The Bucks-Celtics are very good. The Mavs-Suns were unexpected. Two consecutive rounds in a row go the distance with a trip to the conference finals on the line. Which teams will dominate? What stars will rise? Our writers evaluate.
Celtics-Bucks, Game 7: Who did you get?
Howard Beck: The team with the best player usually wins the series, so you have to go along Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Then again, the home team won 79 percent of all Game 7, so you have to go to Celtics. But remember, the Bucks have already won two of Boston’s three games in this series, so obviously you have to go with the Bucks. And yet, so we don’t forget, the Bucks intended by surrender home-court advantage for the Celtics on the last day of the regular season, which created bad karma and angered the gods of basketball, so you had to join the Celtics. Plus, I obviously couldn’t choose the wine in front of me. What is the question again?
Chris Herring: Give me Milwaukee. The Celtics seem like a more complete team throughout its series, where both Giannis and Jrue Holiday have to do a lot of heavy lifting. But for a fraction of that fourth quarter, as the Bucks cut their deficit, I think they’ll cut it. and Jayson Tatum happened. I trusted Giannis to take it home in Game 7, even on the road.
Robin Lundberg: Celtics. I chose them to go to the series but thought the Bucks would get it after Game 5. However, the fact that Jayson Tatum and his teammates responded on the road signaled that they could win it at home. Impossible to count Giannis and Jrue Holiday proved, but the Celtics are the better, better group that the Bucks are under Middleton.
Ashley Nicole Moss: Celtics. I have had the Celtics at 6 since the start of this series and I will stand by my conviction (even if the number of games has changed). This matchup was the ultimate roller-coaster and a shocking physical display. However, the Bucks ’inability to get rid of it, AT HOME, works in favor of the Celtics. The Game 7 environment in Boston will be NUTS and, as usual, your role players will be better off playing at home. You can’t really count Giannis, but I think Boston has an issue here.
Rohan Nadkarni: Celtics. Little did I know, I felt like the Bucks were blowing a golden opportunity to take the series home. I know we just saw Giannis win Game 7 on the road last season, but I was worried about the Milwaukee offense. In the course of the series Boston was able to make a better appearance. And I’m not sure about some of Mike Budenholzer’s options. Will he challenge the right fouls? Will he really drive a game Grayson Allen? I was expecting great games from Giannis and Jayson Tatum. But the players in the role of the Celts need to be more comfortable at home, and I think the contributions of the players want Derrick White and Grant Williams be the difference.
Michael Pina: Celtics. It’s hard to pick against Giannis Antetokounmpo in a one-game, winner-take-all scenario, but the Bucks haven’t been able to create a quality appearance — especially at half-court — all series length. Their offensive rating was 103.1 (worst in the second period; below 30th-ranked Thunder) and they surpassed by a stunning 40 points in Antetokounmpo’s 51-minute sitting. Meanwhile, Boston is at home and has had a lot of success if small, playing Derrick White instead of Grant Williams, opening up wider driving lanes and creating more favorable fights for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. If not Khris Middletonthe Bucks were not built to weaken groups.
Suns-Mavericks, Game 7: Who did you get?
Beck: I leaned Daysvery little. Luka Dončić is the best player in this series, and_with all respect to Chris Paul and Devin Booker—Really the best player on any team, period. But the Days are still stronger overall. They have better depth and lineup balance, the best wing defender (Mikal Bridges) and a unique product of Deandre Ayton. They also gained the benefit of the home court and the experience of playing pressure cooker in last year’s Finals run.
Herring: I’ll take Phoenix, but I don’t feel good about it. The home team takes on every game in the series, so there’s reason to believe the best basketball team can do it. Plus, I can’t imagine Chris Paul being like a cheater himself for another competition.
Lundberg: Mavs. I may regret it, but it seems like it’s just Luke’s turn. The Suns had a terrific time but Dončić was the best player in the series. With Chris Paul struggling and the way Jason Kidd got Dallas to defend, I think Luke could give Luke the signature win of his career so far in Game 7.
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Moss: Days. However, conspiracy theory to me says Scott Foster is in charge — maybe it’s the Mavs. In all seriousness, the strength of this Dallas team and the fame of Luka Dončić cannot be ignored. (GET THAT MAN ANOTHER STAR.) They made it more series than any of us could have imagined. However, the Valley is not an easy place to play and my gut tells me that Devin Booker or Chris Paul or they both have their own two.
Nadkarni: Days. What a strange series, and what a wake-up call for Phoenix. Clearly Luke is a problem in the matchup no matter what the opponent. However, the home court is important here, and as dominant as the Dallas Mavericks watch, Phoenix takes care of The Valley’s business. Devin Booker will be eliminating the clip, and I’m hoping Chris Paul can get back in shape on a two -day break after a few clunkers in a row in this series. Both teams know bread and butter differently at this point. It’s about to kill. And I believe, despite that belief being skeptical, that Phoenix has the combination of talent and experience to defeat a very dangerous opponent.
Pina: Mavs. There aren’t any road wins in this series, and as a 64-win home team, the Suns deserve the benefit of the doubt. But Chris Paul has had four consecutive outings that could be called “bad” by his standards. Phoenix’s offense is inconsistent and its starting five has yielded 119.7 points per 100 possessions since opening two games of the series. If the 37-year-old Paul can’t return to the very good form we saw just a few weeks ago, the Suns have a problem. The Dallas defense was big enough to win it all.
If you had to pick a player who was still in the playoffs for a Game 7: Who did you get?
Beck: If my season comes with a player and a clutch performance? Give me Steph Curry each time. Sure, Giannis put together some skillful games to capture the title last year. Luka Dončić is already weaving an impressive clutch resume. and Jimmy Butler just finish things in crunch time — with scoring, passing and stopping on defense — over and over, even without the repertoire of others on this list. But no one in the NBA today has hit as many big shots on multiple big occasions as Curry.
Herring: If it was a Game 6, I would probably take it Klay Thompson. But in a Game 7, I would rely on the best player in the game, which I think Giannis has proven himself to be.
Lundberg: Giannis still is. Antetokounmpo has just had a dominant Finals MVP performance and is also good at this run; loss cannot change that. However, I would like to extend a noble mention to Jimmy Butler, who is one of the first five or more players I will pick if I have to win a series. Luke and Tatum are in the midst of proving that they also belong on that list.
Moss: Jimmy Butler. Man is just on a different level in these playoffs. You love him when he’s by your side, you hate him when you’re not, but still — you have to respect him as a competitor and what he’s accomplished so far. I like Jimmy Buckets.
Nadkarni: Must be Giannis. If he’s not, you’re trying very hard. Giannis is clearly the best player in the world and a destroyer of game plans on both ends of the floor. He puts pressure on your defense like nothing can be left of the player, and his athleticism is overwhelming. The man is currently averaging 35/14/7 in the second round against the best defense from the regular season, and that’s no point in playing with his best offensive teammate. Imagine if you had to pay little attention to this guy! Giannis was both relentless and fearless, and absolutely no time or lack of feeling was too great for him. Whether he doubles digits on the road or under 0–2 in the Finals, he has shown that he can fight. I will not entertain another answer to this question.
Pina: Luka Dončić, which is the real reason I chose Dallas. He’s the best offensive player of the postseason, meticulous and physically impressive on pick-and-roll, with a post game with no individual Suns defender able to manage on his own (Monty Williams chases Torrey Craig in Game 6; don’t be surprised if he gets more minutes against Cam Payne and Landry Shamet in Game 7.) Dončić averaged 32.2 points per game in the series poorly shooting three balls. If he gets a few setbacks to fall early, it could be a long night for the Suns — or whatever defense he has to face when their time is up.
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