For four teams, the journey continues to the NBA conference finals. Three clubs return to this level of the playoffs, and the Houston Rockets join the group—but all have their eyes on the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The Rockets and Golden State Warriors set the stage for the Western Conference Finals after respective closeout victories over the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.
Chris Paul's 41-point performance put Houston in the position to build upon two regular-season wins over the defending champions in the next round. Nonetheless, it's a different atmosphere in the postseason, with the Warriors hungry for back-to-back titles. Forward Draymond Green elaborated on the goal at hand:
The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James goes to his eighth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals against a familiar foe in the Boston Celtics, though the lineup looks different from last year. He must go through Scary Terry (Terry Rozier), a 20-year-old rookie who leads the team in scoring (Jayson Tatum) and a much-improved Jaylen Brown. This time, the Celtics have home-court advantage.
Keep tabs on all the action by using the dates and times below. For those placing bets, OddsShark has the updated championship odds for the final four teams. Finally, we will delve into both matchups.
2018 NBA Conference Finals TV Schedule
Game 1: Cleveland at Boston: Sunday, May 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Game 1: Golden State at Houston: Monday, May 14 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 2: Cleveland at Boston: Tuesday, May 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 2: Golden State at Houston: Wednesday, May 16 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 3: Boston at Cleveland: Saturday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 3: Houston at Golden State: Sunday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT
Game 4: Boston at Cleveland: Monday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Game 4: Houston at Golden State: Tuesday, May 22 9 p.m. on TNT
*Game 5: Cleveland at Boston: Wednesday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 5: Golden State at Houston: Thursday, May 24 9 p.m. on TNT
*Game 6: Boston at Cleveland: Friday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 6: Houston at Golden State: Saturday, May 26 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT
*Game 7: Cleveland at Boston: Sunday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Game 7: Golden State at Houston: Monday, May 28 at 9 p.m. ET on TNT
*Indicates if necessary. Schedule courtesy of NBA.com.
Odds to Win 2017-18 NBA Championship
Golden State Warriors: -150 (wager $150 to win $100)
Houston Rockets: +225 (wager $100 to win $225)
Cleveland Cavaliers: +600
Boston Celtics: +1,800
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Surprisingly, Boston head coach Brad Stevens didn't get a single vote in the Coach of the Year poll, but he deserves praise for leading the Celtics to the conference finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and with Brown hampered by a hamstring injury.
However, it's not about votes and individual honors in the postseason. Boston will match up against Cleveland in consecutive years for a spot in the NBA Finals.
Last year, Rozier only played 82 total minutes against the Cavaliers in five playoff contests. He will step into a much larger role as the team's lead playmaker in the backcourt this time around. Brown played 85 minutes against Cleveland in the 2016-17 series. He's set to start alongside Scary Terry this year.
Tatum leads this team in scoring through the postseason, with 18.8 points per contest. How will he fare as the competition ramps up?
The Celtics come into this series young and inexperienced at multiple positions in the starting lineup, but Stevens' coaching acumen provides the ultimate equalizer.
We already know James will leave everything on the floor for 40-plus minutes, as he's done through 11 contests. Will he have enough support from teammates against a squad with great on-court chemistry?
Perhaps Boston forces James to give every ounce and more while clamping down on Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. Cleveland's role players have to flash at various points in this series to propel this team back to the NBA Finals.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors
During the offseason, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey acquired Paul with the intent to topple the Warriors in the West. We'll find out whether his chess pieces execute the plan with home-court advantage in their favor.
Despite questions about Paul and James Harden's ability to coexist in the same backcourt, the two made it work—so well the team achieved a franchise-record 65 regular-season wins.
While it's an admirable feat, Houston still has two more steps to take for the ultimate goal, an NBA title. First, the Rockets must go through the champions, who are looking to complete the franchise's first back-to-back reign.
The Warriors are the top-scoring team in the postseason and hold their opponents to 43 percent shooting from the field, which also ranks No. 1 among the 16 playoff teams.
Green leads the team in rebounds (11.5), assists (nine) and blocks (1.3) per game. He's the glue to the starting five. Guard Klay Thompson averaged 21.2 points per playoff contest and converted an efficient 45 percent from the field through the Warriors' 8-2 run to the conference finals.
Rockets center Clint Capela's contributions on both ends of the court and the team's sharp-shooting role players should keep the games close. During the regular season and playoffs, Houston led the league in three-pointers made.
We're going to see Capela and Green battle on the boards. On the offensive end, second-chance scoring opportunities from rebounds should play a major factor in a series set for high scores.