NBA Conference Finals Predictions

Josh Hobbs and Jacob Chaimovitch

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With only four teams remaining, the 2019 NBA playoffs continue as we head into the Conference Championships round. The Golden State Warriors will face off against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Final, and the Milwaukee Bucks will square off against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Final. This round will officially begin on Tuesday starting with the series in the West in Oakland (This article was written before Tuesday. So far the Warriors and Bucks are up 1-0).

In the East, Milwaukee has coasted relatively easy throughout their first two series, against the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. They have been led all year and throughout the playoffs by star forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has averaged 27.4 PPG, 11.3 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.6 blocks in the playoffs. So far, the Bucks have only lost one playoff game this year, and their dominance has shown little signs of regression. They will still have a very tough challenge against the Toronto Raptors, who have shown they are capable of beating anyone in the league this season. They advance to the Conference Finals off one the of the greatest buzzer-beaters in playoff history with Kawhi Leonard’s series-winning shot over Joel Embiid. I expect this series to be very competitive as compared to the Warriors and Trail Blazers over in the West.

Speaking of, the Warriors and Trail Blazers will meet in the playoffs for only the third time in their playoff history. This will be the Warriors 5th straight appearance in the Western Conference Finals, while the Blazers will be in their first since 2000. One key part of how this series will play out is the status Warriors forward Kevin Durant. Durant injured his calf during Game 5 of the Western Conference Semis against the Houston Rockets and was ruled out for the rest of that series. He has also been ruled out of the first two games of this series at least. The question remains: Will the Blazers capitalize on the loss of the Warriors leading scorer by winning at least one of the first two games that Durant is ruled out of? If anyone can lead a team to do that, it’s Damian Lillard. He has been absolutely lights-out in the playoffs this year, averaging 28.4 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 4.8 RPG on top of 2.0 steals per game. Aside from all the numbers, he had a cold-blooded buzzer-beater of his own when he drained a 3-pointer from deep with Paul George in his face to send the Blazers past the Thunder in Game 5 of the first round. This series is not as one-sided as people perceive it to be and should be a very fun series to watch.

With all the being said, here is a look at both Jacob and Josh’s predictions for both matchups:

Western Conference Finals:

Josh: Golden State Warriors Win Series 4-1

A lot of people have been giving the Blazers a real shot in this series with the uncertainty of Kevin Durant’s availability. I say otherwise. The Warriors have already won a championship without Durant, and not to be rude, but I don’t see the Blazers as awfully difficult matchup for the Warriors. I see the Blazers stealing one from the Warriors in Game 2, but that’s it.

The Curry brothers, Steph and Seth (left to right), are the first set of brothers to meet in a Conference Finals series.

Jacob: Golden State Warriors Win Series 4-2

Despite missing Kevin Durant for the time that he is out, the Warriors will get the job done against Portland. Assuming Durant only misses the two games he was ruled out of, it won’t be long before he comes back to the team. Lillard, McCollum, and the Blazers will put up a fight, but the Warriors are too good to be stopped.                                    

Eastern Conference Finals:

Josh: Milwaukee Bucks Win Series 4-2

I just don’t see a scenario where the Raptors are able to stop Giannis. I have always been worried that his game would severely decline in high-pressure situations (like the playoffs), but he has shown me that he is more than capable at producing at an elite level where the bright lights are upon him. I think the Raptors are put in a bad spot early by losing the first two games in Milwaukee and are forced to play an uphill battle against a team that has the momentum. Look for the Bucks to simply overpower the Raptors as the series continues.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s involvement in the Bucks-Raptors series could be important in the result.

Jacob: Toronto Raptors Win Series 4-3

Call me crazy, but Toronto will move forward in the series over the Bucks. While Giannis Antetokounmpo is very dominant when he plays, he is only one man. It shouldn’t take long before PF Pascal Siakam and C Marc Gasol figure out how to contain and limit the big man. Once that happens, scoring takes over and Toronto emerges victorious.

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