After two rounds of relatively disappointing postseason play, the Conference Finals are upon us.
Stephen Curry’s first-round knee injury put a damper on things, but the two-time reigning MVP is back. If you’re unsure, just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 8-0 Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been challenged yet. Will the Miami Heat or Toronto Raptors make them sweat…at all?
The battles continue on Monday, following the conclusion of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
While the outcome of Raptors-Heat matters to Cleveland, it won’t affect the schedule. Take a look:
Western Conference Finals
|Warriors (1) vs. Thunder (3)|
|1||Monday, May 16||Oracle Arena (Warriors)||9 p.m. ET||TNT|
|2||Wednesday, May 18||Oracle Arena (Warriors)||9 p.m. ET||TNT|
|3||Sunday, May 22||Chesapeake Energy Arena (OKC)||9 p.m. ET||TNT|
|4||Tuesday, May 24||Chesapeake Energy Arena (OKC)||9 p.m. ET||TNT|
|5*||Thursday, May 26||Oracle Arena (Warriors)||TBD||TNT|
|6*||Saturday, May 28||Chesapeake Energy Arena (OKC)||TBD||TNT|
|7*||Monday, May 30||Oracle Arena (Warriors)||TBD||TNT|
The Western Conference Finals can be streamed through TNT here.
Eastern Conference Finals
|Cavaliers (1) vs. Raptors (2)/Heat (3)|
|1||Tuesday, May 17||Quicken Loans Arena (Cavs)||8:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|2||Thursday, May 19||Quicken Loans Arena (Cavs)||8:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|3||Saturday, May 21||Air Canada Centre (Raptors)/American Airlines Arena (Heat)||8:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|4||Monday, May 23||Air Canada Centre (Raptors)/American Airlines Arena (Heat)||8:30 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|5*||Wednesday, May 25||Quicken Loans Arena (Cavs)||TBD||ESPN|
|6*||Friday, May 27||Air Canada Centre (Raptors)/American Airlines Arena (Heat)||TBD||ESPN|
|7*||Sunday, May 29||Quicken Loans Arena (Cavs)||TBD||ESPN|
The Eastern Conference Finals can be streamed through ESPN here.
Underrated Players to Watch
West: Andrew Bogut
Everybody loves to talk about Golden State’s small lineups.
How about some love for the big fella?
Though Andrew Bogut doesn’t play a ton as a starter (just 17.7 minutes this postseason), the former No. 1 overall pick in 2005 makes a difference for the Dubs, especially on defense. When Bogut’s on the floor, the Warriors allow an average of 13 fewer points.
He’s a load in the paint and also blocked the fourth-most shots in the regular season per 48 minutes, via ESPN.
Bogut could be especially valuable this series given the Oklahoma City Thunder’s front line of big men. Steven Adams, in particular, could become a headache.
Bogut and Adams are two of the league's dirtier more physical players, so it’s only a matter of time before tempers flare.
Despite hailing from New Zealand, though, the third-year 7-footer won’t talk trash to Golden State’s Australian center, per Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript:
Bogut is dealing with a “right adductor strain” and missed his second consecutive practice on Saturday, per Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News.
As noted by Monte Poole of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, he should be OK:
The Warriors seem to be acting with caution, which is wise. They will need their stars healthy, of course, but having Bogut could help combat one of OKC’s biggest strengths on the inside.
East: Channing Frye
Whether the Cavaliers face the Heat or the Raptors—does it really matter?—they will look to remain one of the league’s hottest teams from the perimeter.
Entering the Conference Finals, Cleveland (16.8) is averaging 4.6 more three-pointers per game than the Warriors (12.2).
That’s not all. The Cavaliers are also shooting 36.3 percent from distance, which towers over Golden State’s mark of 30 percent.
Granted, the reigning champs haven’t had Mr. 402 for six games, but those are still jaw-dropping numbers from King James and his men.
Part of that surge can be attributed to veteran forward Channing Frye, who averaged 13.8 points on 64.5 percent shooting from the field and 57.9 percent from deep in a second-round sweep over the Atlanta Hawks. In Game 3, Frye connected on 7-of-9 from three for a game-high 27 points.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer talked about Cleveland’s trade-deadline acquisition on Friday:
The Cavs knew his real value would be in the playoffs. Coach Tyronn Lue played Frye only 29 minutes in the first round. But in the second round, Frye's time came. He scored 55 points in 77 minutes in the sweep of the Hawks. He was 20-of-31 from the field (11-of-19 on 3-pointers).
Frye saw 19.3 minutes against Atlanta, and he could see more if A) the Heat go small or B) the Raptors try to go small in the absence of big man Jonas Valanciunas.
James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love get most of the press, but it’s unheralded players like Frye who could push Cleveland over the top.