Thunder and Raptors looking to spoil Conference Finals expectations   Leave a comment

KD and Westbrook punched the Thunder’s ticket to the West Finals when the finished off the Spurs last night. DeMar DeRozan is looking to do the same in Miami tonight. If they can get it done, they will face LBJ and the Cavs in the next round. It would be very fitting if the Raptors can close out the series tonight and would herald a change in the times. ESPN Pundits predicted the Spurs would beat the Thunder 6-1 in 5 games.

The Thunder, like the Raptors so far defied all odds and expectations folks had for ’em.  Miami is in a win or go home situation and things aren’t looking good for them: The Raptors already proved they can win in Miami and if they lose tonight, they’ll definitely win Game 7 in Toronto. The pressure is on Miami to even up the series but a somewhat indifferent Dwayne Wade and Bosh out due to illness, their chances of winning aren’t very good. If the Heat are eliminated tonight or Sunday (if there is a Game 7), Bosh will likely blame the team for not letting him play, etc. Nevermind the fact that this would be the Raptors’ first East Finals appearance in its 20-year franchise history: The then Vancouver Grizzlies, who never made the playoffs when they were in Canada both joined as expansion teams in ’96. The Grizzlies made the playoffs a few times after they moved to Memphis 10 years ago but never made it past the first round.

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…This is the matchup everyone is expecting in the finals: A repeat of last year. Golden State already proved they can win in the playoffs without Steph Curry–they got through most of the first two rounds without him technically–and Cleveland swept through the first two rounds 8-0. The Raptors will take a bit more time but I expect them to win. Same with OKC. I expect the Warriors and the Cavs to win the conference finals in 6 games with the Warriors repeating as NBA Champions in 7 games. If the Cavs are still together next year, they will give Cleveland its first championship since 1964.

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…This brings us back to the biggest free agent of the off-season: Kevin Durant. It goes without saying weather he leaves or not rides on how they do in the West Finals vs. The Warriors. All the talk about where he might go means nothing if he decides to resign with OKC. After they upset the Spurs, that’s now a real possability. If they push the Warriors to 7 games–and they certainly could–that could be the deciding factor. That said, he’s being given alot of reason to stay on for at least another year.

IF he decides to leave, it makes the most sense for him to head East and specifically to this team:

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My bias as a Celtics fan aside, there is no other team that can afford to trade for him in the Eastern Conference. Experts say Jimmy Butler or even Joakim Noah (both of the Chicago Bulls; Butler’s an unrestricted Free Agent) will be needed to convince KD to head to the Atlantic Division. Danny Ainge made it known last week the Celtics can get Butler, Noah or even Marc Gasol (another Bulls free agent) and still get KD afterward with whatever will be left over from the trade to bring one of them to Boston.

No other team in the East would be a good fit for him: Cleveland has their big three and there’s talk Chris Bosh might leave Miami if the Heat are eliminted from the playoffs in protest. That would leave D-Wade as the only vet on Miami. Hassan Whiteside wouldn’t be enough of a draw for him to go to Miami. New York’s got too much management-level drama and it seems Orlando has the same problem. Indiana wouldn’t be willing to give up who they’d need to in order to get him either. Everyone else isn’t strong enough for him to be bothered.

Going to another team in the West means competing with the Warriors, Clippers, Jazz, Kings and possibly the Lakers if they get Bosh from Miami and Al Horford from Atlanta. Oh and OKC of course. Makes no sense for him to go to another team in the West knowing he’ll have to deal with the Warriors if he wants to get to the NBA finals next year. Or he could head East and only have to worry about LBJ, who definitely isn’t invincible.

…Remember, KD’s been to the NBA Finals and know what that feels like. He will want to play on a team that can at least make it to the conference finals. The Celtics would’ve gotten to the second round if they didn’t have injuries early on VS Atlanta. If they had a healthy roster, they would’ve easily pushed Cleveland to 7 games. KD and Butler will ensure they get to the East Finals. If the Celtics get KD and Butler, a third vet might want in on the fun to complement the set:

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…Paul Pierce.

Let’s be honest, Doc Rivers brought him to the Clippers specifically for the playoffs. That obviously didn’t work out with the injuries that hit their top two players. He was part of the 2nd unit and had his minutes limited during his time in LA–his hometown, actually–which is very different from his time with the Nets and the Wizards. Pierce has also expressed an interest in closing out his career with the Celtics. This might be the best time for such a trade happen. Doc Rivers said Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are off the table. The same wasn’t said about The Truth or fellow former Celtic Jeff Green, who would be the next best thing the Celtics could get from the Clippers. I think a deal to bring either former Celtic back to Boston could happen even if the Celtics get Butler and KD. It certainly helps Doc Rivers is both the coach and the President of the Clippers.

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No one can overlook the fact KD holds the advantage regardless of what he decides. Weather he leaves OKC or not is 100% up to him. Weather he signs with another team or not is entirely up to him. I would not be surprised if he decides to stay in OKC. I’d be fine with that if he doesn’t sign with Boston next year XD

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