Not sure if anyone's been watching the NBA bubble these days. There have been some interesting series! But the finals are set and it's gonna be the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. It'll be the Laker's first finals post-Kobe, and the Heat's first finals post-LeBron.
I mean, it's hard not to see the Lakers winning this series. I suspect it won't be a clean sweep. Can see a 4-1 Lakers victory. But I don't really see the Heat winning a game unless they have some pretty hot streaks from Tyler Herro like they did in game 4 against the Celtics.
I'm increasingly convinced the Boston Celtics are the new Oklahoma City Thunder a decade and a half ago. If you recall, early in the Thunder's existence, they had a team loaded with talent. They had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, along with some budding secondary talent like Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams as a big man. Overloaded with talent. Perennial playoff team. Granted, they were in the much more competitive Western Conference dominated by the Spurs, Lakers, and eventually Warriors. And they had a very good coach in Billy Donovan. They had so much talent and were always "the future."
And yet, the best they could muster was one Finals appearance in which they were not particularly competitive agains the LeBron James Heat.
I feel that way about these Celtics. They've got a ton of just raw talent with the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker, plus some solid secondary players with Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart (who would be amazing if he were ever consistent). They've even got some other guys like Grant Williams and Robbie Williams as an energetic big man. They've got a very good coach in Brad Stevens. Always talented. Perennial playoff team, and in the weaker Eastern Conference. Always "the future." Every year it's always, "They're young and they're gonna be so good!"
But when? When are they going to be that good? I've been hearing "they're gonna be so dangerous!" for three years now. And while yeah, they are still a young team, they're starting to get up there. Tatum and Brown are fast approaching their mid-20s (Brown will be 24 and Tatum 23 going into next year). Yeah, it's still a young team. Yeah, their young talent is maybe just starting to enter their prime, but that's why the argument that they'll be so good in a few years stops sounding as hopeful as they mean it.
Maybe I'm wrong, of course. They can make some moves. I'm at the point where I think Brad Stevens is in that class of coaches like Donovan or Mike D'Antoni: good coaches that will give you good seasons, but won't get you a title. I can't believe how unprepared the Celtics looked against zone defenses, even though they saw a *ton* of it against the Raptors and *then again against the Heat!* It's not even that hard a defense to figure out! Move someone into the middle! You can score or facilitate through there fairly easily! But they *never* seemed to figure it out except for a stretch in game 3. And then all the turnovers (some of this is the Marcus Smart Experience, but it's not all on him), and the fouling. (Granted, NBA officials are pretty notoriously awful to begin with).
I do like the Heat team, though. They played well together and they also have some talent. I like Erik Spoelstra, who I tend to lump in the same category of coach - he was like an A or B-tier coach who got S-tier talent to win titles, but he's had even under-talented Heat teams the past few years playing competitively. Yeah, Eastern Conference, but still. And I like that Jimmy Butler has tried to reshape his game, though I do think he'll need to be a little more of his old superstar self to have a chance against LA.
On the flip side, I was probably like everyone and got really enamored with the Denver Nuggets. Jokic and Murray is such a great tandem. They never had a chance against the Lakers, but they were a super fun team to watch. They get a little more talent on that roster, they can be dangerous.
I don't really care about LA. I don't really think LeBron and Anthony Davis are especially fun to watch, but I like Davis and it'll be nice to see him win a title. And boy, Rajon Rondo has come out of nowhere to be one of the most sneakily impressive players this postseason. He can be a punk, for sure, but I still think fondly of him. (It's sort of funny: I feel like we Celtics fans claim ownership of Celtics players no matter where they wind up. I honestly liked seeing Jae Crowder on the Heat. He had an overall good series! Less into Kelly Olynyk, but I never had strong feelings about him.)
I think I'll say the Lakers in 5. I think the Heat maybe sneak a Game 2 or 3 victory after 28-point Herro night, with Bam Adebayo keeping Davis relatively quiet. But otherwise, it was funny watching the Heat and Celtics and being entertained, but understanding neither of those teams has a chance of beating the Lakers.
Who you got? You watch at all? Any players or teams pop up on your radar? Big surprises?