Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Conference Finals Predictions
The NBA Conference Finals will begin this Sunday with the East leading off as Boston and Cleveland begin their best-of-seven matchup from TD Garden. One day later, the Toyota Center will host Game 1 between Houston and Golden State in the West matchup.
Throughout the 2018 playoffs our trio of NBA experts listed below have offered up their fearless predictions on every series and their records aren’t too shabby through 12 series (Exact Games).
Kevin Rogers: 9-3 (4)
Chris David: 9-3 (3)
Tony Mejia: 9-3 (3)
First Round | Second Round
Below are each analyst’s predictions for the conference finals:
Analysis – Kevin Rogers
Although the Celtics have yet to lose a home game in the postseason, Boston still has memories of dropping all three contests to Cleveland at TD Garden in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs have amassed three road wins in the playoffs, compared to Boston’s 1-4 mark on the highway with the only victory coming in overtime. The fact that LeBron James is playing the best basketball of his career along with seeking his eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, it’s hard to go against Cleveland in this series.
The last time both teams that didn’t own home-court advantage in the conference finals both made the NBA Finals was 2005 when the Spurs faced the Pistons. This can happen again in 2018 as the Warriors don’t have home-court advantage in a playoff round for the first time since 2014. However, Golden State has owned Houston in the playoffs by eliminating them in five games twice in the last four postseasons. Even though the Rockets have Chris Paul in their lineup, it will be tough for Houston to shut down this powerful Golden State offense for four victories.
Analysis – Chris David
Even though I picked against the Cavaliers in each of the first two rounds, I’m flip-flopping for the conference finals and it’s because of the “LeBron” factor. Nobody should be shocked to see Boston win the series, especially since they own the better defense and it has the homecourt edge. However as much respect as Brad Stevens gets for his schemes and game plans, he hasn’t been able to solve Cleveland and James. Since LeBron returned to Cleveland, the Celtics are 6-17 against the Cavaliers and that includes a 3-9 record at TD Garden. That record will eventually come into play and give Cleveland the confidence to advance to the finals.
I expect the Western Conference Finals to be competitive but believe Golden State will finish off Houston in six games. The Warriors have won 15 of the last 20 encounters between the pair and that includes a 4-1 win in the 2015 conference finals. While the addition of point guard Chris Paul has paid dividends for Houston, especially defensively, he just doesn’t match up well against the Warriors. When he was with the Clippers, the club went 2-14 against Golden State in his last four seasons with Los Angeles. After playing two teams (Minnesota, Utah) that can’t shoot from distance, the step up in class against the sharpshooters of Golden State will be too much for Houston.
Analysis – Tony Mejia
LeBron James has been incredible, but the difference between Indiana and Toronto was entirely about the emergence of a supporting cast that wasn't ready to play when the postseason began. Kevin Love has gotten comfortable, while George Hill is now healthy and has been a major x-factor, emerging as by far the most valuable of Cleveland's midseason acquisitions. If Jordan Clarkson can be an x-factor in a positive way off the bench against a Celtics team that lacks point guard depth, that should provide a major lift in a series where the Cavs will need to hand Boston its first home playoff loss somewhere along the way in order to advance.
The Rockets are formidable and were put together specifically to beat the Warriors in a series. Guys are healthy and confident, so I do think that oddsmakers went overboard in setting the series prices here, offering around +160 to back the top seed. The Warriors are indeed my choice to advance since I trust them on both sides of the ball a little more than I do Houston, but I'd wait until they face some adversity in the series to make a move with more favorable odds. I've been on Golden State to win the title all season, being matched with Cleveland for a fourth straight time. There's no reason to deviate from that now.