What if I told you the Milwaukee Bucks underachieved after another Giannis Antetokounmpo MVP season? And yes, they were bounced without a Game 7, and it was before the Finals. There’s a dark horse in the Eastern Conference Finals that added a disgruntled All-NBA player who’s now looking like the favorite to make the Finals. The Clippers were eliminated for the 51st time prior to reaching the Western Conference Finals. Chris Paul came up short in a big playoff moment along with James Harden. Russell Westbrook simultaneously combusted attempting to “carry the team” and essentially ruined their playoff hopes. We’re still waiting for Joel Embiid to get into the “best shape of his life” and Brett Brown still can’t draw up an offensive set. Can we get another playmaker in Utah for Donavon Mitchell?
Sensing a theme here? We’re into Games 3 and 4 of the Conference Finals and it’s funny how the more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same over the past year.
Bubble basketball has been nothing short of aesthetically pleasing since its midsummer return. What seemed like a risky experiment where the NBA hoped to get through its season has been a huge success from day one and has continued throughout the playoffs. These circumstances were different, but the result really wasn’t.
The biggest story of the first-round playoffs was Luka Dončić announcing to the world that there’s no debate that the Hawks, Kings, and Suns made massive mistakes in the 2018 draft passing on him—the Mavericks with a foreign player who’s All-NBA level, and the Hawks, Kings and Suns making draft mistakes.
Try not to laugh, but it’s a new year. Seeing the ease at which the Miami Heat disposed of the Milwaukee Bucks was borderline alarming. They beat the Bucks by an average of 9 points per game and, surprisingly, it was second to what happened in the Western Conference Semis.
The Clippers dominated the storylines failing in a big spot, as the Clippers do, blowing a 3-1 lead against the young Denver Nuggets. Paul George, thank you for furthering the theory here, running for cover when the battle got heated, similar to Paris in the early scenes of the movie Troy. Kawhi, the Achilles of the Clippers version of Troy, a fierce and battle-tested Warrior, had a similar ending to the hero in the film, blind-siding everyone being eliminated by someone we wrote off earlier in the script—or playoffs for this example. We looked at the Celtics this season and had the same expectations of the previous year, and if history means anything, yes, Gordon Hayward was injured again as it seemed like they were ready for lift off.
There’s always an anomaly in each playoff. This season it’s the absence of Stephen Curry and the Warriors, and the previous run we didn’t have King James. (Sorry, the Warriors had to be mentioned in the article.) So, we’re back to history repeating itself, and with that in mind, my pick is the Lakers to be back in the Finals after 6 games against the Denver Nuggets.
Why? Well, how many times have you watched the NBA Finals in the past decade without seeing LeBron James?
In the East, theoretically, it’d make sense for the Boston Celtics to make the Finals and complete the Lakers vs. Celtics historic tradition, but it wouldn’t fit the history-repeating-itself narrative. Remember the disgruntled All-NBA player that wanted out? Well he plays for the Miami Heat. Last year we had Kawhi, and this year, Jimmy Butler is the closest thing we’ve seen to an anti hero since the Joker in the Dark Knight.
My final pick to meet the Lakers in the Finals are the Miami Heat in 6 games. How perfect this would’ve been to see LeBron in a Lakers uniform in American Airlines Arena up by a possession with the ball as we hear the PA announcer yell his famous “Twooooooooo minutes! DOS!”? Instead, we’ll have to settle for virtual fan Dwayne Wade as The King brings the Larry O’Brian Trophy back to LA to close the season in a wonky year where we lost Kobe Bean Bryant. And that would be something completely different from all of our previous playoffs aside from this being a professional AAU tournament.