By DaVince “Dino” Wright
While the world watched the PGA, MLB and spring football do their thing, the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics have struggled in the conference finals game. The Celtics are down 2 games to the Heat, dropping the first couple of games at home by 6.5 points per game. The strange thing is having a 10+ point lead in different stages of the game and yet find themselves losing in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The Nuggets have proven that the legend of “King James” is only a myth from storytellers from years past. Keep an eye on him during these next couple of games. He’s been taking defensive plays off while Denver is punishing them on the offensive end. Is this what we the fans waited for? Can the Lakers and Celtics turn their respective series around. Let’s take a look at the conference finals moving forward and I’ll give you my thoughts about how the Celtics and Lakers can turn things around.
Western Conference Finals
Denver leads the series 3-0
Denver Nuggets (53-29, 19-22 Away)
LA Lakers (43-29, 23, 23-18 Home)
Picture this: LeBron James has played for 20 years, breaks the all-time scoring record and is looking for another title. On the verge of not making the playoffs, the Lakers make it into the playoffs and beat a young Memphis team and dethrones the NBA champs Golden State Warriors. Now the Lakers are faced with being swept by the Nuggets. The problem has been on the defensive end. Three things that stand out for the Lakers that I’ve noticed are: that they are struggling on the defensive end. The Nuggets are out rebounding the Lakers by an average of 11. Secondly, player rotation is killing them. They need to play Tristan Thompson! He’s big and has championship experience. Thirdly, limit LeBron James running the offense through him. Put LBJ on the block and force him to play with his back towards the basket. The Nuggets are playing lights out. The reemergence of PG Jamal Murray has been exactly what the Nuggets have needed to get over the hump. He is averaging 27.9 points per game. Murray has shown that he can run the offense in transition and finding others in the open floor has changed the landscape of the series. Keep and eye on the adjustments that coach Mike Malone is making during the 3rd and 4th quarters. The Lakers are favored to win Game 4 at home on Monday.
Eastern Conference Finals
Miami Heat leads the series 2-0
Boston Celtics (57-25, 25-16 Away)
Miami Heat (44-38, 27-14 Home)
Boston has had their hands full with the Miami Heat in the 4th quarters of both Games 1 and 2 of this series. The Boston Celtics were favored to win this series in 5 games. I guess no one told the Heat that they were the sacrificial lambs for the Celtics winning the East this season. Boston has the best team on paper. They rank in the top 5 of every category from offense, defense and turnovers in the NBA this season. They should be up 2 games because they are the better team at home sitting in the number 2 spot of the Eastern conference all season long. Celtics guard Jason Tatum has been off and on like a broken light switch. His running mate Jaylen Brown has been as solid as one can be without getting his number called on offense. Keep an eye on Derrick White, Grant Williams and Marcus Smart. They will be the x-factors for the Celtics for the rest of the series. The Miami Heat have shown their championship drive by going into Boston and hitting the Celtics right in the mouth. Boston did nothing but bleed and ask, “Why did you hit me?” Miami’s guard Jimmy Butler has turned up the Heat and has shown that the Celtics are not ready to take the next step. Head coach Erik Spoelstra has proven that he is a top tier coach by making the best decisions coming out of time outs. Keep an eye on PG Kyle Lowry, PF Kevin Love and SC Max Strus. Their x-factor will be C Bam Adebayo. Sunday, Game 3 will be the turning point for the Heat. I’m taking Miami by 9!
2023 NBA Conference Finals At A Glance – Part 1
By DaVince “Dino” Wright