And then there were four. After the Boston Celtics’ glorious though kind of unwatchable Game 7 win, we are left with 4 of the league’s 7 best teams and three of the top four. Of course this is no surprise given the NBA playoffs spectacular ability to identify the best team – you end up with precious few true surprises. So with a fairly chalky Final Four, how will this shake out?
Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat (4th overall, 6th offense, 4th defense) vs Boston Celtics (7th overall, 24th offense, 1st defense)
Wow, Avery Bradley’s loss is huge. Given how incompetent he looked for a year and half of his career, this is kind of incredible. Indeed, as John Hollinger pointed out, even with a rough shooting postseason, Bradley led the Celtics in +/-. If you remember his sensational block on Dwayne Wade in their regular season encounters – then you can see how Bradley’s loss coupled with Wade’s amazing last couple games in the Indiana series portend to something scary for Boston. Considering how horrible their offense has been, the Celtics need to lean on their defense and without Bradley that will be hard. Sure, Chris Bosh’s injury is a slow healer and a high risk one – he won’t be 100% – but LeBron and Wade are clicking so easily now that it is hard to envision the shorthanded Celtics being more than a bug on a windshield. Heat in 5
Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs (2nd overall, 1st offense, 10th defense) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (3rd overall, 2nd offense, 8th defense)
The Spurs, with Parker and when not punting games to rest their old guys have won 43 of their last 47 games. This is obviously phenomenal. They have had blowouts down the stretch against all of their peers, including Oklahoma City. However, the Thunder’s body of work is a little better than the Spurs with a slightly better defense. However, San Antonio’s defense has hunkered down in the postseason – and you’d like to think that Duncan and Splitter mean a tougher interior D than Ibaka – who can block shots but not so much at position defense. Can the Thunder stop the Spurs’ pick and roll? It is hard to envision, given how the Spurs can spread you out so completely. In contrast, the Thunder’s offensive prowess is built into individual ability more than a passing and motion attack. Harden vs Ginobli, Parker vs Westbrook. The Thunder thrive on winning 1-on-1 battles, but can they win enough here to hang with the Spurs? Despite Durant’s brilliance – I just don’t see it. It is going to be a hell of a series though. Spurs in 6