The time has come for the best of NBA. The hour of the great definitions. the hour of Conference Finalswhich will have as protagonists two teams that closed the regular phase with a sheet of candidates and another two that entered the playoff out the window and surprised in the early rounds of the postseason. This Tuesday the definition of the Westwhich will face Denver Nuggets con Los Angeles Lakers. And on Wednesday the It isin which they will play Boston Celtics y Miami Heat.
Jokic, the penultimate obstacle in the Lakers’ dream
The impressive and unexpected resurrection of the Los Angeles Lakers faces its penultimate obstacle in the search for the ring in the Western Conference final: the Denver Nuggets of the Serbian genius Nikola Jokic.
He Ball Arena Denver will host the first game of this final on Tuesday, which is a reissue of the one played in the 2020 ‘Bubble’, with a 4-1 win for the Angelenos, who would later win the title.
The Nuggets, the best team in the West in the regular season, face the Lakers with the hope of making history. It’s that they never won a ring. They didn’t even reach the Finals in their career in the most competitive basketball league in the world: they accumulate 0-4 in conference definitions and three of those losses were against the Angels.
The main reason for Coloradans to believe that this time could be different is Jokicdouble NBA MVP (2021 and 2022) and who in these playoffs is performing at an extraordinary level, bordering on the triple-double: 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists on average per game.
The Serbian center has not only been the beacon that leads the entire Nuggets offense, but also shone for his effectiveness (54.9 percent in field goals and 47.5 percent in triples) and left performances to remember , such as the 53 points in the fourth game of the semifinal series against Phoenix.
Next to Jokic, Jamal Murrayalready with his injuries in the past and giving very good feelings, heads a compact and powerful list of squires in which they also appear Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. And at the helm appears Mike Malonewho has already spent eight seasons as coach of a team with a very stable and solid project, which this season seems to have reached its right point of maturity.
Another reason for optimism in Denver? They have the home court factor in their favor, since they are undefeated at home in these playoffs and in the regular season they finished at home with a record of 34-18.
Of course, in front of him he will have some Lakers who are expert climbers in climbing the most complicated peaks in the NBA. With 17 titles to its credit, the Californian franchise shares the league record with Boston, its legendary rival. But practically no one had LeBron James, Anthony Davis and company fighting for a place in the Finals, especially after the hair-raising 2-10 with which they started the season.
On that roller coaster, the departure of the controversial Russell Westbrookthe signings of D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura o Jarred Vanderbilt and the growth of Austin Reaves They were essential to revive the Lakers who, after going through all kinds of misfortunes, became an ultra-competitive team, very physical on defense and totally convinced of their potential.
They did not have it easy to reach this instance. They went 18-8 in the final stretch of the season, went back to The Minnesota Timberwolves in it playinthey surprised Memphis Grizzlies (second from the West) and dethroned the current champions, the Golden State Warriors of Stephen Curry.
Although the whole team shone in the playoffs, the Lakers would not be alive if it were not for the fabulous performance of their two stars: a giant Davis under the hoops (21.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocks on average with a 53 percent accuracy rate) and a LeBron who, at 38 years of age and two decades in the elite, continues to defy the over time and accumulated 23.4 points on average as well as 10 rebounds and 5.3 assists.
The duel between Jokic and Davis could end up being one of the keys to this Western final matched in terms of precedents: the Lakers and Nuggets shared (2-2) their four games this season, but they have not crossed paths since January.
Tatum and Butler reissue a duel of the titans
Jayson Tatumleader of the Celtics, and Jimmy Butlerthe heart of some surprising Heat, will reissue a duel of titans in the Eastern Conference finals from Wednesday, after the vibrant series of seven games played last year.
Boston and Miami, two of the most glorious cities in American basketball, will host a series between the second-seeded Celtics and the eighth-seeded Heat who went through two rounds of the playin and they eliminated Milwaukee Bucks already New York Knicks on its way to this instance.
If those in green got this far in the season, a lot of credit went to Tatum, who made history on Sunday with 51 points in the seventh game of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. No one in NBA history had scored so many points in a game seven playoff game. The St. Louis, Missouri-born forward improved on the mark set just two weeks earlier by Stephen Curry and fueled the team’s ring dream of Joe Mazzulla.
After the disappointment of the lost Finals in 2022 against the Warriors, Tatum took another step in his growth. He showed mental strength by knowing how to recover after three lackluster quarters in Game 6 and stepped on the accelerator to establish himself as one of the best players in Celtics history.
To last year’s star trio, Tatum, Jaylen Brown y Marcus Smartto the leadership of the Dominican Al Horford and to the growth of Derrick Whitethe Celtics added this season to Malcolm Brogdonwho won the sixth man of the year award based on excellent performances.
Mazzulla’s team, which replaced Making Udoka At just 34 years old, he had to come back from 2-3 against the 76ers and is preparing for a new challenge against a Miami team that lived a regular season away from the spotlight, but that completely changed the game. chip as the pressure increased.
The Heat began the playin with a loss at home against Atlanta and they trailed by five points until midway through the fourth period against Chicago. They knew how to come back and stand in the playoffs, where they overwhelmed Milwaukeethe best team in the regular season, with a 58-24 record.
With a Jimmy Butler monumental, capable of scoring 19 points in the last five minutes of the fourth game of that series (56 in total), those from Florida advanced with a resounding 4-1 against the Bucks and then beat the Bucks 4-2. NY in sowing.
The forward born in Houston 33 years ago confirmed himself as one of the best leaders in the NBA. He leads a team superbly trained by Erik Spoelstrawhich also knew how to overcome the loss of a piece of great importance such as Tyler Herrowho fractured a hand.
Hand in hand with Butler, with the pivot Bam Adebayo contributing his physical power in painting and support elements such as Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Duncan Robinson y Caleb Martinthe Heat managed to plant themselves in the finals of their conference for the third time in four years, after those of last year and those of 2020, which they won 4-2.
The Celtics, by tradition, talent and roster depth, come out as favorites in this series, in which they also have a home field advantage, but Miami showed that they have plenty of character to give another surprise.
It was already seen last year, when the Celtics, also considered clear favorites, needed an agonizing victory in Miami in Game 7 to win 4-3 and reach the Finals.
The complete schedule of the Conference Finals
Oeste: Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers
Game 1 – Tuesday, May 16, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Denver
Game 2 – Thursday, May 18, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Denver
Game 3 – Saturday, May 20, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Los Angeles
Game 4 – Monday, May 22, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Los Angeles
Game 5 – Wednesday, May 24, 9:30 p.m. Argentina, in Denver **
Game 6 – Friday, May 26, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Los Angeles **
Game 7 – Sunday, May 28, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Denver **
Este: Boston Celtics-Miami Heat
Game 1 – Wednesday, May 17, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Boston
Game 2 – Friday, May 19, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Boston
Game 3 – Sunday, May 21, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Miami
Game 4 – Tuesday, May 23, 9:30 p.m. in Argentina, in Miami
Game 5 – Thursday, May 25, 9:30 p.m. in Argentina, in Boston **
Game 6 – Saturday, May 27, 9:30 p.m. from Argentina, in Los Angeles **
Game 7 – Monday, May 29, 9:30 p.m. in Argentina, in Boston **
With information from EFE
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