With the 2019-2020 NBA season suspended for an indefinite period, the status as to what neutral arena the NBA playoffs and finals will be held once play resumes continues to burn a hole in the minds of fans. One rumor surfacing is that once player safety is guaranteed, the league would forgo the the remainder of the regular season and begin the playoffs as teams are currently seeded. There has also been chatter swirling around pertaining to host cities for the playoffs, with growing speculation leaning towards neural stadiums such as Atlantic City, Hawaii, Louisville, Orlando, Las Vegas or even the Bahamas, with almost each of these proposed areas mirroring the climate and/or lifestyle of Los Angeles. Could this be a prelude of a perspective team accustomed to this weather *cough-cough, Lakers?* Possibly.
Speaking of Vegas, the oddsmakers predict that the current top-seeded teams of each conference will face off with each other in a “King James” vs. “Greek Freak” duel, but don’t bet on purple and gold being the threads dawned by the L.A. crowd come Finals season just yet. Make no bones about it, the Lakers are going to do everything in their power to hoist the Larry O’Brian trophy in an ending as theatrical to the most emotionally-jarring season they have ever been exposed to. Be that as it may, it’s their in-stadium rivals who pose the biggest threat to that ultimate goal, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will continue to spearhead a roster that goes twelve men deep. The Clippers’ interior defense will need to maintain its brick wall reputation if they want to break through to the franchise’s first conference finals appearance (and beyond).
Assuming all members of the Clippers roster will be in peak condition when the season resumes, one can argue their depth and star power will be enough to win them their first two series against presumably the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz. Either of these two opponents will by no means be a fly on L.A.’s windshield, as both present formidable defensive philosophies that rank 8th and 9th in points allowed. From an offensive perspective, Denver’s style of play may very well pose a legitimate test to L.A.’s no-nonsense gaggle of defenders, as they have shown throughout the season how they can beat you with the pass for 48 minutes, ranking 4th in the league in assists with 26.5 per game. However, should these teams meet in a second round series, the question will be whether Mike Malone’s unselfish, ball movement-oriented style can frustrate the league’s two best perimeter defenders enough to pull off an upset. This potential outcome is an intriguing thought, but based on the eye test, Lakers vs. Clippers seems like the most likely scenario for the Western Conference Finals.
In the eastern conference, it is a safe bet that if reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is healthy (and his supporting cast are at the very top of their game), the Bucks will in all likelihood go to their first NBA Finals since 1974. However, this team’s ultimate Achilles’ heal may end up being whether Mike Budenholzer can make the proper coaching adjustments to secure victories late in games. Budenholzer has now spearheaded two 60-win campaigns as the head coach of two different teams that both went on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals (2015 Hawks & 2019 Bucks) and was on track to punctuate his third at the conclusion of this season. “Bud” as he’s referred to in the Cream City, previously served as a protégé to coaching legend Greg Popovich for 18 years while collecting four championship rings in that span. As a head coach, however, the 50-year old has been unable to reciprocate his playoff magic, failing to out-coach counterparts such as David Blatt, Tyrone Lue, and Nick Nurse on the biggest stages. Now granted, these particular instances did call for the herculean task of stopping “Playoff Lebron” and “Playoff Kahwi,” which is no small cookie for even the most elite coach. With those barriers taken into consideration, it is also foolhardy to make too many excuses for a coach who now has the luxury of trotting out a 25-year old phenom on pace to shatter player efficiency records for years to come in Antetokounmpo. Budenholzer will need to exercise his playoff demons as soon as possible to avoid being forever labeled as a fabulous “regular season coach.” The only team Milwaukee should consider a genuine stopgap in their quest towards an NBA Finals birth is the Toronto Raptors, who bested them in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals and rattled off four consecutive wins after the Bucks claimed victories in the first two games on their home court. To avoid a repeat scenario, the two-time Coach of the Year recipient must make the necessary adjustments to avoid surrendering 15-point leads in elimination games this time around, a fate which doomed their championship hopes in the deciding game 6 amidst a euphoric Jurassic Park in Toronto, Canada.
Finals Matchup Prediction: Bucks vs. Lakers
Thank you for taking the time to check out All of a Sutton on the suspended NBA season. My name is Sutton Rettig and I am a passionate writer with a desire to share my thoughts on a diverse spectrum of topics. Building this blog has provided me an outlet to exercise my passion for writing and share ideas with new publics. If you enjoy reading my posts, please share them – it’s a huge help as a continue to build a following. If you have any comments or inquiries you would like to extend, please feel free to reach out by visiting the “Contact” tab on this site’s homepage – I’m always looking for feedback. To stay updated on the latest content I’m publishing, you can follow me on my Twitter & Instagram pages. My handle is @suttonrettig. I so appreciate your readership and offer my sincerest thanks for your support.
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