2018 NBA Playoffs : Conference Championship & NBA Finals Preview
We’re down to the Final Four in the 2018 NBA Playoffs. This is when it gets REALLY interesting. I’ve been looking forward to this all season. It all starts on Sunday and Monday. What will happen? “Dutch Lion” knows. Do you want to know?
Eastern Conference Finals
#2 Boston Celtics vs #4 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston earned the #2 seed with a 55-27 record while Cleveland is #4 with a 50-32 record. The Cavaliers won the regular season series between the two clubs by winning two of three games. But now we have a fantastic best-of-seven matchup for the Eastern Conference Championship.
Boston’s home court advantage will be huge. The “Dutch Lion” is picking Boston to win the series in 7 games. Even though the Celtics are the higher/better seed this will obviously be an upset because of LeBron James. Love him or hate him, LeBron is a great player, one of the greatest of all time. But this time, Boston’s system will get him. It will be similar to 2010 when Doc Rivers was Head Coach and the C’s were led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and “Big Baby” Glen Davis. In the Eastern Conference semifinals that year they sent James packing on his way out of Cleveland by winning 94-85 in Game 6. Boston went on to lose in the NBA Finals to the Lakers in seven. Meanwhile, James left for the Miami Heat.
That was the first time he left Cleveland behind for greener pastures. I believe this year will lead to the second time James will opt out of Ohio. He’s an unrestricted free agent again this summer. He accomplished what he wanted which was to give the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio (his hometown), a championship. Legacy fulfilled. And how ironic it will be when James leaves again! Think about it….. the guy known for greatness and “taking his talents to South Beach” will leave Clevelanders behind again. After this “Decision”, you’ll see more #23 Cavs jersey burnings and rioting hysteria that will rival the Iranians burning American flags. Boooooo!
But where will he take his talents this time? New York? Los Angeles? Philadelphia? I’d put my money on either the Knicks or Lakers but I think we should consult with Gary “The Gut” Goombah before placing bets on anyone. Do you hear me “Gut”? He heard. He just arrived back from a trip to Bangkok on his private jet and he said, “Put all your chips on the Lakers.” It’s not just Gary that believes this. Many others do too.
Bottom line, the Boston Celtics will advance and their Head Coach Brad Stevens will become even more legendary. The former Butler head coach will add to his list of achievements. Never forget his back-to-back NCAA Championship game appearances…… at Butler?!?! Now he’ll be in the NBA Finals too. How many coaches have ever coached both a college team and an NBA team to their respective Championship games or series? I’m glad you asked. I can find two that did it and one that almost achieved it.
- Joe Lapchick coached St. John’s to the NIT Championship (a better tourney in those days than the NCAA Tournament) in 1943 and ’44 before leading the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals three straight years from 1951-’53. Impressive!
- Fred Schaus (who?) coached his alma mater West Virginia to the NCAA Final in 1959 with the legendary Jerry West leading the way. Then Schaus went to the NBA where he coached the newly relocated Lakers as they headed west from Minneapolis. He got them to four NBA Finals in the 60s. Pretty good for a guy nobody has ever heard of.
- Dr. Jack Ramsay led St. Joseph’s to the Final Four (but not the Championship game) in 1961 prior to him coaching the World Champion Portland Trail Blazers in 1977.
Many have tried (John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian, etc.) but hardly any have succeeded at both levels. Stevens can etch his mark in history by getting Boston to the NBA Finals this year. I think he will succeed in getting there, and he may even win a ring.
PICK : Boston in 7 games
Western Conference Finals
#1 Houston Rockets vs #2 Golden St. Warriors
Houston had a dominant season as they went 65-17 to earn the best record in the league. Meanwhile, Golden State trudged their way to a 58-24 record. In the regular season, the Rockets won the season series two games to one.
This is the primo series of the year. I…….can’t……..wait! This series will be shown exclusively on TNT with the studio analysis from Ernie Johnson and the basketball greats Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal. Their weekly show, “Inside the NBA”, is one of the best shows on television. It’s funny, sometimes serious, sometimes intelligent basketball analysis from two Hall of Famers and…….. Kenny. It’s always entertaining. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend checking it out.
I’m one of the few that think Houston can beat Golden St. They have a great system, a great player, and home court advantage. Therefore, the “Dutch Lion” is predicting an epic seven game series that will be won by……..
I know what you’re thinking. This is crazy. Nobody can beat the Warriors. I know, I know. But I’m giving Rockets HC Mike D’Antoni credit for his amazing system. Nobody can score like James Harden these days. He is the premier scorer and playmaker in the NBA today. He had 30.4 ppg and 8.8 apg in the regular season. He led the league in scoring by over 2 points per game and was third in assists behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He’s a better shooting and scoring PG than former D’Antoni ringleader PG Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. Nash was a better passer, but Harden is a better finisher and scorer. Meanwhile, don’t forget the Rockets have Chris Paul who can also handle the ball and score. Clint Capela is an underrated rim protector. He led the NBA in blocks with 2.8 per game, and they have depth in Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Nene, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, and Luc Mbah a Moute.
PICK : Houston in 7 games.
2018 NBA Finals
#2 Boston Celtics vs #1 Houston Rockets
Anyone else feeling shades of 1986? Me too. But long gone are the days of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge (wait, he’s still there), and Bill Walton for Boston and the Twin Towers Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson for Houston.
In ’86 these franchises squared off after the Rockets upset Magic Johnson and the Lakers. Boston had a fantastic team that year (67-15 + 15-3 = 82-18), one that many consider the greatest team in NBA history (not me, I think the 1996 Chicago Bulls (72-10 +15-3 = 87-13) were clearly superior. The Bulls were a full five games better and two of the playoff losses were at Seattle (after being up three games to zero) when it seemed as if the Bulls clearly didn’t mind losing so that they could win the Trophy in Game 6 on their home floor rather than at Seattle.)
Greatest stat about the ’86 Celtics is their home record. An incredible 40-1 regular season + 10-0 in the postseason equals an astounding never-to-be-done-again 50-1 at home!!!! Now that’s how you “protect this house”! Who was the one team that beat them in the Boston Garden that year? It was Portland, 121-103 on December 6, 1985. (* The ’96 Bulls were 39-2 at home in the regular season, in case you were wondering. They lost two of their last four at home, both by one point. Like the ’86 Celtics, they went 10-0 at home in the postseason for a 49-2 total home record. * The 2016 San Antonio Spurs tied the Celtics with a 40-1 regular season home record but fizzled out in the Western Semis with a 3-2 home playoff record for a total of 43-3.)
So here we are, thirty-two years later, with the Houston Rockets looking for revenge for Boston’s six game NBA Finals Championship victory. In 1986, while “Top Gun” was the top movie of the year, Larry Bird was the top NBA player. He won both the regular season and Finals MVP awards. Who will be the ‘Top Guns’ in 2018? Will it be Boston once again or Houston? This year we could see a dual MVP winner just like in ’86, but this time it will be Houston’s James Harden.
Despite Brad Stevens‘ awesome system in Boston, I like Mike D’Antoni’s system in Houston even more. For what it’s worth, should Golden St. beat Houston in the Western Finals, I think they will win the NBA Finals. The Warriors system installed by Steve Kerr is amazing too. So when you really analyze these four teams, you see three great systems plus Cleveland, who doesn’t win with their system as much as they just win with one of the greatest superstars to ever lace up the Nike’s. Ultimately, which system will win? I will take the Western Conference Champs to win the NBA Finals. Thus, I think the 2018 Houston Rockets will win it all, giving the franchise their first title since 1995.
PICK : Houston in 6 games
That’s it for the “Dutch Lion” for now. I hope you liked the Preview. I KNOW you’ll enjoy the games!