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NBA Conference Finals Preview

26 teams have fallen and now only 4 remain. We’ve officially reached the conference finals! The road to get here has been nothing short of entertaining. The last round has provided us two game 7’s (one that went to OT) and a team coming back from being down 0-2. This postseason has arguably been the most fun to watch in the last 10-15 years. The best part is that this happened without the same old teams being present. No Lakers, Heat, Celtics or Spurs were involved in the truly entertaining moments. Instead we’re left with someone either winning their first title ever or ending a playoff drought that lasts at least 50 years. So let’s jump into these matchups.

Eastern Conference Finals #3 seed Milwaukee Bucks vs #5 Seed Atlanta Hawks

Both of these teams come into this series surviving a game 7 on the road. Milwaukee outlasted the Brooklyn Nets despite Durant’s heroic efforts and Atlanta stunned the Sixers in Philly. Neither franchise has won a title in 50 years with the Bucks winning its last in 1971 and the Hawks winning it in 1958 when they were in St. Louis. One of these teams will have the chance to end their title drought while the other will have to wait at least another year.

Milwaukee will believe this is the year they finally get over the hump and potentially win a championship. They arguably have the best player left in the playoffs and just beat a tough Brooklyn side. The Bucks are fortunate that Brooklyn suffered some key injuries, but many times have won championships thanks to that bit of luck. The important thing for the Bucks is that they take advantage of this opportunity. They’ve spent big on Middleton and Holiday to support Giannis for a title push. On paper, this team should be the favorites to advance to the finals.

That being said the Atlanta Hawks have been underdogs all postseason long and enjoy being doubted. They slayed the Knicks and then shocked a Sixers team that was more talented than them. Atlanta has a swagger about them that allows this team to fear no one. They will probably view Milwaukee as just another obstacle in their quest for glory. Trae Young and his cast of shooters are full of confidence and if they can steal one of the first two games we might be in for a long series. Stat to keep in mind, Atlanta is 5-2 on the road so far this postseason.

This series should be a lot of fun to watch for a multitude of reasons. Two teams that haven’t been in this position in decades. Contrasting styles of their star players. Both teams winning their game 7’s on the road and will be supremely confident. Alas, I think it’s Milwaukee’s time to shine as I feel that Atlanta is still a year or two away from reaching that final step.

Bucks win in 6

Western Conference Finals #2 Seed Phoenix Suns vs #4 Seed Los Angeles Clippers

On the eastern side of the bracket, we had two teams who haven’t won a title in decades. On this side of the bracket, we have two teams that have never won the title. In fact, this is the first time the Clippers have made it this far in their 50+ year history. One of these teams will be one step closer to capturing that elusive title once the dust settles in the West. The question of course is who will it be? Note: I’m aware that game 1 has already happened, but trust me this doesn’t change my prediction.

Phoenix has done well to get here slaying the defending champion Lakers. Then in the next round swept the league’s MVP Jokic and his Denver Nuggets. The turnaround for this franchise has been nothing short of remarkable. About 18 months ago this franchise was faltering and rumors began to start about Booker potentially asking for a trade. The turning point, however, was the bubble last year. No team benefitted from the bubble more than the Suns. Going 8-0 against quality teams and gaining that belief led to this year’s run. Of course, adding future Hall of Famer Chris Paul to the mix doesn’t hurt either.

The Clippers took the only road that they as a franchise could take. The most agonizing road possible for their fans as they fell behind 0-2 in both of their series. In the first series, they fell behind to a Dallas team that wasn’t close to LA’s talent level. The Clippers were able to turn it around and win that series in 7 but then did the exact same thing to Utah. Falling behind 0-2 to a Utah team that wasn’t as good as the Clippers before winning 4 straight. So which Clippers team will we get in this series? Well, chances are if they fall behind 0-2 there will be no coming back this time around. Kwahi Leonard is out with a knee injury that seems likely to keep him out for the rest of the season.

Both teams will be without their star player for some amount of time. Chris Paul tested positive for Covid and will miss at least the first game. Obviously, the timetable is longer for Leonard which gives the Suns the edge in this matchup. If everyone was healthy we could make the case for a much longer series, but since that’s not the case things could be wrapped up quickly. Phoenix is the better team in terms of talent as well as how well they play together. Unlike the other series, I can only see one winner here.

Suns win in 5

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Justin Walker

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The Greatness of …

Too often we judge greatness on recency. The greatest of all times is only because our “time” is limited to what’s right in front of us. Very rarely do we look into the history of a sport and understand greatness is not easily achieved. So, before crowning the latest GOAT, let’s pay homage to some of the true greats.

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