Before the 2017-18 season started, the majority of NBA fans and analysts have already predicted that the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James, also known as the Cleveland Cavaliers, will face each other in the 2018 NBA Finals. In the past years, both teams have shown their capability to dominate their respective conferences, proven by how easy they curved their way to the final stage of the season. However, this year is different, as the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics are one win away from preventing the Cavaliers vs Warriors 4 in the NBA Finals.
On Wednesday night, the Celtics have extended their winning streak at TD Garden to 10 and grabbed the lead of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Cavaliers. LeBron James was not his usual self in Game 5 and failed to get the much-needed help from his teammates. Aside from James, only Kevin Love posted a double-digit scoring, 14 points, while the three other starters, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and George Hill, combined for an embarrassing 10 points.
The Celtics may have been playing without two of their superstars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but Coach Brad Stevens has managed to maximize the current talents they have. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been impressive since the first-round, and Al Horford continues to live up to expectations as the Celtics’ leader. If the other Cavaliers fail to step up in the upcoming game, it will be the Celtics, and not LeBron James, who will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2018 NBA Finals.
The Eastern Conference finals hole is suddenly so deep for the Cavaliers that it’s impossible not to start picturing LeBron James in another uniform. @NYTSports column on how we got here entering Game 3 —> https://t.co/Cu01RczvBJ
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 18, 2018
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets have managed to take the lead of the series after a 98-94 victory on Thursday night at the Toyota Center. Chris Paul and James Harden combined for 39 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds, while Eric Gordon led the second unit with 24 points and four rebounds. If the Rockets win Game 6, they will make their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1995.
However, the Rockets could be heading in the upcoming game without one of their best players, Chris Paul. In the final minutes of Game 5, Paul suffered a left hamstring injury that puts his status in Game 6 into question. Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni remains optimistic about the health condition of their superstar point guard, but he’s also making preparations if ever Paul won’t return.
“We’ll see [if he can play Game 6]. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow, but obviously you saw him limp off, and he’s a tough guy,” D’Antoni said, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “They’ll do whatever they can do. If he’s there, great, good for him. If he isn’t, we have enough guys; it’s time for somebody else to step up. We’ll be all right. We just have to continue what we’re doing.”
Paul will undeniably be a huge loss for the Rockets, and with Andre Iguodala set to return in Game 6, the Warriors will have a higher chance of forcing a Game 7 than LeBron James and the Cavaliers.