Everything You Need To Know To Be Ready For What Should Be A Wildly Entertaining Conference Finals

Welcome to the NBA's Final Four everybody! 

Congratulations to all the fanbases who watched their team take care of business and earn their way into the Conference Finals, and for all the fanbases who saw their teams choke or underachieve and not even make it this far….well there's always next year!

In terms of the final grouping of the 4 teams we landed on, it has pretty much everything you could want as a fan. Young star power, exciting brands of basketball, defense, historic offenses, and I mean this for all the teams that made the Final Four. I'm not sure if it's just upset Bucks or Knicks fans that have tried to pretend like the Pacers aren't good, but I would like to take this opportunity to show you that ever since early February, this has been the best collection of teams in the entire league

And while everyone's playoff path was not created equal, that's life in the NBA. You play who is in front of you, handle your business, and move onto the next challenge. All 4 of the remaining teams have earned their right to still be playing, and frankly I think there's something cool about this final grouping not having any of the "old generation" superstars. It's all young blood who continue to show us all that the future of the league is bright as hell, and gone are the days of showing up in October and already knowing who is going to win the title or even make the Finals. I don't see how anyone could hate that, especially when that was not the case during the entire LeBron/Steph primes. It didn't really matter what happened during the year, we all knew it was going to be GS/CLE. 

Now? I don't think anyone had this final grouping back in October, and whatever the Finals ends up being will most likely not have been a popular pick 7 months ago either. 

With that said, let's dive into the matchups and what to look out for, because not only are the four remaining teams mostly healthy, they're all playing some of the best basketball of their seasons. 

Boston Celtics (1) vs Indiana Pacers (6)

H2H: BOS won 3-2

We'll also see this in the other matchup, but it's tough to really use any of the previous matchups between the Celts and Pacers as a measuring stick for what to expect in this series. For starters, Pascal Siakam was only on the team for 1 of the 5 games between these two (BOS won 129-124), and considering he's a pretty damn important piece of their puzzle, I'd say the Pacers team the Celts will be facing now is quite different. 

What this series is, is a matchup of two of the highest powered offenses the NBA has ever seen. I'm not being hyperbolic either, that's simply the truth. The Celts owned the best ORTG in the league (and history) at 122.2, with the Pacers not being too far behind at 120.5 (119.6 post-Siakam trade). So far in these playoffs, the Pacers own the highest ORTG in the field at 121.7, with the Celts not being too far behind at 118.9. Both teams have had the benefit of facing largely injured teams, with the Celts facing a depleted Heat and Cavs team and the Pacers a decimated Bucks and Knicks. To me, that's one of the challenges that this series provides.

The Pacers haven't really had to face a team that is both as healthy and is among the best defensive teams in the league like the Celts are. That will be their challenge. It's a very different world when all you have to do is blow by an old as shit Khris Middleton and the horrible point of attack defense of the injured Bucks and then a Knicks team where all their best defenders were out. That's not to say they won't be effective, but life will certainly not be as easy.


For the Celts, they haven't really had to face a team that is both as healthy and is among the best offensive teams in the league like the Pacers are. There's a big difference between stopping Bam Adebayo as a #1 offensive option and the terrible offense of the Heat and then a Cavs team without their best offensive engine in Donovan Mitchell. Here's what I do know. Tyrese Haliburton gets up for this matchup, and frankly ever since he got to the Pacers he's pretty much had his way with the Celts defense (when healthy).

Now that he's starting to look like the Haliburton pre-injury, he's easily the best guard the Celts will have faced during this run. He's the engine of that offense, and as we saw in Game 7 yesterday, once his 3PA start dropping he becomes very, very tough to guard. I would imagine we'll see everyone from Holiday to White to Jaylen to Tatum get some cracks at limiting his production, and for the Celts to win this series it starts with cutting off the head of the snake.

On the flip side, the Pacers are going to have to overcome the issue that so many teams were unable to do during the year. To beat the Celts, you have to be able to guard their wings. If you can't, your life is going to be hell. In terms of wing perimeter defenders, the Pacers only really have someone like Aaron Nesmith, who is someone the Jays are certainly familiar with and have had a decent amount of success against. 

In their matchups during the year, Tatum averaged 32.5 points a game on 57.8/48.6% splits. Jaylen wasn't too far behind with 28.4 points on 60/31% splits. Even in the game Siakam played in, the Jays combined for 55 points. This is going to be the challenge for the Pacers, because the Celtics offense is not the injured Knicks or the injured Bucks. For a team that's 13th out of 16 teams in team defense in these playoffs, they are going to have to prove that they can consistently get stops at a high level which isn't exactly something they did during the year (24th).

This series will be a battle of pace, with the Pacers coming in around 9th in playoff pace and the Celts 16th. Everyone knows the Pacers like to play fast, but it's not just in transition. It's also after makes. They want to get out and run, and hit you before you even have a chance to set up your defense. Considering how good the Celts are defensively, I can only imagine that's going to be a point of emphasis.

This series will also include two teams that are NOT shy about getting 3PA up. The Celts lead the field with 38.5 3PA a game and shoot at a 37.7% clip, and the Pacers are 4th with 34.2 3PA at a 34.2% clip. It's important to note that those Celts numbers include only having Porzingis for 4 of their 10 games, and he may not even be back until late in the ECF. The Pacers have shown that they can get consistent offensive production from essentially their entire roster, and the second you take your foot off the gas defensively, they have the talent and system to make you pay. Whether or not they can get enough consistent stops against an offense just as good will be the story of the series.


Minnesota Timberwolves (3) vs Dallas Mavericks (5)

H2H: MIN won 3-1

Much like BOS/IND, it's been a long ass time since these two teams have played. Their last game took place on 1/31, which obviously means the Mavs roster looked completely different. Grant Williams was still on the team, Maxi Kleber wasn't hurt, and in their final meeting which was a 121-87 ass kicking, Luka and Kyrie didn't even play.

So what can we even take away from those matchups? For starters, you should once again expect another defensive battle from the Wolves. Seeing what they just did to the Nuggets (and the teams before them), they have the length and athleticism to give Luka and Kyrie fits. What will be interesting is how the Wolves adjust to a team that won't be playing as big as the Nuggets were. That's why they were such a good matchup against DEN, because they had the ability to play multiple bigs in an effort to limit the Nuggets size.

The Mavs don't really operate that way in a post-trade deadline world. The Mavs play just one center at a time, which means guys like KAT and Naz Reid will most likely have to guard a quicker player in space if they choose to not adjust their lineup. That's what intrigues me about this series, because someone is going to have to break their mold. I don't think we'll see the Mavs play both Lively and Gafford at the same time because having two non shooters on the floor is never a good idea, but I'm not sure what the Mavs can do to limit the Wolves and their 2nd best REB% with only playing one center and not really having a ton of size outside of that. 

Where I think people sometimes sleep on the Mavs is their ability to lock in defensively. You're not going to get it for the full 48 minutes like you see with the Wolves, but when the Mavs lock in, they can really be effective. In the 2nd round they had the 3rd best DRTG in the field, and that's important because the Wolves offense has a habit of going through real shaky stretches. Just a 111.8 ORTG in the last round, as we saw in Game 7 there are stretches where they really struggle to score. During the year they were around the middle of the pack in offense (12th), whereas the Mavs finished 7th. At some point, that's going to bite you in the ass. It didn't last night, but that doesn't mean it won't moving forward.

So far in these playoffs the Wolves are shooting 35.8% from deep which isn't terrible, but they'll most likely have to overachieve in that department to hang with a Mavs team that has 4 guys on the floor who are shooting the hell out of the basketball right now. Maybe guys like PJ Washington and DJJ come back down to earth, but I don't think you can just assume that happens. Momentum is a real thing, and with so much defensive attention coming to Kyrie/Luka, those guys have been getting nothing but open looks.

One would assume Jaden McDaniels gets the Luka assignment, and we already know Ant is getting the Kyrie assignment

so I do wonder what that means for someone like Mike Conley. Where do you try and hide him? Is this maybe more of a NAW series to help with the length and quickness? On the flip side, how do the Mavs handle the size of the MIN frontcourt after not having to worry about that all with the Thunder?


What I do know is Luka vs Ant is going to be incredible theatre. Two "faces of the NBA" going at it who both know how to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage, it's hard to complain about this matchup.

It's going to be fascinating to see if the Wolves are able to ride the momentum of knocking out the champs and be just as dominant this round, or if the fatigue from a 7 game series starts to show up. This series feels like most are already counting the Mavs out, and I'm just not sure why anyone would do that. While it's not the defending champs, the way the Mavs handled the 1 seeded Thunder shouldn't be overlooked or disregarded. There's a great chance the Mavs have the best player in this series, and as we know in the playoffs that can often times be the difference. While they won't have the size advantage over MIN like they did OKC, I'm also not sure the Wolves will provide the same offensive issues that the Thunder did. Remember, they were one of the best three point shooting teams all year, and the Mavs defense found a way to take that away.

While their regular season matchups weren't all that close, given how both teams are playing right now I see the opposite happening in this series. At least that's my hope. These are two teams I want to see play nothing but close games, but it all comes down to whether or not the Mavs defense can show up. When it does, they are as good as any team in the league.

So overall? I think this year's Conference Finals has a ton of juice. There are no sure things which is always awesome when it comes to the fan experience, and the fact that one of the next young stars in the league will be walking away from this playoffs with a ring is very cool. I think we all know who I personally hope that is, but really this feels like just the beginning for the new wave of NBA superstars. 

If that doesn't have you excited, I'm not sure what will.