NBA Conference Finals Preview

Eastern Conference Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors

Regular Season Series: Raptors 2-1

The top two teams from the Eastern Conference meet on the back of playoff runs that couldn’t be more different. The Cavs are well rested after breezing through match ups against Detroit and Atlanta without dropping a game while the Raptors have had to front up in back-to-back seven game series, losing starting centre Jonas Valanciunas to injury along the way.

The 2015/16 Toronto Raptors are already making franchise history with their first appearance in the Conference Finals but they come up against the defending champions of the East, led by a man called LeBron James who has been to this point and beyond in the last five seasons.

The Cavs are hitting form at the right time, and with mid-season pick up Channing Frye adding to a three point arsenal that already contains the likes of Kevin Love, JR Smith and Kyrie Irving, they’re deserving of the favourites tag.

Keys for Cleveland: Three Point Shooting

The Cavs have blossomed into an incredible three point shooting team through the playoffs, hitting an NBA record 25 treys in a single game against Atlanta along the way. With LeBron James muscling his way into the paint, coupled with his abiltiy to pin point a pass to any number of three point snipers, the Cavs have been decimating their opponents and could have too many weapons for the Raptors to deal with.

Keys for Toronto: Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan

Arguably the best backcourt duo in the Eastern Conference, Toronto will need their All-Star guards to carry the offensive load if they’re to stand a chance in this Series. Despite their struggles through the playoffs, the pair clicked when it mattered most combining for 63 points in Game 7 against Miami. Lowry’s defense is not to be underestimated either with the point guard set for the unenviable task of guarding Kyrie Irving who leads the Cavs with 24.4 points per game in the playoffs.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

Western Conference Finals

Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Regular Season Series: Warriors 3-0

It’s not the Western Conference Finals many were expecting but what we’re left with is one of the most exciting match-ups in the NBA. On one side we have the record breaking Warriors, looking to build upon their 73 win season and stamp themselves as the greatest single season team in NBA history. And then the Thunder, an athletic juggernaut led by the NBA’s best one-two punch in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

The Warriors have cruised to this point of the post-season with their biggest concern being a knee injury to two time MVP Stephen Curry. Curry isn’t alone on that front either with fellow starters Andrew Bogut (adductor) and Draymond Green (ankle) also carrying injury concerns.

The Thunder surprised many when they overcame the evergreen San Antonio Spurs in six games to advance a Conference Finals that appeared out of reach at different stages of the season. Durant and Westbrook aside, the Thunder possess weapons that can trouble Golden State, and if they can utilise the efficiency of seven footer’s Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, they have the ability to make things very uncomfortable for the small-ball friendly Warriors.

Keys for Golden State: Stephen Curry’s Knee

The point guard has taken his game to a new level this season, shooting three’s like we’ve never seen before and breaking numerous records along the way. Curry averaged 35 points in his three meetings with OKC this season, including a a near half-court game winner back in February. There were initial fears that a right knee injury could have kept him out of the remainder playoffs, but a 17 point overtime explosion in his comeback game against the Blazers to put those to bed.

Keys for Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

With Durant (27.4) the leader for points per game in the playoffs and Westbrook (10.8) leading in assists, OKC’s superstar duo are the two players capable of taking the Thunder to the NBA Finals. Durant in particular has troubled Golden State in the past, with his length and scoring prowess seemingly impossible to stop when he gets going – just ask Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard who was on the receiving end of a 41 point explosion in Game 4 of the Thunder vs Spurs Series.

Prediction: Thunder in 6

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