NBA

NBA Conference Finals: Doncic and Curry face off in blockbuster, Butler next in Tatum's sights

By Sports Desk May 16, 2022

It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

 

The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

Western Conference Final

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

 

The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

Related items

  • NBA: Celtics erase 18-point deficit for 3-0 lead in East finals NBA: Celtics erase 18-point deficit for 3-0 lead in East finals

    Jrue Holiday converted a three-point play with 38 seconds remaining, then made a game-saving steal as the Boston Celtics overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 for a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

    The Celtics can clinch their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons with a win in Game 4 on Monday in Indianapolis.

    Jayson Tatum matched his playoff career high with 36 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists. Jaylen Brown added 24 points and Al Horford had 23 points with seven 3-pointers to help Boston win its sixth straight playoff game and improve to 5-0 on the road.

    Andrew Nembhard scored a career-high 32 points, but Holiday, who was questionable before the game due to an illness, stole the ball from him with 3.3 seconds remaining and Indiana down 112-111.

    Indiana had a chance to tie the game but Aaron Nesmith's 3-pointer was off the mark. 

    T.J. McConnell had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam added 22 points apiece for the Pacers, who played without All-NBA guard Tyrese Haliburton (left hamstring).

    His presence was sorely missed as the Celtics closed the game on a 13-2 run to send Indiana to its first loss in seven postseason home games.

    The teams combined to make six 3s in the fourth quarter, with Horford’s seventh of the night drawing Boston within 111-109 with 1:12 to play. Holiday then converted his 3-point play to give the Celtics their first lead since early in the second quarter.

  • Pacers star Haliburton reportedly out for Game 3 vs. Celtics Pacers star Haliburton reportedly out for Game 3 vs. Celtics

    The Indiana Pacers reportedly won't have star Tyrese Haliburton for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

    Haliburton exited in the third quarter of Thursday's 126-110 loss at Boston due to a left hamstring injury, and won't be able to play in the first game in Indianapolis, according to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

    Thursday's defeat dropped the Pacers to 0-2 in the series.

    Haliburton experienced pain in the same hamstring earlier this season, missing 10 games in January.

    The two-time All-Star had 25 points, 10 assists and made six 3-pointers in 40 minutes in the series opener before playing only 28 minutes in Game 2. He had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and eight assists before departing.

    With Haliburton out, the Pacers will likely again rely on Pascal Siakam for offence and need Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell to step up.

     

     

     

     

  • Verstappen crashes as Leclerc takes Monaco pole Verstappen crashes as Leclerc takes Monaco pole

    Charles Leclerc ensured pole position for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, while Max Verstappen could only manage sixth place after crashing into a wall during qualifying.

    Leclerc beat Oscar Piastri by 0.154 seconds for his third pole in the last four races in Monaco, where Ferrari have excelled on the narrow track layout, high kerbs and slow-speed corners.

    Verstappen was seeking history by surpassing Ayrton Senna for an eighth successive pole in Qualifying, while maintaining his perfect record at the start of the season.

    However, the runaway Drivers' Championship leader hit the wall at Sainte Devote on his final lap, and had to settle for sixth on a track where overtaking is regarded as the most difficult on the calendar.

    Leclerc now hopes he and Ferrari can now convert their position at the head of the grid into victory, having failed to do so in each of the last two years.

    "It was nice. The feeling after a qualifying lap is always very special here," he said. "[I am] really, really happy about the lap, the excitement is so high, but it feels really good.

    "But now, I know more often than not, qualifying is not everything. As much as it counts, we need to put everything together on the Sunday. In past years, we did not manage to do it, but we are a stronger team now, and I am sure we can achieve the target."

    His Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was third, though he faces an investigation for impeding Williams' Alex Albon in the first session, ahead of Lando Norris and George Russell.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.