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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: CLIPPERS AND NUGGETS GAME SEVEN AND THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

@TheWillBaldwin

Miami Heat vs Boston Celtics

Line: Boston -1.5

Pick: Heat +1.5

This series is going to be all kinds of fun. On one side is the up and coming young squad in their first real playoff run together (2018 doesn’t count) against the team of feisty veterans no one really believed in.

If you’re on the Boston Celtics side of the series, the case is pretty clear. Jayson Tatum has ascended to a top five to 10 guy, Jaylen Brown has reached all-star status, Kemba Walker is a perennial all-star, Marcus Smart is the perfect role player and on top of all of that, Gordon Hayward should come back at some point and help their depth.

In other words, their collection of high-level talent is much better than the Miami Heat.

But this is why this series is so great. Jimmy Butler believes he’s the best player in this series (and may be right), Bam Adebayo may just be the actual best guy and young guns like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro have the ability to have an on game shooting that makes them feel as dangerous as anyone. All of this ignores great veterans like Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Goran Dragic who have all been playing some of the best basketball of their careers.

What I’m saying is, Boston’s higher end, guy for guy, top five guys is better than Miami’s but, not by much and that also disregards the bench depth of this Heat team that may be the biggest reason for why they’re here. When you look at all of that, the Heat should be the favourites in this series.

The Heat’s depth and ability to diversify how they play on both ends because of that depth are a series of luxuries the Celtics don’t enjoy. It was one of the great equalizers in that Toronto series for the Raptors, their ability to switch to a zone on defence or all of a sudden manufacture some offence out of OG Anunoby when they hadn’t done that all year. The very minute, little details that can throw you off over the course of a game.

Miami has all of those abilities and, has higher level talent who can fill those rolls.

That’s why I favour Miami early in this series. They’re going to throw things at Boston that they’ve never seen before and force them to adjust.

The longer this series progresses though, I like Boston. As long as they don’t get knocked out in the first swing like the Bucks did, there’s some real things you can exploit on this Miami team. Its just they’re so unique, it takes you time to discover them.

By games four and five, there was no doubt Milwaukee had found some offensive actions with Middleton and defensive adjustments against Butler that was causing Miami problems. Unfortunately they both didn’t have Giannis and were in the impossible hole of 0-3.

If Boston can survive an early Heat onslaught, I like them to find a way to win a brutal series in seven games. Tatum showed something in that last series that is the mark of a superstar. He found a way to get his points against a physical defence geared towards him without sacrificing the offence in his favour.

The reason that is so integral in this series is by the later games, Boston is going to discover Miami is a collectively good defence with individual holes. Meaning, if you can play some high-level iso ball on switches, there’s guys like Robinson, Herro and Dragic available to exploit. Tatum, Brown and Walker are built for that in a unique way that over the course of seven games, Miami can’t really adjust to.

How I see this series playing out is Miami will be up 2-1 going into game four and if Boston can survive that game and get it back to 2-2, I love the Celtics to advance. The question is, can they survive the Miami zone and weird things they do early on that’ll throw Boston’s young guys all over the place.

Truly, I’m not sure. To me this series feels either like a Miami in five situation where they steal that game four and it’s over or, a Boston in seven where eventually the top end talent weighs out.

I’m going to pick Boston in seven with the hopes a Hayward return and full Tatum ascension can get me to that seventh game but, I don’t feel great about it.

The good news is, this column is only game by game so the only real pick I have to lock in is tonight. Give me Miami to win, not just cover the 1.5 in a win that shows off all the weird little threats they pose to the Celtics.

Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers

Line: Los Angeles -7.5

Pick: Nuggets +7.5

There’s something fundamentally wrong with this Clippers team. They just haven’t quite been able to figure it out yet and to say they’re running out of time is no longer even factually true.

In fact, they’re out of time.

Game seven provides a chance for anyone to win. A single game elimination that can have anything happen. If Jamal Murray drops fifty tonight you lose, if Lou Williams does the same, you also lose.

These one game scenarios favour the underdog in a massive way. Especially when that underdog has more experience in this setting.

Sure the Nuggets are younger on paper but, this is their fourth game seven as a group in two seasons. They know how these work and how random they can be. The Clippers on the other hand haven’t been through real adversity as a group before.

We all thought that Luka run in round one would scare them straight. Clearly it didn’t. Instead, this group that was just thrown together now has its back against the wall and no definitive answer on how they’ll respond.

Due to this, the Nuggets and the points has to be the pick tonight. Game sevens are rarely blow outs so that favours them and, the experience of being here before over the Clippers as an advantage can’t be overstated.

My guess is the Clippers find a way down the stretch to win because of a guy like Kawhi Leonard and how great he is. That’s the thing though about game sevens, three Michael Porter Jr threes in a row at the wrong time and your season is over.

The Clippers remain the better roster, with higher talent. Games five and six though, Nikola Jokic had them befuddled in all the wrong ways.

He has Montrezl Harrell looking unplayable which isn’t exactly ideal for a team built around bench production. Jokic also has found a way to force the Clippers into questioning everything they do defensively at a time when their season is quite literally on the line.

Not exactly the best time to still be figuring that out.

I see Jokic having a run at some point in this game that causes the Clippers to go into a moment where they question who they are as a team and has individual coaches and players. Their response to that run will dictate the result.

I strongly believe Kawhi is that guy so I think their response will be carried by him in a way that leads to victory. Blowouts in this series are no more though so 7.5 is a silly amount of points.

This is about to be a rockfight. The strongest team will come out victorious.

Which is why, I have my money on Denver and the points. My head says the Clippers win but my heart has seen too many times how special this Nuggets team is to pick them to get blown out.

Nuggets cover, Clippers win (I think).

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