Race To The Finals: NBA Conference Finals Preview

conference finals

By Jazmine August

The 2015 NBA Playoffs have been filled with buzzer beaters, epic collapses and superstars rising to the moment. It has now come down to the “Final Four”, consisting of the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.  Might I add,  these are the four teams I picked to be in the Conference Finals. Let’s get into these predictions:

Western Conference Finals

(1)Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Houston Rockets

The NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the NBA MVP runner-up James Harden will face off in a best of seven series where Harden has everything to prove. Criticized for not showing up in the post-season; James Harden will not only get a chance to exercise those demons but also prove why he deserved to be the league MVP. Don’t get your hopes up so fast Rockets fan. The Rockets comeback from a 3-1 deficit was more of a collapse by the Los Angeles Clippers than the shear talent and ability of the Houston Rockets. I’m still not convinced that Dwight Howard can dominate the post over Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. Not only has the Warriors offense been exceptional but so has it’s defense. If a combination of Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala’s defense can slow James Harden, the Rockets will be dependent on an aging veteran Jason Terry and streaky at best Josh Smith. The exceptional shooting abilities of Stephen Curry will be too much for the Rockets to bear.

Golden State in 5.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Overcoming the depth, defensive abilities and the health of the Chicago Bulls has made the Cleveland Cavaliers my favorite to win it all (not that they weren’t already). Lebron proved that his bench is deeper than most thought and his role players have stepped up tremendously. For the better part of these playoffs Lebron has not been his usual efficient self with the exception of Game 5 of the Chicago series. But even without Lebron being efficient, the loss of Kevin Love and the diminishing health of Kyrie Irving; the Cleveland Cavaliers have proven to the league they can beat you in multiple ways. Now they are set to match-up against the Atlanta Hawks who barely beat a Washington Wizards team who was without their star player, John Wall, for the better part of the series. The Atlanta Hawks are an offensive threat to any team when they are clicking and their ability to score can be problematic for a Cavs team whose offense can be stagnant at times. But when Atlanta’s shot isn’t falling, they have no “go to guy” to win the game for them. This will be the edge that the Cavs need and send Lebron to his fifth straight Finals appearance.

Cavs in 6.

Keys to Game 5

game 5 nba

By Stefan Anderson

After a lackluster first round, the NBA has kicked into another gear during the Conference Semifinals showcasing the best action thus far. Although it has only been 4 games for each matchup, every game has been thrilling, providing fans with true playoff basketball. With each series heading into a pivotal game, let’s highlight some keys for each series.

  1. Warriors vs. 5. Grizzlies: The series is now tied at 2 a piece after it appeared that the grind-out style of Memphis highlight what could be Golden State weakness, the Warriors then responded with blowout game 4 which they controlled the Grizzlies from the tip. Golden State ability to take away the energy of defensive nightmare ,Tony Allen, force him to become an offensive threat in which he struggles in. With the series heading back to the Bay Area, the Dubs can take control of the series and put Memphis in an uncompromising position.

Keys for GS: Continue to double on the front court of Memphis and make the perimeter players beat you. The biggest key is to have Draymond Green pull Zach Randolph away from the basket and make him work defensively.

Keys for Memphis: It is going to be hard for Memphis 4 on 5 with the inconsistency of Tony Allen on the offensive end. There Memphis can go on some spurts where they showcase Jeff Green at the small power forward to stretch and prevent double teams for their Gasol or Randolph, while allowing driving gaps for players like Conley, Lee and even Vince Carter to take advantage of.

  1. Houston vs. Los Angeles: After defeating the defending champions, the Spurs, the Clippers have found the wind beneath their wings, by jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the Rockets and looking like a superior team to the Southwest division champs. Houston has looked lethargic and over matched against and has gotten a taste of what the Clips have experienced over the past few seasons after being heartbroken by the Spurs, Thunder and the Grizzlies. The Rockets will have to grow and learn from the adversity and come back geared up the next season.

Keys for LA: Continue to apply pressure on the floor with dribble hand offs and pick and roll offensive which has left the Rockets defense in shambles. Try to close it in 5.

Keys for Houston: The Rockets look like an entirely new team then in the first round, James Harden has explode for a big game and Game 5 could be his last chance, I would expect him to shoot his life away tomorrow. Try to limit the 3 point shooting of Rivers, Reddick and Crawford.

  1. Cleveland vs. 3. Chicago: This a true dog fight and a match up I would rather see in the Conference Finals, but overall is what you expect when you put together the East’s powerhouses. The stingy defense played by both teams allowed 3 out of 4 games to go down the wire. This game 5 in Cleveland will most likely determine the winner, as this series will go to a game 7.

Keys for Chicago: The health of Pau Gasol, can he return to create a matchup problem versus Cavs frontline, as well as the bench for the Bulls. Would like to see Snell, Mirotic,Gibson and Brooks all have a great role in en route to a possible game 5 win.

Keys for Cleveland: With Kyrie Irving’s health in question, who steps up and becomes the next guy for LeBron James and the Cavs? I believe J.R. Smith will the key and a double digit game from Iman Shumpert will propel Cleveland in game 5.

  1.  Atlanta vs. 5. Washington: Without John Wall for the last three games, the Wizards have found a way to keep the Hawks on their heels on each game of the series. But the Hawks returned and attacked the PG position with Jeff Teague penetrating and dishing to his open teammates and showing that team ball can really win in this league still.

Keys for Atlanta: Atlanta has find a way to contribute to spread the ball and make sure that everyone adds to their win and continue to play their style of basketball.  Also, I would like to see Carroll or Teague guard Bradley Beal more to help control his offensive onslaught.

Keys for Washington: If John Wall returns their offense returns to its normal state and make life a lot easier for Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. Without Wall, I think that some small ball or another big that comes off the bench that replaces Drew Gooden inefficiency on the offensive end.