NBA

The Lead’s 2024 Conference Finals Predictions

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Following the conclusion of two must-watch Game 7’s on Sunday, just four teams remain in this year’s quest for the NBA championship. Yes, we’re only halfway there and the 2024 NBA playoffs have been… insane, to say the least.

With the dust now settled on the Conference Semifinals, top-seeded Boston remains the clear favorite in the East. But can the Cinderella-esque run of Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers continue versus Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and company?

Shifting from east to west, Minnesota and Dallas are the two remaining teams left from the wild Western Conference. With the reigning champs, Denver, out of the fold, who between the T-Wolves and Mavs will emerge?

With the Eastern and Western Conference Finals starting this week, staffers from The Lead shared their predictions for the upcoming series.

ECF Predictions: No. 6 Indiana versus No. 1 Boston

Dominic Chiappone (BOS wins 4-2): Considering Boston’s previous wins against injury-limited Miami and Cleveland, the Pacers appear to be the best team the Celtics have faced in the postseason so far. Yes, Indiana is still the underdog even after upsets against the (albeit also injured) Bucks and Knicks. The Celtics also have the clear advantage on the wing with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, arguably the two best players in the series depending on the day. The loss of Kristaps Porzingis remains a big one for Boston, but Indiana’s playoff runs looks like it will end here.

Mac Pham (IND wins 4-2): One could say this isn’t a typical sixth seed as the Pacers added a championship player in Pascal Siakam midseason. Tyrese Haliburton and company will make more magic happen. Look for Myles Turner to have a hot series from deep or T.J. McConnell scoring out of his mind off the bench.

Henry Daley (BOS wins 4-1): While the Pacers and their historically efficient offense shouldn’t be overlooked, the Celtics should take care of business. Expect Indiana to steal a game, but Boston will look to advance to their second NBA Finals in the last three seasons.

Owen O’Connor (BOS wins 4-1): The Celtics have been a dominant force throughout the playoffs, and that won’t stop here. Although Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers have been fantastic throughout the playoffs, they finally have met an offense as good as them. The Celtics’ offense and defense combined is too good for the Pacers, which will ultimately cause the Celtics to power through. Kristaps Porzingis’ return will cause the Celtics to be even more of a force for them, but it’s likely they won’t even need him to beat Indy.

Sabrina Hiller (BOS wins 4-2): This series can go one of two ways, and it depends on two factors. The first is that Boston comes out firing, and all the auxiliary pieces are working together, doing their jobs, and everyone is producing at their usual rate. And Indiana’s starters come out flat, and get no help from their auxiliary pieces. If Boston’s starters show up each game, while Indiana’s don’t – Boston takes this series in a gentleman’s sweep. Boston also expects to get Kristaps Porziņģis back sometime during this series.

The second way this can go is the reverse of the first. Boston as a whole shows up mediocre, and Indiana’s starters come out guns blazing, paired with their auxiliary players showing up and showing out, you’ve got a fighting chance. Eyes will be on Haliburton, who needs to get his  team involved early, and keep them involved often. Indiana also needs Boston to have slow starts, and to force the Celtics out of their rhythm, and make them uncomfortable. If the Pacers can handle these tasks – I see the series going at least six games.

WCF Predictions: No. 5 Dallas versus No. 3 Minnesota 

Dom (MIN wins 4-3): With No. 1 OKC and the defending champs both out of the postseason, you couldn’t ask for more of a toss-up series. Anthony Edwards versus Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving is must-watch television. Who steps up among the role players for both teams remains the biggest X-factor. Whoever holds the final hot hand will squeak out with a trip to the NBA Finals. Both teams are riding high, but it’s hard to bet against Edwards and the T-Wolves right now.

Mac (MIN wins 4-3): Defense wins championships. Behind Rudy Gobert‘s rim protection and Anthony Edwards’ perimeter defense on Kyrie Irving, the Timberwolves will grind it out to take down the Mavericks. And, nobody deserves a ring more than the 18-year veteran Mike Conley.

Henry (MIN wins 4-2): This Mavericks team features the best supporting cast Luka Doncic has ever had, but the Timberwolves just knocked out the defending champions on their home floor in a Game 7. If Minnesota continues to play how they have, Dallas might be outmatched here.

Owen (MIN wins 4-2): I’m gonna keep this brief. The Timberwolves defense is too good for the Mavs. Luka’s injury/Kyrie’s play lately won’t be dismissible anymore, as the Wolves aren’t a team that plays down the their competition. The size of the Wolves will be too much for the Mavs, even though PJ and Lively have held their own. Mavs will steal two, but won’t prevail in the end.

Sabrina (MIN wins 4-2): The key for Dallas is going to be stealing a game on the road. Another big factor is just how much is Luka’s knee bothering him, and how much has the playoffs so far taken out of him. Look for Minnesota to pester him, and rattle his cage early. Luka will need to get his role players involved. Kyrie needs to be more aggressive. As for Minnesota, keeping their three-headed monster of Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid out of foul trouble is going to be important. Anthony Edwards needs to continue to show up offensively and defensively. He must continue to make the right plays if the shot isn’t falling. The most important factor for Minnesota is getting Jaden McDaniels to lock in — not foul — and do what he did in Games 6 and 7 versus the Nuggets.

About Dominic Chiappone

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