WARR editorial director Kyle Means breaks down the Eastern Conference Finals and managing editor Joshua Hicks does the same for the Western Conference Finals
There’s only one accurate, as well as efficient way to break down the coming Eastern Conference Final match-up between Boston and Cleveland — around here we call it the LeBron James Equation. It lays out as such:
Having LeBron James >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Not Having LeBron James
As Cleveland “has LeBron James” they are the prohibitive favorites in this series in spite of being the lower seed (4 to Boston’s 2) and not the beneficiary of a home court advantage, which would be thought to be useful in a conference-deciding series, its merely a trifle at this point to the most empowered NBA star since He Who Will Always Be Compared to LeBron.
For James to reach Jordan levels in this series is almost a requirement for Cleveland to win — LeBron was all the Cavaliers had in their seven-game first round scrap with Indiana and he ramped up his “Dream Killer” rating in the sweep against Toronto, a team that was just asking for whatever disrespectful treatment James was willing to give them. Bron floated fadaways over Toronto at will and game-winners at his leisure.
It is true that Cleveland had to resort to LBJ theatrics to win two of the four games, but the Cavs supporting cast did much more to assert itself against Toronto and we’re talking about a 4 seed taking the heart completely from a 59-win No. 1, but again there is the LeBron James Equation. Read that and you see the Raptors had no chance.
Does Boston have no chance either? Well, you can say they have a little less of no chance. The Celtics have the benefit of having played in this series last year (at least a few of their key players did, along with the coach, who may be Boston’s only clear advantage), they have young talented wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, a guy who’s willing to guard LeBron (though he’s a little delusional regarding his chances of containing the King) and a distinct home court advantage that doesn’t stem from overconfident local rappers talking shit to players who would wash them easily (though Drew Bledsoe may be an issue if he’s allowed near too many mics).
Boston is a true competitor, proven to be the best available to Cleveland after their stellar series win over Philadelphia, but they don’t have LeBron, they don’t even have the full compliment of players they would need to match the intrigue of the Western series, which unlike this one is a true clashing of favored teams.
With Kyrie Irving and/or Gordon Hayward in compliment to the awesome and balanced Tatum/Brown attack with “Scary” Terry Rozier and Al Horford a strong inside-outside duo on top this series would have been one for the ages, instead it will feature maybe one game where the Cavs just look bad (outside of LeBron) and probably one that that the C’s steal, the problem will be when Cleveland does what Milwaukee and the 76ers couldn’t do and beat Boston at home. As that last bit of postseason mystery falls to the side, a fully exposed Boston will have little else at their disposal to counter James’ Eastern Conference authoritarianism. Cleveland wins in six games. 2019 should be lit tho.
Western Conference Finals: Expect A Fun, Yet Short Series
The Western Conference Finals features the match-up NBA fans have been waiting for since the start of the season. The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets only have each other in their way to punch their respective ticket in representing the West in the NBA Finals.
We can expect this to be an entertaining series, but I do not think the series is going to be a long, drawn out war.
The Houston Rockets are not the same team as last year. Defensively, behind the leadership of newcomers PJ Tucker, nine-time All-Star and future hall of famer Chris Paul and homegrown rising post presence Clint Capela this is a team that has been much tougher, finishing in the top two in the league defensive rating, top five in overall opponent shooting, top three in steals and number one in blocks.
Offensively, not much has changed except shooting and making as many three-point field goals as possible, which is normal for Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system. But the biggest accomplishment of giving Harden some offensive relief down the stretch during games is really paying off with CP3 as the number two scoring option. Harden is still the main effective offensive leader, averaging 29 points and eight assists a game in these playoffs, but Paul has been the closing X-factor that the Rockets have been lacking.
The Warriors continue to be the same championship team as before, remaining as explosive in all cylinders offensively and as sound as any unit defensively. Offensively, the Warriors finished top five in field goal percentage, points, rebounds and assists per game. With Steph Curry being the focal point on offense, he makes the game easier for Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to get to their sweet spots in scoring the ball, especially in the fast break. Curry has 25 points a game and shooting 44 percent from three since his comeback from injury, his early impact in the series against New Orleans was something the Pelicans couldn’t recover from.
Unlike the Rockets, the Warriors team defense is more consistent within the 48-minute game frame. They finished second in defensive rating, top ten in steals and blocks per game.
The Rockets lack size, and with the Warriors depth, they can move Durant to the center position, making their defensive adjustments easier and the Rockets offense easier to guard since they are a relatively small perimeter oriented lineup. Offensively, the Warriors are more efficient with a more balanced offensive attack while the Rockets thrive off the “live and die by the three point line” concept, where 36 percent of their scoring comes from beyond the line in these playoffs compared to the Warriors’ 27 percent.
Overall, it is going to be a great series to watch. The back-court duos of Curry and Thompson against Paul and Harden is as good of a match as there is in the league, and by adding KD and all the three point shooting that will be taking place this will be a high-paced, must see brand of television. However, I do not expect this to be a drawn-out series, and the defending champs will handle their business early with a mind on making their fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. Golden State wins in five games.
Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt and Joshua M. Hicks on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio