By Spencer Ripchik
Then there were four. This NBA Playoffs has been pretty crazy with the No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks losing in the first round and the slow-starting Los Angeles Lakers still in it.
The Boston Celtics battled back against the Philadelphia 76ers, taking the No. 3 seed to seven games where forward Jayson Tatum dropped a historic 51 points.
The longshot in the playoffs the Miami Heat who knocked off the Bucks in the first round, are still striving after beating the New York Knicks in the second round.
The No. 1 seed in the West, the Denver Nuggets, is still chugging along after besting the star-loaded Pheonix Suns.
With the second round over, it now just leaves the Western and Eastern Conference Finals, which is a replica of the 2020 Final Four teams in the Bubble.
That year the Lakers raised the trophy, but this year, they aren’t the favorite to win the Championship.
There are just a handful of games left in the playoff and soon there will be just two teams left, representing the West and the East.
Western Conference Finals
The No. 1-seeded Nuggets vs. the No. 7-seeded Lakers. Despite the large gap in seedings, this could be the more competitive of the two series.
Los Angeles sports the No. 7 seed, but it hasn’t been playing like it at all as of late after taking down Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
After becoming the all-time scoring leader in the regular season, LeBron James is hunting for his fifth NBA Championship and he has a good shot at it.
30 and the win for the King pic.twitter.com/4PAfdSOrYj
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 13, 2023
In the first series against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers had a different leading scorer in all six games, but against the Warriors, they turned to James and the other star Anthony Davis.
Davis’ health is the biggest question mark, already getting banged up a couple of times in the playoffs, but when he’s healthy he makes Los Angeles a tough team to stop.
Denver is kind of a one-man show with two-time back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic leading the team in scoring and rebounds on most nights.
PNR work pic.twitter.com/wgiaNUIs8m
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 12, 2023
However, the Nuggets do have a lot of young guys who can shoot, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
Both teams have depth and an arsenal of players that can score. The Nuggets have a better roster than the Lakers and have played better all season, but Denver doesn’t have LeBron James.
If anyone can take a No. 7 seed to the Championship, that started the season really bad, it’s LeBron James. However, James is going to need some help.
Davis is the difference maker in this series. If he’s healthy, the Lakers are going to be really tough to beat, but if he goes down, Denver will be in the Championship.
Los Angeles in 6
Eastern Conference Finals
The Boston Celtics escaped the 76ers on the back of Tatum after they rode the back of Marcus Smart in game 6.
After defeating Philadelphia, the Celtics became the favorites to win the title and rightfully so.
Boston is the most complete team left with Tatum, Smart and Jaylen Brown making up the core.
silky smooth 😍 pic.twitter.com/gpnYD2SUOw
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 14, 2023
Tatum’s been the go-to guy all season for the Celtics, leading them in points, rebounds and assists per game and he’s going to have to be on his A-game against the hot Heat.
Miami has the lowest odds to win the title, but it’s been grinding out series behind one of the best players left in the playoffs, Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy doing what Jimmy does ☕️ pic.twitter.com/T0DbTIoqYW
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 13, 2023
Butler took over against the Bucks in the first round and played really well against the Knicks in the second round.
However, Miami isn’t as complete as the Celtics. The Heat has been banged up this playoff and lost Tyler Herro after he broke two of his fingers against Milwaukee.
To pair with Butler, the Heat have Bam Adebayo, but Butler has been most of Miami’s offense. He’s been the team’s leading scorer in 10 out of the Heat’s 11 playoff games and there is a high chance that he is the series leading scorer, but that might not be enough.
The Celtics don’t need Tatum to ball out every game like Miami needs Butler, too. Boston has Smart and Brown who can put up numbers and support Tatum, whereas Butler doesn’t have the big-name stars to carry if needed.
If the Celtics can stop Butler, then it’s going to be the Heat on a plane to Cancún in a couple of days.
Celtics in 5
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