Warrior Weekly: NBA Conference Finals


Credit: WSPN Staff

WSPN’s Brenden O’Rourke discusses the NBA Conference finals and his predictions for the rest of the series.

Brendan O'Rourke

As the calendar starts to shift closer to summer and the weather heats up, the NBA playoffs are reaching an endpoint. So far we have seen many great games and series, but we are now down to four teams. In the East, the red-hot Boston Celtics are taking on the Miami Heat, who have arguably been the most balanced team in the NBA this season. The West will feature two of the best players in the game, as Steph Curry and Luka Doncic will take the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks into battle against each other. Both of these matchups will be extremely intriguing, and I will take a closer look at each series.

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Celtics


When you do your research, you often hear about the “Heat Culture,” which is well deserved. The Heat is one of the most consistent franchises over the last decade for a reason. It all starts with leadership and coaching by Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA and he has players that reflect his hard-nosed style of coaching. The leader of these players is veteran Jimmy Butler. Butler almost gained the Heat a title two years ago in the bubble, but fell short after some incredible individual performances.

The biggest advantage that the Heat has is that they can get a win in so many different ways. The Heat leads all teams in Opponent’s points per games Allowed and point differential this postseason. They get it done on both sides of the floor, with some of the best two-way duos in the NBA with the partnership of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Also, Tyler Herro earned the ‘Sixth Man of the Year’ award during the regular season by averaging 20.7 points per game.

The biggest concern for the Heat has to be the team on the other side of the court. The Celtics have the best record in the NBA since Jan. 25 with a 27-7 record. Talent-wise, the two teams look pretty similar, but the Celtics are just clicking more than the Heat. They have defeated Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in consecutive series, so they are at an all time high. To advance in these playoffs, the Heat needs to take the Celtics out of their rhythm, which at this point is easier said than done.


After forcing Kevin Durant to have the worst playoff series of his career and beating the Bucks in seven games, despite Giannis’ heroic efforts, the Celtics are feeling pretty good about themselves. No team in the NBA has played better in the last three and a half months than this Celtics team. The Celtics are led by their best player Jayson Tatum who has ascended to superstar status during the second half of the regular season and the playoffs. Tatum finished at No. 6 this year in Most Valuable Player voting and has been big when the lights are the brightest all season long. In game six, an elimination game for the Celtics, Tatum had his biggest playoff moment of his young career so far by scoring 46 points and saving the Celtics season. Tatum is one player who makes the Celtics so dangerous, as Jaylen Brown makes the one-two punch of Tatum and Brown one of the best in the league. Brown averaged 23.6 PPG as the Celtics second best player this year.

The rest of the Celtics starting lineup consists of Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Robert Williams. Marcus Smart is the best perimeter defender in the league and just won the Defensive Player of the Year Award to prove that. Al Horford is coming off a series where at 36 years old, he was tasked with guarding the best player in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Horford also had a massive game four, which was the turning point when he scored 30 points and led a huge comeback win. At the Center position, Robert Williams is the ultimate x-factor for the Celtics because of his injury status. Williams is playing in this series, but we don’t know exactly how healthy he will be. When Williams is healthy, he is a top 10 Center in the NBA and brings some of the best defense out of anyone in the league. This postseason, Williams has only played in five games and only averaged 6.2 PPG in 20.2 minutes per game.

Also, off the bench, the Celtics have gotten strong shooting contributions for Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard along with the excellent defense played by Grant Williams and Derrick White. So far we have seen the Celtics biggest struggle be when they get into shooting slumps and start shooting too many threes. When the Celtics move the ball around and get good looks for everyone they are extremely hard to beat, but when they throw up bad looks after a stagnant offense, they are very beatable.

The Celtics need to run a good offense and they also need their role player to get good looks and hit shots for them to win this series.

My Prediction:

The Celtics will keep on rolling for a third straight series in a row. The Heat will make it hard for the Celtics in a few games, but Jayson Tatum and company will end up being too much for the Heat. Celtics in six.

Western Conference Finals: Warriors vs. Mavericks

The biggest advantage of this series for the Warriors is experience. The Mavericks starting five has played a combined 117 playoff games in their career, which is just a small fraction compared to the 560 games that the Warriors starting five has played. Over the past seven years, no team has had more postseason success than the Warriors. In that span, Stephen Curry and company have been to the finals five times and have accumulated three Larry O’Brien Trophies, but other than the Warriors big three over Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, this is a new Warriors roster.

The big three of Curry, Thompson and Green combine for more than half of the Warriors playoff experience, but Warriors fans are extremely excited about the other guys that are making big contributions. Jordan Poole has been crucial in every role that he plays, whether he is inserted in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, as he has averaged 19.3 PPG and 4.8 assists per game. Andrew Wiggins has started all 11 games this postseason for the Warriors and has provided solid defense along with 14.5 PPG on great efficiency.

The biggest potential concern for the Warriors comes on the defensive end. The Warriors will be tasked with trying to limit Luka Doncic, which he proved in the last series against the Phoenix Suns is a near impossible task. Even with Defensive Player of the Year runner up Mikal Bridges, the Suns were still not able to contain Luka Doncic. The Warriors have their own DPOY with Draymond Green, but the Warriors may be looking to use a smaller lineup this series and that would require Green to stay in the paint and not out on the perimeter guarding Doncic.

The Warriors are going to have to adjust and throw many different looks at Doncic defensively, but if they can make Doncic uncomfortable this could be a very tough series for the Mavericks.


The Mavericks have the best player in this series and that alone is a huge advantage. Luka Doncic is second in the history of the NBA Playoffs in PPG, only behind Michael Jordan. Doncic has continued his impressive playoffs career this postseason, averaging 31.5 PPG along with 10.1 rebounds per game and 6.6 assists per game. Doncic single handedly took down the 64-win Suns in seven games with an extraordinary game seven performance. Doncic has seen plenty of double teams every time he has touched the ball, but he dealt with them extremely well, showing off his exceptional vision. No doubt the Warriors will try many different defensive strategies with Doncic, but he will have to rely on some of his role players to step up and make plays when it counts the most.

The performance of role players for the Mavericks may be the biggest question mark for them in this series. The duo of Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson will be massive for the Mavericks to take pressure off Doncic if they want a chance to win this series. In losses, the duo of Brunson and Dinwiddie have averaged 13.8 PPG in losses this postseason, but the number goes up to 27.3 PPG in wins. The play of those two will be crucial for the Mavericks if they want to make it a series against the Warriors. Nobody other than Doncic has made an All-Star team that is on the Mavericks roster. When the stage is the brightest we know that Luka will step up, but basketball is a team sport so his supporting cast has to be great for the Maverick to advance to the finals.

My Prediction:

Steph vs. Luka is a battle of the two best guards in the NBA, so they will bring the fireworks. However, I believe as a team, the Warriors are better and more battle tested. The Mavericks will not go down without a fight and Luka will continue to be spectacular in the playoffs. This will be a hard fought series, but home court advantage will be a huge factor in the last game. Warriors in seven.