NBA Conference Finals - Who Will Come Out on Top?
NBA Conference Finals Predictions - Eastern Conference
With the last two teams finally moving on from their respective Conference Semifinals series with Game 7 victories yesterday, what comes next is the gruelling and highly anticipated Western and Eastern Conference Finals. From 16 teams, now only 4 remain. In the East it's LeBron James and the Cavs facing Dwight Howard and the Magic after their Game 7 dethroning of the defending champion Boston Celtics. In the West it's Kobe's Lakers coming off a hard fought 7 game series with the undermanned Rockets team pitted against the well-rested and high energy Denver Nuggets, led by their hometown hero Chauncey Billups and franchise player Carmelo Anthony. This years matchups' seem to be one of the best and tightly contested series that the league has ever seen. Unlike in the previous years where you can already tell from the start of the play-offs what teams are most likely going to fight it out in the NBA Finals, this year just isn't the case. With 2 surprise teams in the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets, it's anyone's series to win.
Let us first discuss the situation in the East. LeBron James' Cavs are flawess, winning the previous two rounds all via sweeps, are they that good? Can anyone beat them with the NBA's most valuable player having a stronger and healthy supporting cast? If someone can beat the King, it can only be one possible person: Superman. Dwight Howard has been the focus of a lot of hype, not just for his Superman outfit during the past 2 years' Slam Dunk Contest, but more because of his coming of age as a young big man for the Magic. Howard has avereged 20.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2.9 blocks per game this season and has lead the Magic to the Conference Finals for the first time since another big man took center stage for the team, Shaquille O'Neal. Howard is surrounded by a great supporting team composed of sharpshooter Rashard Lewis, all-around Hedo Turkoglu, and the a solid role players composed of Mickael Pietrus, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick among others.
On the other hand, the Cavs have been in a league all of their own. Headed by their young MVP leader James, who has been averaging an insane line of 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game, Cleveland has been soaring. LeBron has actually performed as expected of a phenom, the big difference lie in the players that are now surrounding the King. The off-season addition of Mo Williams, the resurgence of Delonte West, and the free agency acquisition of veteran Joe Smith has given the much needed support and energy that has propelled the team to great heights.
The key match-ups to look at for this series are those of LeBron and Howard. Clearly LeBron will be the center of the Magic's defense, the big question is can he break through the defense that will most likely be composed of multiple defenders and double teams? Can he create opportunities for his teammates to score and will they be able to come through this time around? For the Magic, it's gonna be about two things, 3's and the man-child that is Dwight Howard. In their Game 7 rout of the defending champions, Orlando shot an ridiculous 13-21 from long range. If they can continue their hot shooting then this can pose as a big problem to the Cavs, who will already be preoccupied in containing Dwight Howard. The Cavs are not that deep in their frontline especially with Ben Wallace sidelined. This can pose as a possible headache for coach Mike Brown as he needs to think of a way, if there is a way, to stop or at least to slow down Orlando's franchise player.
All things considered, I think that this series will go the distance unlike Cleveland's previous two rounds. With the Cavs well rested and the Magic coming off a momentum-gaining win against the defending champs, this match-up proves to be one of the will make fans all over the world hold their breath. My prediction is Cavs in 6.