NBA Conference Finals Preview
by Joseph King | by Joseph King
Nuggets vs Lakers: The Joker Looks to Dethrone the King
It’s been an excellent NBA Playoffs for two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets team. Denver are into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 2020 bubble season where they will face off against a familiar foe. The Lakers bounced Denver out of the playoffs when the two teams met in 2020, before ultimately going on to win the championship. The Nuggets eased past the Timberwolves in the first round before eliminating the pre-playoff West favorites Phoenix by a series score of 4-2. The knock on Nikola Jokic is that he hasn’t been able to win a championship but there's a good shot ‘The Joker’ is able to erase that narrative this season. It’s admittedly rather harsh criticism to level at the 28-year-old Serbian who has had terrible luck in recent playoff runs with key teammates getting injured. This time around, however, Denver is sporting a fully healthy squad and have looked almost unstoppable at times as they rampaged their way to the top-seed. Jokic, in particular, has somehow elevated his game even further and is averaging 30.7 points, 9.7 assists and 12.8 rebounds per game in these playoffs. The oddsmakers like the Nuggets chances at making their first ever Finals appearance, laying them as 1.63 favorites to advance to a meeting with either Boston or Miami.
Another year, another Conference Finals appearance for the ageless LeBron James. At 38-years-old, ‘The King’ is into the final four of the NBA Playoffs for the 12th time in his career as he seeks what would be a fifth NBA championship ring. It’s certainly been a strange, up-and-down season for the Lakers. Their fans will likely have experienced everything from thinking they would finish towards the bottom of the conference standings, to now rightly believing they have an excellent shot at lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy in June. Los Angeles finished with the seventh-seed and had to go through the number two-seed Grizzlies and the defending champion Golden State Warriors to get to this stage. History is certainly on the Lakers side as LeBron James has gone on to make it to the Finals in 10 of his 11 Conference Finals trips. The bookmakers have Los Angeles as the underdogs to advance with a price of 2.40 to knock yet another higher-seeded team out. You can follow all the action in this series by using our NBA Livescore tool.
Celtics vs Heat: East Coast Déjà Vu
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Boston Celtics will play the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. These two competitive rivals will write another chapter when they clash at this stage in the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons. The Heat got the better of the Celtics at this stage in the 2019/20 campaign but Boston was able to get revenge two seasons later in a grueling seven game series. Boston, who were the number two seed heading into the NBA Playoffs, will have been expected to make it to this stage and carried the mantle as the oddsmakers title favorites for much of the year. The same cannot be said for the Heat. Miami had an inconsistent regular season which ultimately resulted in them entering the postseason as the eighth-seed. However, this team did finish with the East’s best record last season and has been a mainstay in the later rounds of the playoffs ever since acquiring Jimmy Butler in 2019. Miami is the first eighth-seed to make the Conference Finals since the New York Knicks in the 1999 lockout shortened season. The oddsmakers aren’t giving the Heat much of a chance in this series. They’re listed as heavy underdogs with betting odds of roughly 5.00 to advance to a Finals showdown against either Denver or Los Angeles.
Boston had to overcome a 3-2 series deficit to the 76ers in the previous round, culminating with a fantastic 112-88 win in game seven in front of the home crowd. The Celtics have been the frontrunners for the entire season and it isn’t a surprise to see them reinstalled as the betting favorites to win their first championship since 2008. With another year under their belts and the experience of making the Finals last season, it’s hard to argue against the ‘favorites’ label for Boston. This is a squad with tremendous depth and superstar talent with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown, who form one of the best duos in the league. Tatum gave everybody a reminder of what he is capable of with a 51-point explosion in the game seven victory over Philadelphia. The Celtics kick this series off at TD Garden and will be relying on their dominant home performances to see them into the next round. Boston finished the regular season tied for the best home record in the Eastern Conference with 32 wins in their 41 outings. The oddsmakers have the Celtics listed as overwhelming 1.20 favorites for a repeat trip to the NBA Finals.
Odds to win the NBA Finals and Conference Finals MVP
- Boston Celtics - 2.05
- Denver Nuggets - 3.30
- LA Lakers - 4.00
- Miami Heat - 15.00
Odds found on the site bet365.com
Another interesting market to pay attention to is which players will win Conference Finals MVP. Nikola Jokic is the current favorite to win the Western Conference Finals MVP at odds of 1.75 while LeBron James comes in at a price of 3.25. In the East, Jayson Tatum is understandably the favorite to win Conference MVP at odds of 1.40 while his teammate Jaylen Brown comes in at odds of 4.00. The Heat’s Jimmy Butler is the third favorite at odds of 6.00. At that price, we certainly like the idea of backing Nikola Jokic. If the Nuggets do advance, it will almost undoubtedly be the big Serbian center who takes the award given the unbelievable numbers he has been putting up so far.