Well, we got so close to a guarantee of a former Marquette basketball player hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of the NBA Finals this year, but we came up short. Both Wesley Matthews’ Bucks and Jae Crowder’s Suns — coincidentally, the two teams that met in last year’s NBA Finals — were eliminated in a seven game series in the conference semifinals, and so now we’re down to just two former MU guys left alive in the playoffs. Luckily, one’s in the Eastern Conference and the other is in the West, so there is a chance that they will both get to the Finals and face each other.
Here we go!
Jimmy Butler — Miami Heat
Butler and the Heat knocked off the Sixers in six games in the semifinals. It was 2-2-2 with Philadelphia winning the two games in the middle before Miami closed them out by winning Game 5 and Game 6. Jimmy had a regular old Jimmy series: 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 32% from beyond the three-point line. Considering he shot 23% in the regular season, that’s really damn good.
They’ll be facing off against the Boston Celtics, who beat Milwaukee in seven games. Jayson Tatum has been great in the playoffs for the C’s, averaging 28.3 points in 11 games so far this postseason, including going for 27.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game against the Bucks. The Celtics made their way past the Bucks by shooting nearly 38% from long range in the series powered by a 44% run from Jaylen Brown. They also got big games in the series from Al Horford and Grant Williams to help spread the production around.
Game 1: Tuesday, May 17, 7:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 2: Thursday, May 19, 7:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 3: Saturday, May 21, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 4: Monday, May 23, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 5: Wednesday, May 25, 7:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 6*: Friday, May 27, 7:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 7*: Sunday, May 29, 7:30pm Central, ESPN
Juan Toscano-Anderson — Golden State Warriors
It took Golden State six games to eliminate Memphis from the playoffs. That either tells us a lot about exactly how strong the Warriors are or a lot about how how tough the Grizzlies are seeing as Ja Morant left the series with a knee injury and missed the last three games. As you would expect, Steph Curry is the star of the show there, averaging 26 points a game against Memphis. GSW has five guys that averaged at least 10 points a game in the conference semifinals, so they’ll come at you from a bunch of different directions. Our guy Juan Toscano Anderson played a total of 21 minutes across four games in the series, chipping in 1.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game when the coaching staff gave him some run.
The Dallas Mavericks are the somewhat surprising opponent for the Western Conference finals, and I say that because no one expected how that series ended. With Phoenix up 3-2, Dallas won 113-86 in Game 6 and 123-90 in Game 7, and that doesn’t even explain what happened in Game 7. It was, and this is not a joke, 57-27 at halftime after Phoenix scored just 10 points in the second quarter.
Luka Doncic averaged just short of a double-double against the Suns at 32.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. 7.0 assists and 2.1 steals? Just icing on the Slovenian cake. The Mavs also have a familiar face for Marquette fans in point guard Jalen Brunson, who started all seven games of the Phoenix series.
Game 1: Wednesday, May 18, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 2: Friday, May 20, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Sunday, May 22, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 4: Tuesday, May 24, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 5*: Thursday, May 26, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 6*: Saturday, May 28, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 7*: Monday, May 30, 7pm Central