little bit. They are going to need the Herro/Vincent/Oladipo's of the world to all be solid. You then have to remember that the Heat have no faced anything close to what they are about to be up against in terms of this Celtics defense. The Hawks certainly did not have it, and the injured Sixers also are not what I would call a defensive juggernaut, so this is really the first team the Heat will play that I would call….good. All you have to do is look at what they did to the offensive firepower of the Nets and Bucks. The Heat, for all their shooting, are a team that can at times run into offensive issues. Scoring is hard for them way more frequently than I bet their fans want. Even while playing mostly bad defenses, they average just 107.1 points a night which is 9th in the playoffs and they are shooting just 46/32% as a team.
Considering the Celts have been putting up some historic shit in terms of halfcourt defense, it'll be interesting to see how the Heat are able to counter that, now without their starting point guard. The last time these two teams played, the Celts defense looked much different. They could attack Kemba/Theis whenever they wanted, Grant barely played, and Horford wasn't there. They are now much more well equipped defensively, Ime's system is the best in the NBA, and they are switchable 1-5 at every position. The Celtics force you to play isolation basketball given their switching, and the Heat rank dead last in isolation frequency at just 5.4%. If they are forced to give the ball to Jimmy and hope he can create, history shows us these playoffs that against this Celtics defense that is a losing approach.
They do have their own strengths though. Much like the Warriors, this team will run you off screens to death. Whether it's Strus or Robinson or Herro, that's a legit weapon. We're also yet to see the Celtics effectively stop the Bam P&R. If you remember when these teams played in March, that was a big time issue for the Celts to handle and it was a huge reason why MIA won that game. At the time, the Celts were still playing for the 1 seed so they had everyone active. For the Heat to go on the road and win that game shows that they certainly have the talent and ability to be effective.
This is really going to be a series that is determined by who can handle the physicality the best. Who is going to mentally break first? Who can withstand that abuse and still be effective late in games? Honestly, it's a toss up right now. We know how tough the Heat are, but how could you not be impressed with the resolve that this version of the Celts are showing.
Neither team turns the ball over all that much, so this is going to be a series of half court offensive execution. The Celts dealing with the Heat length and zone and the Heat dealing with the Celts versatility and switchability. You add in the bad blood and the revenge factor from the bubble, and this has the makings of another all time series.
So who wins? Well, this is my blog and I'm allowed to be a homer so I'll reiterate what I wrote this morning
Official Greenie Prediction: Celtics in 6
At the end of the day, I'm just excited for the group of teams we have and the potential each series has to be must watch basketball. While underdogs are fun and all, we all enjoyed the Hawks run last year, this is more like it. Give me the best of the best and the biggest stars the league has and let's see what happens. I certainly wouldn't hate a Celts/Warriors or Celts/Mavs NBA Finals, and I don't think I'm alone. The good news is also the schedule, these games are going to be every other day. No more 15 day breaks between games thank God.
Now if we could just get to tipoff already, that'd be great