Predicting the NBA Conference Finals

Who will win the NBA Conference finals: The Bucks or Hawks? Clippers or Suns?
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With the NBA playoffs conference finals set, The Crossover staff makes its predictions.

Michael Pina

WCF: Clippers over Suns in six

ECF: Hawks over Bucks in seven

I’ll start by saying even though the Clippers are down a game and don’t have their best player possibly for the entire series, what we saw in the WCF opener reminded me of how L.A. opened the first two rounds: The opponent’s best scorer (Luka Dončić and Donovan Mitchell) went bananas against more traditional units before Ty Lue eventually settled into a tighter, smaller rotation that was able to switch and scramble on defense. Boogie Cousins and Ivica Zubac were punished in Game 1 by Devin Booker pick-and-rolls. Those targets won’t be there for the entire series.

I don’t have a ton of confidence in this Hawks pick, but the Bucks might be too thin to survive another injury. And based on how the playoffs have gone for every team, that’s a looming x-factor.

Chris Mannix

WCF: Suns over Clippers in six

ECF: Bucks over Hawks in six

Suns-Clippers would have been a compelling series if Kawhi Leonard were healthy. Without him, I can't see the combination of Reggie Jackson/Terance Mann/Marcus Morris producing enough to keep up with the Suns. The Bucks went 2–1 against the Hawks this season, including a split of two games in Atlanta in April, and after beating back Brooklyn—and Kevin Durant—it feels like Milwaukee is primed to advance to its first Finals in the Giannis era.

giannis-bucks-hawks-trae

Michael Shapiro

WCF: Suns over Clippers in six

ECF: Bucks over Hawks in five

Clint Capela could provide some deterrence at the rim against Giannis Antetokounmpo, but I have a hard time seeing Atlanta advance here. Milwaukee is far more functional in crunch time than Philadelphia, and perhaps the win over Brooklyn will relieve the pressure surrounding Giannis & Co. After a grueling Eastern Conference semifinals, this series should be little more than a tune-up for the Finals.

I remain skeptical of Kawhi Leonard’s chances of playing in this series, and Chris Paul should return for either Game 3 or Game 4 in Los Angeles. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are both making considerable strides. The Clippers are banged up, with two difficult series in the rearview mirror. Time to party like it’s 1993 down in the desert.

Ben Pickman

WCF: Suns over Clippers in six

ECF: Bucks over Hawks in six

One of the questions I’m most curious to see answered is how the Hawks defend Antetokounmpo. Will John Collins be Atlanta’s primary defender on the Bucks star or will Clint Capela be the team’s primary Giannis-defender? Perhaps, unlike the Nets, the Hawks guard Antetokounmpo with a wing and not a big. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the two-time MVP is a disruptive force in the series and overcomes some of Milwaukee’s depth issues. In the West, even without Chris Paul, Phoenix’s roster talent remains immense. Couple that with Kawhi Leonard’s uncertain status and how it impacts the Clippers and it seems as if the Suns will make their first Finals appearance since 1993.

Elizabeth Swinton

WCF: Clippers over Suns in 6

ECF: Bucks over Hawks in 6

With the top seed in each conference out, the path to the NBA Finals has opened nicely for those left. The Bucks are poised to finally break through to the Finals with the backing of their experience, and the Clippers will give the Suns a fight—especially if Kawhi Leonard returns. All of the remaining teams have proven they have what it takes to go the distance, so get ready for some more extended series to decide the Finals teams. 

Robin Lundberg

WCF: Suns over Clippers in five

ECF: Bucks over Hawks in six

I love this Hawks team; I really do. But in many ways they are ahead of schedule. And for as good as Trae Young & Co. have been, the Bucks may very well have gotten over their biggest hurdle in the Nets. With Jrue Holiday to throw at Young and the level of play we've seen from Giannis and Khris Middleton, Milwaukee will likely be too much.

I wanted to do the Suns in four, but I have too much respect for Ty Lue as a coach. However, unless Kawhi Leonard can somehow return fully healthy, I just don't know if the Clippers have enough to hang with Phoenix given Devin Booker already helped them get Game 1 and CP3's return is on the horizon.

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