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Conference Finals Previews

From sixteen to eight, and from eight to just four.

The Playoffs are reaching the pointy end and with less than a handful of teams remaining, it’s time to dive head-first into my Conference Finals previews!

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Season Series: Boston 2-1

Road to the Conference Finals:

Boston Celtics - Defeated Brooklyn 4-0, defeated Milwaukee 4-3.

Miami Heat - Defeated Atlanta 4-1, defeated Philadelphia 4-2.

I’ll be the first to admit, I (nor anyone else on the podcast) saw the Celtics being in this position when Vegas changed their odds to install them as favourites in the Eastern Conference nearly two months ago. It’s even more astounding that they will meet the Miami Heat, a squad who has been dubbed as ‘a fake #1 seed’ by us all at various times in the season.

Yet, here we are.

The Celtics appear to have had the tougher road to reach the Conference Finals, having to take down Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the opening round and following that up with a gruelling seven game series against reigning champions the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite this however, they have played the same number of games as the Heat, who were barely bothered by Atlanta and then closed out the 76ers in 6 games after jumping to a 2-0 series lead.

The Heat have all of the pieces to make it to the Finals. They did it in the bubble in 2020 and while many believed it to be a fluke, a large part of the core that took the franchise to that place remains in-tact. They have also integrated Kyle Lowry flawlessly all season and Coach Erik Spoelstra is annually mentioned as one of the best coaches the Association has to offer.

For the Celtics, they carry a huge wave of momentum forward with a group that is hungry to succeed after the majority of their current core failed to advance to the Finals in 2018. They’ve also proven to have one of the best defensive schemes in the post-season, frustrating both Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in consecutive rounds, with first year Head Coach Ime Udoka’s system finally being implemented as intended.

Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler will likely guard one another in crunch time, and the match-up may determine the winner of the series. Credit: CBS Sports


Jayson Tatum v Jimmy Butler

Ironically, these two may not even match-up on one another directly until the last few minutes of close games, but it remains the battle within the war. I expect the Heat to have Butler, Tucker and even Lowry take turns on Tatum throughout the series, while the Celtics will surely throw Jalen Brown and Marcus Smart at Butler, in addition to Tatum.

From the Heat’s perspective, Tatum not only functions as Boston’s primary scorer, but arguably also their key play-maker. Grant Williams’ out-of-the-box performances on the offensive end are largely down to Tatum’s play-making and the Celtics’ willingness to swing the ball at every opportunity. If they can stifle Tatum as a play-maker and keep him honest from the field with physical defence, it should go a long way towards getting them wins.

From the Celtics perspective, Butler remains the biggest threat as Miami’s primary scoring option and, like Tatum, a great distributor of the ball. He is also the vocal leader of the team who helps others walk taller at every opportunity. Over 40% of Butler’s field goals are scored from within 10ft of the basket, meaning the Celtics will need to prevent dribble penetration if they are to hold him in check throughout the series.


The Heat have been the benchmark nearly all season as the best squad in the Eastern Conference. They’ve dealt with extended injury absences throughout to key players and managed to maintain their position in the standings in spite of them. The Celtics, however, look like a team possessed and are playing some of the best team basketball I’ve seen in recent years and are impossible to overlook.

Verdict: Boston wins series 4-2.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks

Season Series: Dallas 3-1

Road to the Conference Finals:

Golden State Warriors - Defeated Denver 4-1, defeated Memphis 4-2.

Dallas Mavericks - Defeated Utah 4-2, defeated Phoenix 4-3.

This match-up is a tale of two teams who both had vastly different experiences within their respective seasons.

Golden State came out firing and looked like arguably the best team in the League for stretches prior to the New Year, but began to cool off and even falter at times once they moved Jordan Poole to the bench upon Klay Thompson’s return to the line-up following an extensive injury lay-off. While they were never really out of contention in the West, they didn’t appear to be the sure thing they seemed to start their campaign. They’ve easily taken care of Denver and then a gritty Memphis to reach this point, but it seems the jury remains a little undecided on what the Warriors potential truly is.

The Warriors are a battle hardened group who know what it takes to get results at this time of year, however. While their system, particularly on offense, hasn’t fundamentally changed much since their title years, it remains arguably the most dangerous offense in the league facilitated by two historically great shooters surrounded by yet more shooting and playmaking. Coach Steve Kerr has proven to be one of the greatest coaching minds in the league and while tasked with stopping Luka Doncic in this series, I imagine he has a plan that the players can execute.

On the other hand the Mavericks experienced a season in reverse to the Warriors in many respects. They were sluggish out of the gate managing only a 12-13 record through December 10th, but finished the season winning 40 of their remaining 57 games to claim home court for the first round of the post-season. This form swing was complemented by the trade that brought in Spencer Dinwiddie for Kristaps Porzingis, the former playing a starring role in their Game 7 elimination of the #1 seed Phoenix Suns. The Mavericks also survived an opening round match-up with the veteran Jazz, taking a 2-1 lead despite the absence of Luka Doncic.

Jason Kidd has his detractors as a Head Coach but has been able to take the Mavericks further with Doncic at the helm than Rick Carlisle managed to, despite the interruption of a trade mid-season. His coaching has been satisfactory at worst and if you give him credit for the game-plan that saw Jalen Brunson explode against the Jazz, it’s likely bordering on great thus far in the post-season. While this is the first time this version of the Mavericks has advanced past the first-round, they are playing with a belief and have arguably already taken down their toughest on-paper opponent in the Suns.

Could whoever plays better throughout the series between Klay Thompson (left) and Jalen Brunson (right) decide the winner? Credit: San Francisco Chronicle


Klay Thompson vs Jalen Brunson

This might seem like a bizarre choice for the key match-up in the series, but hear me out.

We know what we are going to get from both Luka and Steph throughout this series. They are going to shoot – a lot. And they are going to make shots – a lot of them. They are going to create for others at such a high level that they may in fact cancel one another out in terms of their impact on the game.

Enter Klay and Jalen.

Klay Thompson isn’t the most dynamic player the Warriors have behind Curry. Nor is he the quickest or the strongest. Believe it or not, he might not even be the best shooter on the squad behind Curry at this point either (at least according to the numbers so far this post-season), but what Klay Thompson remains IS the player behind Curry who provides the most gravity. That is, opposing teams close out to him faster and pay closer attention to him off the ball than anyone else when he’s on the floor.

In losses in the post-season, Thompson is 12/29 from behind the arc (34.7%) while in wins, he had made 30/74 (41%). Klay’s ability to push closer to 40% across the series consistently will provide the spacing the rest of the squad needs to be successful. If Dallas can slow him down and make his looks tough, it will go a long way towards the Mavericks keeping the Warriors scoring totals down across the series.

For the Mavericks, Jalen Brunson is key. Not only has he been a reliable spacing option around Doncic when they share the floor, but in the rare minutes where Doncic has rested, Brunson has been able to control the offense and keep the score ticking over with crafty moves to the basket. He’s also been able to collapse defences and kick to open shooters when required. If the Warriors can restrict Brunson’s impact by denying penetration, he will likely struggle to find open shooters and may commit turnovers as he begins to force things on the offensive end.


This is a battle of two high-scoring offenses who have arguably the most dynamic floor-generals in basketball today. While one is battle hardened and knows what it takes to succeed at this stage of the season, the Mavericks are lead by Doncic who, despite the Warriors players’ pedigree, may be the best individual player in the series. Dallas have slayed the #1 seeded Suns and come in with all the belief in the world, but I feel like it won’t be enough to get past a line-up that always seem to be able to find a good shot when they need it.

Verdict: Warriors win series 4-3.

So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I mess it up? Let me know on twitter (@BMBTPodcast) or send us an email at!

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