#2 Boston Celtics over #1 Miami Heat 4-2
The Miami Heat seem to always fly under the radar, don’t they? Even after cementing the top seed in the conference, the conversation seemed to revolve around the other contenders, such as the defending champion Bucks, or the 76ers, Nets, and this round’s opponent, the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are certainly worthy of the attention, with their torrid pace from February on. Boston’s surge came on the back of its top ranked defense, a scheme that plays well in the postseason. Jayson Tatum is emerging as a superstar before our very eyes, while the C’s possess stars, Jaylon Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford.
The Heat, meanwhile, possess one of the best players in the NBA in Jimmy Butler, who has gone through stretches of dominance in the playoffs before when he carried the Heat to the finals in 2020. Also on the roster are capable role players Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and the emerging Max Struss. Kyle Lowry is questionable to start the series due to his hamstring problems.
Expect games where both teams fail to reach triple digits, as both the Celtics and Heat have top notch defenses. Butler will once again carry the Heat, and may steal a game or two, however, Boston’s defense is one where they may be able to contain Butler enough to where Miami will need someone else to step up. Tatum, on the other hand, has a stronger supporting cast on his side and will lead the Celtics back to the finals.
#3 Golden State Warriors 4 #4 Dallas Mavericks 3
Well, the Dallas Mavericks have are attention now, don’t they? That was a dominant and statement win on the road in Game 7 over the 64-win Phoenix Suns. And here’s the kicker: the Mavs will be underdogs once again in this series.
Dallas, of course, has its one superstar in Luka Doncic. While it is preferred to have more than one scoring option, I have to wonder which of the Warriors will draw the assignment of guarding Doncic. If someone is able to give him fits (unlikely), it will be up to folks like Spencer Dinwiddie (30 points in Game 7 at Phoenix) or Jalen Brunson.
Golden State obviously has more scoring punch in Steph Curry, Kyle Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and youngster Jordan Poole. Dallas’ wings must get out and distract the Warriors’ shooting outside to slow down the 3-point threat.
I’m having trouble picking against the Mavericks in this series, however, when I look at Golden State’s scoring options, I see no other choice but to pick the Warriors. Look for Doncic to be Superman, but fall just short of the finals.