Clippers and Bucks: That’s his prediction for the NBA Finals

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Top photo of Kawhi Leonard by Claudia Gestro

For those folks still watching the NBA playoffs, there have been a few surprises. The Los Angeles Lakers did not make it out of the first round. It was hard to imagine the Lakers defeating at least two of the other three — no, other four — good teams in the Western Conference, but gone in the first round?

Turns out the Phoenix Suns, with phenom guard Devin Booker, center Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and one of the best point guards in the history of the league, Chris Paul are looking like the best team in the West.

  • Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul
    (Claudia Gestro)

    Yep, that Chris Paul everyone though was done in the NBA. He’s 36 years old, playing in his 17th season — and looks like he’s ten years younger on the court. Athletes like Chris Paul don’t forget the slights, the diminishing respect. It’s motivation for them to get better.

With the Suns sweeping the Denver Nuggets, the team with this season’s league MVP, Nikola Jokic, some people wonder that, if all things being equal with no injuries plaguing either team, could the Lakers have survived that first round series? The Suns look unbeatable right now in a seven-game series.

Over in the East, my team, the Milwaukee Bucks, defied predictions and evened their series with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, the ultimate of super teams, the Traveling Wilburys of NBA basketball. You don’t know who the Traveling Wilburys are? Jeez … click here and find out.

The Nets put together a team with not only forward Kevin Durant, but guards Kyrie Irving and James Harden. And backing them up are forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan. That’s a fucking super team.

But maybe not so super now that James Harden and Kyrie Irving are sitting out with injuries. Will we see them again in this series? In this season? We will know at the start of Game 5 of their series with the Bucks, which will be in Brooklyn.

Bucks Forward Giannis Antetokunmpo
(Claudia Gestro)

The Bucks have a great starting five: center Brook Lopez, point guard Jrue Holiday, guard Khris Middleton, forward P.J. Tucker and the Greek Freak, last season’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

My friend thinks I only picked the Bucks to win it all because they are my favorite team (I grew up in Milwaukee), but that’s not true. I heard a majority of an expert NBA panel say the Bucks were the best looking team in the Eastern Conference. To be honest, full disclosure, I felt like an idiot when the Nets won the first two games of the series. But now I’m back to believing — Bucks all the way to the title.

But this post is for the Los Angeles Post-Examiner. Sure, I haven’t mentioned the series between the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, but do either of those teams measure up to the Nets or Bucks? Well, maybe Atlanta.

Anyway, out here in Lala Land, fans are going crazy for the big game 3 win by the Clippers over the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the league this season.

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz
(Claudia Gestro)

Led by guard Donovan Mitchell, center Rudy Gobert and point guard Mike Conley … well Conley has been out of the Jazz lineup for all four of the games in this series due to a hamstring injury. Anyway, led by Mitchell, Gobert, forward Bojan Bogdanovic and the 2020-21 6th Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson, the Utah Jazz have been great all season and up until game 3 of their series with the Clippers, great in these playoffs.

The Jazz lost their first game against the Memphis Grizzlies, which had professional NBA prognosticators wondering if the Jazz were all they were said to be. Then Utah won the next four games in very orderly fashion. Then they narrowly won the first two games of this current series.

Now, with half time closing in on game 4 of this series, in Los Angeles at Staples Center, the Jazz are looking very vulnerable. The Clippers are leading 55-34 with just about 2.5 minutes left in the half.

The big star for the Clippers in these playoffs, especially in this series, has been Reggie Jackson, the starting point guard. He doesn’t have the points, assists or rebounds of stars Kawhi Leonard and forward Paul George, but Jackson has been a spark for the team. In game 2 Jackson finished with 29 points and in game 3 he had 17.

Clippers F Paul George
(Claudia Gestro)

No, he doesn’t have the stats of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but he was a bright spot on a team that was struggling.

  • Just an aside: Keep mocking Paul George. It is become quite obvious “Playoff P” has come to play and win.

In game 4 Marcus Morris, Sr. had a giant game scoring 24 points with six rebounds. His most noticeable contribution was his five of six 3-point shooting. The Clippers had a total of 15 3-point baskets, shooting 40.5% from beyond the arc. It wasn’t the best they have done this season, but much better than in the first two games.

Paul George sunk some impressive threes and both he and Leonard had some impressive posterizing dunks. Here’s the thing about posterizing dunks. Any dunks really. Ivica Zubac has made a few dunks in this series that are highlight reel worthy as well. But what these scoring plays do is light up the teammates, light up the fans and on occasion light up other players.

During his post-game press conference Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was watching a monitor while taking questions. In the middle of a sentence his eyes bugged out as he watched Kawhi Leonard’s big dunk on Derrick Favors. In Favors’ defense: Anyone that plays against Kawhi Leonard, specifically those charged with guarding Leonard at or near the rim, is bound to get posterized.

Ivica Zubac of the L.A. Clippers
(Claudia Gestro)

In the big picture a dunk is just two more points, three if the shooter is fouled on the play and makes the free throw. It’s like any other basket inside the 3-point arc. But the beauty of a dunk, the ferocity, the power of that move ignites everyone who happens to be watching the game. Well, not the bench of the opposing team of course.

So with their impressive win Monday night, my prediction is: If the Clippers win game 5, in Salt Lake City, they will win the series and then go to Phoenix to face the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. I’ll even go out on a limb here and predict they will beat the Suns in six or seven games.

Then they will go on to the NBA Finals where they will face the Milwaukee Bucks … and lose … because I’m a homer and the Bucks are my team. Deal with it. Fear the Deer.

Of course if the Deer don’t make it to the NBA Finals and win, I’ll look like an idiot — again. I’m getting used to it. I thought for sure the Packers would dispatch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay and go on to win Super Bowl LV. But that effin’ Tom Brady … I spit in the general direction of Tampa Bay. Sorry family living in Tampa Bay. That’s how these things work in sports fanaticism.

At any rate I hope to see the Clippers finally reach the NBA Finals. It would be historic.