When the 2017-18 NBA season began last October, it was no surprise that we saw the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers sitting on top as the best odds to win the 2017-18 NBA Finals. The Warriors opened as 5-8 odds, while the Cavs were just behind them at 5-2. Coming off of a 4-1 series victory over the Cavs in the 2017 NBA Finals, the Warriors found themselves facing a familiar challenge. They have avoided the urge to rest on their laurels while attempting to reload for another Finals run.
Fast forward to May 2018, we are just days away from seeing the Warriors and the Cavs playing in the Western and Eastern Conference Finals, respectively. Both teams will be just four wins away from meeting in the NBA Finals for the 4th year in a row. Meanwhile, LeBron James is closing in on his 8th straight Finals appearance. There are a few teams that have wanted no part of LeBron in the playoffs.
The Pacers, Wizards, Bulls, Raptors, and Hawks are a combined 21-71 all-time against LeBron in the playoffs. The Pacers have the best record against the King at 10-20, while the Hawks have the worst at 0-12 (swept all three times).
Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold a 3-0 series advantage over the Toronto Raptors. While the Boston Celtics also hold a 3-0 series lead over the upstart Philadelphia 76ers. A 76ers team that began the season at 100-1 odds to win it all. However, they defied the odds to find themselves in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Life does not get any easier for the Boston Celtics if they can close out the series against Philly. It just so happens that LeBron James has scored more points in the playoffs against Boston than any other player has scored against a single team in the playoffs, ever. Nearly 1,000 career postseason points against the Celtics (979 to be exact). Last season, the Cavs eliminated the Celtics in five games. They scored a low of 108 points in the one game they lost all series and scoring 130 or more points, twice.
Unless an absolute miracle happens, we will be witnessing the Rockets and the Warriors battle it out in the Western Conference Finals. While the Celtics try to avoid getting annihilated once again by LeBron and company in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It is not farfetched to say that the Rockets present the biggest threat to dethrone the defending champion, Warriors. Aside from the dynamic backcourt duo of James Harden and Chris Paul, the rise of Clint Capela this postseason has been the x-factor for the Rockets.
In the East, the Celtics will be no walk in the park for the Cavs this time around. Terry Rozier has stepped up big time in the absence of the injured Kyrie Irving and Al Horford has been “Playoff AL.” With the amount of injuries and adversity this team has faced all season, they continue to play with a major chip on their shoulder. I see both series going 6 or 7 games. However, I am going to say they both go 6, because the Warriors and Cavs will find a way to avoid a game 7 on the road.
Conference Finals Predictions
Western Conference Finals: Warriors in 6
Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers in 6
Current NBA Championship odds (via Vegas Insider)
Golden State Warriors – 5-9
Houston Rockets – 2-1
Cleveland Cavaliers – 6-1
Boston Celtics – 20-1