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Where amazing happens

May 23, 2024 Ed Andaya 177 views

AND now in the NBA, “Where Amazing Happens”, Eastern Conference top seed Boston Celtics and No. 6 seed Indiana Pacers and Western Conference No. 3 Minnessota Timberwolves and No. 5 Dallas Mavericks are now the only teams left in the hunt for the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.

The Celtics have beaten the Miami Heat, 4-1, in the first round and Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-1, in the second round, while the Pacers have won over the Milwaukee Bucks, 4-2, and New York Knicks, 4-3, to reach the East finals.

The Timberwolves defeated the Phoenix Suns, 4-0, and defending champion Denver Nuggets, 4-3, while the Mavericks eliminated Los Angeles Clippers, 4-2, and top seed Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-2, to arrange a shootout in the West.

Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics versus Indiana Pacers

After losing to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat in the 2023 Eastern Conference finals, Boston is again making a strong bid to win another NBA championship — and the first in the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown era.

The Celtics won a league-best 64 regular-season games, 14 win more than anyone else in the East, as they make their sixth finals appearance in eight seasons.

This season, Boston faced little resistance through the playoffs, beating the Heat without the injured Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier in the first round and Cavaliers without Donovan Mitchell in Games 4 and 5 and Jarrett Allen for the entire semifinals.

Led by Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner, the Pacers slammed the door on the Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks in the first round and survived two do-or-die games to eliminate the Knicks and Jalen Brunson in Game 7 at the Madison Square Garden.

Match-wise, the Celtics won the season series with the Pacers, 3-2, including games in the In-Season Tournament.

Long-time NBA analysts said the Celtics have tremendous advantage over the Pacers in terms of playoff experience.

Tatum (26.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.9 apg), Brown (23.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.6 apg),Derrick White (15.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.2 apg), Jrue Holiday (12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.8 apg), and Al Horford (8.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.6 apg) should easily make the Celtics the team to beat.

Once he returns in the playoffs, injured 7-0 Latvian center Kristap Porzingis (20.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg), can make the Celtics an even dangerous team.

Indiana’s strength lies on Haliburton, who averaged 24 points on 17.5 shots in the Pacers’ four victories over the Knicks; former Boston guard Aaron Nesmith, who will most likely take on the challenge of limiting Tatum; and T.J. McConnell, who helped a lot with his lockdown defense on Knicks star Brunson.

Prediction: Celtics in six.

Western Conference
Minnessota Timberwolves versus Dallas Mavericks

With three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and Denver gone, it’s now up to the Timberwolves and the Mavericks to provide first-class NBA entertainment in the wild, wild West.

The team’s superstars, Luka Doncic (33.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 9.8 apg) and Anthony Edwards (25.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.1 apg) are expected to provide electrifying playoff performances.

Interestingly, Doncic and Edwards have faced each other 10 times in regular season with each player coming away with five wins.

Doncic also finished third in voting for the MVP award, while Edwards received the seventh-most votes.

On record, the last playoff matchup between these teams came in the opening round of the 2002 playoffs, with the Mavs beating the Timberwolves, 3-0.

Two years later, Minnesota advanced to its only appearance in the conference finals.

Minnesota’s “Triple Towers” of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner Naz Reid are expected to dominate the paint anew.

This year, the Timberwolves have beaten the Mavericks in three of their four meetings during the regular season.

But those games were before Dallas brought in reliable backups Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington before the trade deadline.

And despite being the lower seed in the first two rounds against the Clippers and the Thunder, the Mavs have found a way to win.

Led by Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the Mavs have shown what they can do with the basketball when playoff push comes to shove.

In fact, the Mavs boast of a couple of impressive road wins against the Thunder, one of the best home teams in the league.

With a talented coach in Jason Kidd at the helm, the Mavericks seem to be peaking at the right time.

That could be enough.

Prediction: Mavs in six.

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