The NBA’s Conference Finals are set as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers advance while Jayson Tatum drags the Boston Celtics through on the back of a superb performance in Game 7. For the Warriors and Suns, on the other hand, it’s time to start thinking about next season and who might be there to start it.
Lakers Reach Western Conference Finals
Kendrick Perkins tried to tell everybody…
Richard Jefferson fell back in his chair and facepalmed when Perkins suggested that the Lakers can “make the conference finals with this roster.”
Malika Andrews laughed in his face exclaiming “the Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant!”
The Lakers aren’t laughing. They still have a job to do if they’re to win the Western Conference Finals at $2.10 over the Denver Nuggets. But Perkins is enjoying his victory lap on social media, and so he should.
Since moving on from the destined-to-fail Russell Westbrook experiment, the Lakers have played as one of the best teams in the NBA. Anthony Davis is at the centre of it all. Whether it be with or without the ball, Davis is finally the main man of the group. When he isn’t knocking down buckets, though, he has a fine supporting cast around him. LeBron James is LeBron James regardless of age. What is different now is the consistency of the backcourt, the ability for Darvin Ham to throw out different lineups, and the team-first mentality the team has adopted.
The Lonnie Walker Game is the story of the Lakers. One night it’s Austin Reaves. Then it’s Rui Hachimura. Or D’Angelo Russell. Tonight it’s Walker. The Lakers are deep with talent that can support LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and they are selfless enough to defer.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 9, 2023
For some teams, making sweeping changes to a roster doesn’t pay off. We’re going to get into the Phoenix Suns soon…
However, when James is at the forefront of those changes and with Davis dominating on both sides of the ball, the Lakers have made it work up to this point.
They now face a tough challenge in the Nuggets who, for the most part throughout the NBA playoffs, have somewhat flown under the radar.
All Over For These Warriors?
The Golden State Warriors made tough work of their series against the Lakers and ultimately never looked like winning their elimination Game 6.
Despite finishing the season relatively well and putting themselves in a position to compete, Steve Kerr is aware of the paper covering the cracks in the roster.
“To be fair, I think this team ultimately maxed out,” Kerr said after the loss.
“We were barely in the playoff picture most of this year. … This is not a championship team.
“We did a pretty damn good job of finding something here over the last month. We came close to recapturing what we had, but we didn’t quite get there. We didn’t feel like a championship team all year, but we had the guts and the fortitude to believe.”
Steph Curry did all he could to put the Warriors on his back. While he has a talented supporting cast around him, they didn’t support him consistently. Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson piled up points but failed to stop them from coming back the other way. Andrew Wiggins spent a lot of time away from basketball before the playoffs and it showed at times. Draymond Green is an elite defender, but everything else needs to be going right from him to dominate a game. Against the Lakers in this series, things didn’t go right often enough for him to have a significant impact.
Kerr praised Giannis Antetokounmpo when he talked about failing to win a championship not always meaning a failed season. He knows that you can still celebrate a campaign if it doesn’t end lifting the trophy. He clearly doesn’t see this group on the path to doing so any time soon, though.
Suns Go Down In Phoenix
Denver Nuggets 125 def. Phoenix Suns 100
The Suns got whipped at home in an elimination game again. This time, they had Kevin Durant on the floor.
His arrival isn’t why the Suns fell so far short of expectations. However, it always came with an element of risk. The Suns gave up depth, and when entering Game 6 without Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, that lack of depth hurt them.
The Suns faithful let owner Mat Ishbia know what they thought of it all while booing him off the court at halftime. Not long after the final buzzer sounded, Ishbia fired Monty Williams…
Monty Williams last three seasons with the Suns…
2021: 51-21 record, lost in NBA Finals
2022: 64-18 record, lost Conf. Semifinals (Won Coach of the Year)
2023: 45-37 record, lost Conf. Semifinals
The winningest coach in that span 😮 pic.twitter.com/A1Ehxh56wI
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 14, 2023
The Monty Williams who made the NBA Finals two years ago and won Coach of the Year just last season. The Monty Williams who has seen the Suns become one of the best teams in the NBA despite the regular turnover of players, injury issues of those players, and whatever is going on with Ayton.
Now, the Suns are on the hunt for another coach. Potentially another point guard and centre, too. Reports of Paul and Ayton playing their last game for the Suns have surfaced in the wake of the defeat.
They’re not blowing it all up entirely, but Durant and Devin Booker will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting early on next season when the Suns tip off with a new coach and an unfamiliar roster.
NBA Championship & Conference Finals Odds
The Denver Nuggets host the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals this week.
Despite the hype surrounding the Lakers, it’s Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets that enter as $1.46 and -5.5 favourites. Plenty think he should have been handed the Most Valuable Player award during the season. In this series, he’s the $1.80 favourite to win the Western Conference Finals MVP. If the Nuggets are to win, Jokic will be at the forefront. For the Lakers, however, it comes down to their role players. Anthony Davis and LeBron James are the obvious superstars, but the Lakers have made it this far thanks to timely contributions from Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Lonnie Walker and D’Angelo Russell. We know what to expect from Davis and James. It’s up to the rest to get them over the line and into the NBA Finals.
Elimination Game James – a tradition unlike any other.
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 14, 2023
The Philadelphia 76ers led 35-26 at one point but a Jayson Tatum masterclass turned the tide and played the Boston Celtics into the Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum became only the 5th player in the play-by-play era (since 1997-98) to score 25+ points in the first half of a Game 7. He finished up with 51 as the Celtics claimed a 112-88 win and booked their latest matchup with the Miami Heat as $2.15 favourites for the NBA championship.
This series shapes up as a beauty. Boston’s high-powered offence against the grit and grind of the Heat defence has seven games written all over it.
Top 10 Odds
|TEAM||WEEK 29 PRICE||WEEK 30 PRICE|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$4.33||$3.75|
The Memphis Grizzlies have suspended Ja Morant for another video in which he is seen brandishing a firearm…
Ja Morant, after the Grizzlies were eliminated with a 40-point loss to the Lakers: "I've just got to be better with my decision-making. That's pretty much it. Off-the-court issues affected us as an organization pretty much. Just [need] more discipline."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 14, 2023
Warned already this season, it’s mind-boggling to see a player risk hundreds of millions of dollars for social media clout. He’s one of the most gifted athletes in the world. There is potential for Morant’s to be one of the great NBA careers. While this incident won’t be what ends it, the pattern that is starting to emerge is concerning.