(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs: Warriors in 4
Prior to Kawhi Leonard’s injury in the first game of the series, the Spurs were dominating the Warriors in Oakland. The Warriors had swept their first two series and seemed poised to return to the NBA Finals, but Gregg Popovich’s Spurs had other plans. Those plans were shattered once Zaza Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard’s foot while he was in the air. Leonard landed on Pachulia’s foot and reinjured his ankle. Leonard would not return for the rest of the series. Given Pachulia’s history and the unnatural closeout on Leonard, it seemed like an extremely dirty play. The Spurs had a huge lead in the third quarter at the time, but weren’t able to hold on once their superstar was sidelined with a sprained ankle. The game was close in the final minutes, but the Warriors were able to escape with a two point victory. The last three games of the series were just a formality. The Warriors won the last three games by an average of roughly twenty points per game. The Spurs simply didn’t have enough firepower once Leonard went down. Starting point guard Tony Parker was also lost for the season when he tore his quad in game two. By that point, the series was already out of hand. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green all played at a high level throughout the series. Star Splash Brother Klay Thompson has struggled with his shot this postseason. Although his offensive output isn’t up to his standards, he’s still playing at a high level on the defensive end of the floor. They’ll need him to start hitting open shots in the NBA Finals. The Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers: Cavaliers in 5
Unlike their NBA Finals counterpart, the Cavaliers lost a game on their way to the NBA Finals. But they’ve only lost one game. LeBron James and company have shown that they are still the top dog in the Eastern Conference. Although they basically handed Boston the number one seed by resting their starters in the final games of the regular season, the Cavaliers proved that they knew exactly what they were doing. They were more worried about being rested for the postseason than their matchup with the Celtics. LeBron James has proven all postseason that he’s still the best basketball player in the world. He was dominant in all four of their victories in this series. He surprisingly struggled in game three, which was the only game that Boston won in this series. This was LeBron’s first poor playoff performance in three years. It was shocking because the Celtics were playing their first playoff game without their star point guard. Isaiah Thomas got injured in the embarrassing blowout in game two. He played the first half (Boston was losing by a playoff-record 41 points at halftime), but would not return for the remainder of the series. Since they were blown out in the first two games at home, everyone expected Boston to get blown out in Cleveland without Thomas. But the Celtics showed their resiliency and won on a game-winning three-point shot by Avery Bradley. Bradley was their best player on both ends of the floor all series, but he isn’t the type of player that can carry a team to the NBA Finals. LeBron James and company rebounded in games four and five to close out the series. The Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for a third straight year.