But First, a Eulogy for the Spurs
San Antonio lost last night, which means not only do we all have to keep checking on Bair all summer to make sure he is emotionally okay, but we’ve probably seen the end of an era. Although the predictions have come every summer for the last few years that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were retiring, there was something final about last night’s game. Timmy waved to the crowd as he exited, while Pop took Manu out with seconds remaining so even the Thunder crowd could applaud him.
And if they do retire, there should be no question about what this Spurs team meant to the NBA for the last 20 years. This was a dynasty, consistently competitive, and revolutionary in their ability to adapt to the changes in the game as they happened with the personnel they already had. That is not to say they won’t still be competitive next year. Having Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, led by Popovich, means the Spurs will still be a team to be feared. Before then, though, just take some time to appreciate the genius that was the Tim Duncan era. Now for the last remaining conference semifinal…
Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat
Series: Raptors lead 3-2, Game 6 is tonight. If the Heat win, Game 7 will be on Sunday.
What to Watch For: Will Hassan Whiteside be able to play and make an impact? Can D Wade put the team on his back and will the Heat to their fifth Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the last six seasons? Will we see another OT game? Can the Raptors punch their ticket to their first ever Eastern Conference Final?
Nick Bair: Dwyane Wade will not let his team end its season on their home floor, and the Heat force a Game 7. In a sluggish, sloppy Game 7 from both squads, Toronto finds a way to get to the franchise’s first ever Eastern Conference Final, erasing the demons of 2001 Vince Carter and regaining their throne from Paul Pierce.
Jordan Curet: Raptors are out for blood now. Their role players are going to carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win in Game 6. People around the country rejoice as this series finally ends and we can pretend this crime against basketball never happened. Wade quits the NBA, takes his layup-settling-on-the-back-iron routine on the road.
Randy Haines: This series has lost even more luster with injuries to Whiteside and Valanciunas, but someone has to win. Heat win Game 6 behind a huge D Wade performance. Game 7 is close, but I’ll go with Miami on the road as Joe Johnson turns back the clock in this one. The North is no more.
Sean Demetrakis: Does this series actually need to produce a winner? Can’t we just skip ahead to the part where the Cavs represent the East? I guess since we have to pick a winner, I’ll go with the Raptors closing out the series in Miami on Friday night. This series has been back and forth and blow for blow like a classic Rocky and Apollo Creed fight. I think the Heat being without Whiteside catches up to them and the Raptors take advantage and win a close one with D-Wade missing a shot at the buzzer trying to force another OT.
Who are the Cavs rooting for?
NB: The Cavs should roll over either of these teams. I can not picture a scenario where Toronto wins more than one game against Cleveland. The Heat series could be interesting more for the mental than physical matchup. The Cavs are a better team top to bottom, but we have seen LeBron lose the mental edge in a series before, and if anyone knows how to get into his head, it will be his best bud and ex Heatle teammate Dwyane Wade. Cleveland has bad enough karma as a city already, did they really have to poke the bear?
JC: Lebron is secretly rooting for Miami, so he can bro out with Wade between games. The rest of the Cavs are hoping Toronto shows up, as discombobulated as ever. This will be a sweep by the Cavs either way.
RH: I don’t think either of these teams stand a chance against Cleveland, but just in case Love and Kyrie get hurt again this playoffs Lebron does not want that happening against the Heat. If by chance Miami gets some injury luck and a couple of bounces and wins this series, Lebron would have to go back to South Beach after the season and Ohio would be forced to secede from the union.
SD: Lebron and co. really don’t care who they play. Lebron has been on a mission this postseason and wants revenge against the Dubs in the Finals. It would be a quite the storyline to have Lebron face off against Wade and Spo with a trip to the Finals on the line. Either way, the Cavaliers win in 4 regardless of their opponent.
Western Conference Finals Preview – Game 1 is Monday, May 16, 2016
Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder
NB: The wound is too fresh after the Spurs loss. I need to sit this one out to grieve.
JC: Hang in there Bair. As for this series, fast paced, brilliant, borderline violent basketball? Yes. Sign me up. This will be the series to watch, while the Cavs torch the winner of Toronto/Miami. Draymond v. KD, Steph v. Westbrook, Thompson v. Westbrook, Australian on Australian crime when Bogut blocks Adams. This will be everything the regular season games were, dialed up to 100. The biggest key for me? Whether Westbrook continues hitting his outside shots, given the Warriors will probably not let him have the free looks the Spurs did. Game on.
RH: I cannot wait for this. Games in the 120’s, The Splash Bros vs KD and Westbrook. It doesn’t get any better than that. I think the Thunder can actually win two or three games in this series, but Golden State still takes it in the end. I’m secretly excited for the Draymond/Steven Adams thrown down that is a lock to happen at some point. Oh and how could I forget the inevitable Dion Waiters epic screw up at the end of one of these games. After a so-so playoffs to date all is right in the world again.
SD: The Warriors are wishing they had it as easy as the Cavs do in the East. The Warriors would rather see the Blazers or Rockets again. The Thunder are going to give the Dubs fits all series long. They play fast and score a ton of buckets. The Warriors swept the Thunder in the regular season, but that was the regular season. The stakes are higher now and every game means so much more. I don’t think the Warriors prefer to see the two headed monster of Durant and Westbrook at this stage. Steph’s injury worries me and I think we could see an upset here in seven games.
-Nick Bair, Jordan Curet, Sean Demetrakis & Randy Haines
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann