Luka Doncic and Stephen Curry, an unstoppable star on the rise and the best point guard of the last decade, will face each other in the clash between the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA conference finals that start on Tuesday.
The surprising Mavericks and the reborn Warriors will compete for the ticket from the Western conference to the NBA Finals and the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics will do so for the Eastern one.
These four franchises are the last survivors of an intense playoff run that saw last season’s finalists, the champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, fall on Sunday.
Of all of them, the Mavericks are the most unexpected guest on the eve of the Finals. The Texan team struck down all the doubts that had been accompanying them on Sunday by crushing the Suns, the best team in the regular phase, in a seventh game in Phoenix in which they came to have a 46-point advantage.
The Slovenian Doncic went over the experienced Devin Booker and Chris Paul reaching 35 points, 27 of them in a first half in which he equaled the total score of the Suns.
At 23, the point guard is wowing the NBA at the helm of a team continually underrated for lacking other big names.
Coach Jason Kidd, who was a player on the 2011 champion Mavs, has built a team where everything revolves around the generational talent of Doncic, who scores or facilitates teammates’ baskets at will.
In his third playoffs, the Slovenian has accumulated averages of 31.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 3 triples per game.
For now, his scoring levels in the postseason are only compared to legends like Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and his next challenge will be to face one of the great players in active history, Stephen Curry (26.9 average points).
The return of the Warriors
Curry’s smile, 11 years older than the Slovenian prodigy, is back as he competes in the playoffs again alongside his inseparable Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
This emblematic trio of the Warriors played five consecutive Finals between 2015 and 2019, conquering three titles, but few expected them again in the fight for the title after a painful journey through the desert.
With Thompson absent due to two devastating injuries, Golden State missed the last two playoffs but the magic of the champion Warriors has reappeared at times in these playoffs, in which they have dropped the Nuggets (4-1) and Grizzlies ( 4-2).
In this last tie, Golden State left some questions to clear against Dallas, especially for a fifth game in which they were massacred (134-95) by Grizzlies without Ja Morant.
In the sixth game they finished off Memphis with 30 points and 8 triples from Thompson, officially back to the great battles for the ring.
Celtics for rematch against Miami
In the East, the ticket to the Finals will be disputed between the Celtics and the Heat, in a reissue of the 2020 playoff clash at the venue "bubble" from DisneyWorld.
On that occasion it was the Heat who advanced 4-2 on aggregate to the Finals, where they fell to LeBron James’ Lakers.
Jayson Tatum (28.8 points on average in the playoffs) and Jaylen Brown (22.5), the young stars of Boston, have raised their level since then.
Tatum, a three-time All-Star at 24, is already one of the emerging forces in the league, leading his team to two fierce playoffs against Kevin Durant’s Nets and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks.
Under the direction of rookie Ime Udoka, the Celtics have turned around a disappointing start to the season based on a fearsome defense and a greased attack that relies on the brilliance of Tatum and Brown when the ball burns the most.
The Heat, for their part, feel comfortable with the few spotlights that their extraordinary campaign has received, in which they were the first ranked in the East in the regular phase and clearly dismissed the Hawks and Sixers in the playoffs.
Miami keeps the mainstays of the finalist team in 2020, especially shooting guard Jimmy Butler, center Bam Adebayo and shooter Tyler Herro, the best bench player in the league.
After settling their series against the Sixers on Thursday, the Heat will host Boston on Tuesday with three more days off.
This time can help Miami to recover its veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, who has hamstring problems, and give him extra energy for his work on defense, the strong point of his strategy.