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NBA News - Spittin' Cap

We are down to the final-four on the hardwood. Pacers. Celtics. Mavericks. Timberwolves. Get your popcorn, set the plans, and get ready to lock-in: it's Conference Finals time. I sound hype, but really I'm just desperate for noise. The semifinals delivered extremely mediocre decibels in the noise department. Fifteen of the twenty-five games had double digit results. We saw a 45-point blowout in a GM-6; as well as eight blowouts of 20+ points across the round. Mavs/Thunder gave us some goods, Pacers/Knicks started hot, and the Timberwolves/Nuggets at-least gave us a game-seven. Still happy to be moving on. Will the Conference Finals be any better?

Celtics advance to third straight Conference Finals

As many predicted, the Celtics steam-rolled the Cavaliers to reach the ECF for the third consecutive season. Cleveland all of a sudden had an in-house meltdown in the midst of playing the conference's best team; their elimination was imminent. After being routed in the opening game, Cleveland returned the favor in TD Garden the following game to even the series- making many wonder if we would get a tight series. That wasn't the case.

Celtics slaughtered the Cavs in the next three games (328-293), two in Cleveland, to close out the series. Celtics beat the Cavs physically... and mentally. It's hard to know what is true, and not true, regarding all the different in-house (Cavs) rumors that spun throughout the tail-end of the series. Some rumors are obviously false and overly spun; specifically the Jarrett Allen spin & Garland only wanting out if Mitchell is brought back. That's some cap, but it's obvious those two weren't fully on the same page during the series. Reminds me of Harden/Westbrook in OKC. It's hard to make happy cats who want full-control of the rock. The rumor of Mitchell being furious about the guys (Allen, Garland, Mobley) not having a playoff demeanor is one I believe. Lets not forget his time in Utah with Rudy Gobert. I bet Joe Ingles is the only cat from that squad who has his number saved in Mitchell's phone. Celtics exposed the Cavs team and team's chemistry. I wouldn't be surprised if Garland or Mitchell move on in the off-season.

Now, the Cs and coach Muzzula look to get over the hump. Celtics have one more Eastern Conference opp left on the list in order to avenge the 2021-22 Finals loss (under Udoka). The final opp being a team they have eliminated three times in the playoffs- in three chances. One prediction is easy for me to make: Celtics will face more of that demeanor that Mitchell wanted when they go to war with a ticket to the NBA Finals on the line.

Pacers advanced to first ECF in 20+ years

Pacers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the Paul George days (2012-14) as they used a killer demeanor to conquer the Knicks, the city of New York, and the juggernaut known as Jalen Brunson. Pacers are feeling the damages of war after their collision with Brunson and his Nova boys. It was an incredible series win to overcome what they faced. Pacers faced punishment, a raucous enemy territory, Brunson and DiVincenzo playing the best ball of their lives, an early 2-0 deficit, an elimination game, and a GM-7 on the ROAD in that raucous enemy territory. Not only did they overcome, but they did so in historically-dominant fashion.

Pacers went into the heart of New York and ripped their heart out before advancing to the ECF; doing so in a GM-7 for the second time (1995). Indiana went ballistic off the opening tip, shooting 76.3% from the field in the first-half, the highest clip in a half since the NBA began using the advanced play-by-play system (1997). Pacers finished strong to send the Knicks home defeated and depleted, finishing with a 67.1% clip from the field- the best shooting percentage in a playoff game by a team of all-time. The Garden was silent for the entirety of the 4th-quarter. It was the perfect way to seal the series. Pacers couldn't have wrote it any better.

Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam are the first duo to average 20+ PPG, 50%+ FG, and 40%+ 3PT in a Conference Semifinals. First duo ever; they help aid the Pacers to another ECF appearance, the second under Rick Carlisle... the first under his second term. Carlisle accepts the second chance opportunity to get the Pacers into the Finals. He failed in his first chance with the wicked good 2003-04 60-win club, led by Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest. Carlisle has an entirely different club, but with a similar demeanor. T.J. McConnell represents and displays that demeanor more than any Pacers player. He was a game-changer in the series over New York; no one will alter my opinion on that. You take away McConnell, his demeanor, his drive- the Pacers don't make it out of New York as victors. Indiana will need that same energy against the Celtics, who has guys like Derrick White and Jrue Holiday that look to display the same demeanor. Get cha popcorn, folks.

Mavericks advance to second WCF in three years

Ok, the Thunder/Mavericks series was ultra-electric for the most part. No complaints here; I know, that's a first, huh? Both atmospheres delivered scenes; as well as both superstars in SGA & Luka. Hats off to Gilgeous-Alexander, he had a helluva series. Luka and co. were just too much to overcome this go around. I predicted this series to be the learning experience series for the Thunder. One needed for every young team; an experience that preps OKC to get over the hump next season. Luka felt that individually (has a new team now) in 2021-22- SGA and the Thunder will be back.

Shai is a gamer, despite scoring 36 in the elimination game, I bet he is eating himself up about the 3 missed free-throws. He's going to come back ultra-hungry. Luka proved this is his time; and is ready to prove it again against the T-Wolves. Don't get it twisted, he had some major aid. P.J. Washington had three of the best games of his career, proving to be a match to what was a huge missing piece. Recognition towards Kyrie as well. Kyrie may not be in the prime, in regards to skill as a player (still elite), but he is at the very peak of his prime as a teammate and leader. Kyrie knows this is Luka's offense & that the ball runs through him, mostly. Kyrie knows he is the number two. Not only does he know that; he knows when he needs to be the one to step up and get the big bucket, even when Luka is on the floor with him. Irving then proceeds to usually hit that big bucket. I love how things are clicking right now for the pairing, Jason Kidd, and the Mavs. Quite surprised at the execution; I did hit on them beating the Thunder, however. Seeing Luka and Kyrie follow through with their roles, and having guys like Washington and Derrick Jones Jr. (huge last three games) step up, watch out for this Mavericks team to put it all together here and now.

Luka and Kidd now get a second chance together to make it to the NBA Finals. Looking for better success than the result against the Warriors in '22. Only five players on the Mavs roster were on that roster two years ago: Luka, Powell, Kleber, Hardy, and Hardaway Jr. It's wild to see a roster flip that much in the course of just two years. A poor substance of the game that is becoming more common. They have one more fierce opponent standing in their way of a Finals appearance. A team that beat them three out of four times in the regular season. Can Luka return the Mavericks to the Big Dance?

Timberwolves dethrone the Nuggets; advance to WCF

Mavericks have to run through the predator that dethroned the defending champions in their own backyard- then barked and waved them onto their exit. Yes, Anthony Edwards and co. are really like that. Timberwolves got the very last laugh on the Nuggets and the Northwest by winning the total season series against Denver 6-5, and being the lone Northwest Power standing in the playoffs. Beating the Nuggs and advancing on felt good for the T-Wolves; maybe a little too good for Anthony Edwards.

After smoking the Nuggets by 45-points to shun elimination, the T-Wolves travel up to Mile High to put the dagger in the 2023 champ; solidifying that we will crown a new champion by tournament end. True outlaw behavior. Anthony Edwards got full-patch outlaw with his talking back at the fans:

video via Niko//X

Edwards waved the Nuggets fans on home; inviting Joker to his front door, just for him to plant his feet and say scoreboard to the big man. Edwards welcomes all smoke, he is the outlaw; that I love about him. Some more of that "killer demeanor" that I spoke about. Ant-Man did go 6-for-24 from the field in that game, so I hope he doesn't get over-confident, but I loved his attitude. Those who are mad about it; can just stay mad.

Timberwolves beating the defending champions is a strong feat. A 45-burger on them was pure madness. Awful to watch; but impressive all the same, especially after losing three straight. The team's overall defense throughout the series was absolutely remarkable. Maybe a few bad moments, but far above the average "good". I am excited for their matchup with the Mavericks in the WCF. Are they ready, or will the Mavericks teach them the same lesson that they taught the Thunder?

NBA Playoffs Predictions - Spittin' Cap

Pacers and Celtics meet again in the playoffs; for the seventh time. Boston holds the better half of history with a 4-2 record in the six previous series. I predict them to move to 5-2. I got Boston in five; I do hope I'm wrong! More so on the games. I just keep remembering about the Cs' 40+ point blowout over the Pacers in the early shade of the regular season. That as well as the fact that Boston has been the most efficient team in the playoffs getting to the ECF in just 10-games; the least amount played of the remaining four.

Pacers are the only team in the Eastern Conference that can stick with Boston offensively; raising the odds that I could be wrong about my 5-game result prediction. We will see... my confidence in the pick is low. I feel rooting against Boston to be foolish. In Al they trust! Quick shoutout to Al Horford and Mike Conley for being playoff game-breakers in year-17. They each are pivotal factors of why their squads sit in the final four. I expect Horford to be a big reason for the Celtics overcoming the fast and furious Pacers.

NBA Playoffs Predictions - Spittin' Cap

Picking the Mavericks over the Timberwolves was a tough decision, I believe Luka and Kyrie can get enough help to overcome the Timberwolves and Ant-Man. If Dallas can get the same production from Washington, Lively II, and Jones Jr. then they beat the 'Wolves in six. No doubt in my mind. Kyrie and Luka will be game; I can't find the gull to think otherwise. The other three producing again will be the decider. Minnesota's defense can cause such fits, though. This is going to be an awesome series, cha heard.

Just as I want to rave about who the Mavericks have ran through; the Timberwolves kill-list is just as impressive. Conley starting the series banged up is a big problem for Minnesota. Games 1-3 are going to be very important in this series. I can't wait to watch it all play out. I have confidence we will witness some more competitive games here in the final four. Run the playoff noise to my veins. Below is how the bracket looks today, including my picks and past picks (hit and misses):

2024 NBA Playoff bracket - Spittin' Cap

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