Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Who Will Win Lakers/Nuggets Series?

When the Nuggets were down 3-1 to Utah in the first round of the postseason, the idea that they’d eventually appear in the Western Conference Finals seemed like a pipe dream. The same was true when they fell behind the Clippers 3-1 in the second round.

Having improbably survived both of those series, the Nuggets will once again take on an underdog role as they prepare for the next round of the playoffs, but they’ve come to embrace that role.

Among the four teams still active in the postseason, Jamal Murray is the second-leading playoff scorer, with 27.1 PPG on a red-hot .502/.491/.913 shooting line. Nikola Jokic has arguably been even better, complementing his 25.4 PPG (.515/.440/.830 shooting) with 10.8 RPG and 6.0 APG.

While no Nugget besides Murray or Jokic is averaging more than 11.1 PPG in the postseason, the club’s supporting cast has stepped up when needed. Michael Porter Jr. and Gary Harris have been reliable from beyond the arc and have the team’s best playoff net ratings among rotation players, while Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap have also provided Denver with good minutes.

Still, the Nuggets have a challenging task ahead of them as they look to upset the top-seeded Lakers. They’ll enter the series as +420 underdogs, per BetOnline.ag, which means you could win $420 if you risk $100 on Denver to advance to the NBA Finals. It’s hard to find any experts willing to pick the Nuggets in the Western Finals, and that extends to rival team employees too. Josh Robbins of The Athletic spoke to a coach, executive, and scout about the series, and all three picked the Lakers to win in either five or six games.

Like Denver, Los Angeles has leaned heavily on its two stars in the postseason, with Anthony Davis and LeBron James combining for 54.2 PPG, 21.2 RPG, and 12.9 APG through the first two rounds. Jokic, Millsap, and Grant will do their best to slow down that frontcourt duo, but they’ll only be able to do so much.

As is the case for the Nuggets, no third Lakers player has stepped up as a major scoring threat, but Rajon Rondo had a very effective series vs. Houston, with 10.6 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.0 SPG. Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are chipping in with secondary scoring, and Markieff Morris and Danny Green had the club’s best on/off-court splits during the second round.

What do you think? Do the Nuggets have a chance at upsetting another L.A. team or will the Lakers do what the Clippers couldn’t and end Denver’s run here? How many games do you expect this series to last? And do you expect the winner of the Western Finals to ultimately claim this year’s NBA championship?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

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Poll: Who Will Win Celtics/Heat Series?

The Celtics and the Heat weren’t necessarily the teams that most fans and league observers expected to square off in the Eastern Finals this season, but the conference’s No. 3 and No. 5 seeds will fight for the right to play in the NBA Finals after knocking off the top two clubs in the East, Milwaukee and Toronto.

It’s a fascinating matchup, and one with no obvious favorite. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag currently list the Celtics at -137 for the series, meaning you’d have to risk $137 on a bet to win $100. That makes the Heat the slight underdogs at +118.

However, the Heat were the more impressive of the two teams in the second round, dispatching the top-seeded Bucks with relative ease in a five-game series. Miami held Giannis Antetokounmpo reasonably in check until he was sidelined with an ankle injury. And Jimmy Butler led a balanced offensive attack that saw four players – Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, and Jae Crowder – average at least 15 PPG, while Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Kelly Olynyk stretched the floor.

The Heat’s 113.0 offensive rating was second among the eight teams in the second round, behind only the Lakers, and their 106.6 defensive rating was the best of any team not involved in the Boston/Toronto series. Miami’s play in that impressive second-round win is a big reason why 11 of 22 experts at ESPN.com, including Bobby Marks, Tim MacMahon, and Ramona Shelburne, are picking the Heat to knock off the Celtics and make the NBA Finals.

The Celtics won’t be an easy out by any means though. Boston’s offense is a little more well-rounded than Milwaukee’s attack, with a number of players handling play-making responsibilities — if Kemba Walker doesn’t have it going, as was the case in the last two games of the second round against Toronto, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and even Marcus Smart can step up and shoulder the bulk of the scoring duties.

And while the Bucks had the NBA’s best defense during the regular season, the Heat will be tasked in the Eastern Finals with solving the defense that has ranked first overall during the postseason so far. The Celtics’ defensive rating in the playoffs is 101.9, including an eye-popping 100.3 mark in their seven games vs. the Raptors. Underrated center Daniel Theis helps anchor the unit, which is versatile, switchable, and features several dangerous perimeter defenders in Smart, Tatum, and Brown.

With Game 1 of the series set to tip off in a matter of hours, we want you to weigh in with your two cents. Who do you think will win this series? The Celtics or the Heat? How many games do you expect it take? And do you think either club has a legit shot to win the NBA Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to explain your pick!

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Poll: Who Will Win Clippers/Nuggets Game 7?

After the Clippers‘ Game 4 win over the Nuggets last Wednesday, an all-L.A. showdown in the Western Conference Finals appeared to be an inevitability. The Nuggets had mustered just 85 points in their Game 4 loss, Michael Porter Jr. was publicly griping about the team’s offensive approach, and the odds of Denver once again overcoming a 3-1 deficit were remote.

The Nuggets haven’t rolled over though, erasing 16- and 19-point Clippers leads in Games 5 and 6 respectively to push the series to 3-3 and set up a Game 7 on Tuesday. As was the case in the first round against Utah, Denver has been at its best when facing elimination, with all the pressure on the opponent to close things out.

If the Clippers can’t close things out, it would be another devastating collapse for a franchise that’s 0-7 all-time in series-clinching games to advance to the Western Finals, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Led by All-Star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the club has been considered one of the NBA’s top title contenders all season long and entered the series as overwhelming favorites.

L.A. continues to be heavily favored in Game 7 (BetOnline.ag lists the Clippers at -7.5), but the Nuggets have done an excellent job holding the Clips’ supporting cast in check this series. Besides Leonard and George, no Clipper is averaging over 11.5 points per game. Lou Williams (.368/.130/.769 shooting) has struggled badly with his shot, while Sixth Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell has posted a dismal -11.3 net rating in his minutes.

The Clippers have had a knack this season for flipping the switch and coming up big when they need to after disappointing showings. But in a Game 7, there’s little room for error. If Nikola Jokic and/or Jamal Murray have big games, L.A. will need Leonard and George to match the Nuggets star(s) — and the Clippers would probably love to see at least one or two role players step up as well.

What do you think? Will the Clippers ultimately advance to the Western Finals as we all expected after Game 4? Or can the Nuggets pull off the major upset, coming back from a 3-1 hole for a second consecutive series?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

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Poll: Who Will Win Raptors/Celtics Game 7?

After one of the summer’s best games on Wednesday night – a double-overtime thriller which Toronto eventually pulled out – the Raptors and Celtics are headed for a Game 7 on Friday. It may not be the only second-round series to ultimately go seven games, but it’s the first one to get there.

Prior to 2020, the Raptors and Celtics had never met in the postseason, but this series has been worth the wait. The Atlantic Division rivals were fairly evenly matched during the regular season, buoyed to the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in the East by their lockdown defenses, and those defenses have been on full display this series.

Pascal Siakam, an All-Star this season for the Raptors, has struggled immensely against Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and the rest of Boston’s defenders in the second round, averaging just 15.2 PPG on .378/.129/.722 shooting, a significant step down from his season averages of 22.9 PPG on .453/.359/.792 shooting.

Fellow All-Star Kemba Walker, meanwhile, has had some big games and hit some big shots in the series, but has struggled at times to get things going against the likes of Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, and OG Anunoby, even facing a box-and-one defense on Wednesday. In Game 6, he scored just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Lowry and Jayson Tatum have had productive series, and Brown and Smart have had some big-time performances for the C’s, while Anunoby and Norman Powell have hit some series-saving shots for the Raptors, who are also getting solid production from Serge Ibaka. But Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens haven’t been relying too much on their benches — in Wednesday’s game, Marc Gasol was the only starter on either team who didn’t play at least 47 minutes.

Of the series’ six games so far, two have been blowouts — both Celtics wins. The Raptors have won three of the four close games. Those numbers would seem to favor Boston, and the C’s are indeed viewed as more likely to advance. Most oddsmakers have the Celtics listed as at least two-point favorites for Game 7.

With over 24 hours to go before Game 7 tips off, we want to get your predictions. Will it be the Raptors or the Celtics that comes through on Friday and advances to play Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: Best Available NBA Head Coaching Job

Now that the Knicks and Nets have hired new head coaches, there are four NBA clubs that have coaching openings to fill. Those teams are the Bulls, Pacers, Pelicans, and Sixers, and each head coaching job comes with some pros and cons.

In Chicago, for instance, there’s a solid group of promising young players – including Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, Coby White, and this year’s No. 4 overall pick – and expectations shouldn’t be overly high for the first year or two, since the team is still in the process of rebuilding.

The Bulls are somewhat lacking in star power, however, which may limit the team’s ceiling. That’s not the case in Philadelphia, where the Sixers have a pair of All-Stars – Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – on long-term contracts.

That’s a great foundation to build upon, but the new 76ers head coach will be tasked with solving a puzzle that Brett Brown couldn’t — figuring out how to get the most of Embiid and Simmons together on offense. With Tobias Harris and Al Horford earning nearly $62MM combined in 2020/21, the team’s ability to make upgrades around its two stars will be limited, so maximizing the current roster will be paramount.

The Pelicans also have some star power that could appeal to a head coaching candidate, with Jrue Holiday serving as the team’s veteran leader, while Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are the rising young stars. It’s certainly an intriguing job, but Holiday is entering a contract year, Ingram is about to get very expensive, and Williamson hasn’t yet proven he can consistently remain healthy. Expectations in New Orleans are rising, putting added pressure on the team’s next head coach.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, Victor Oladipo is entering a contract year and it’s not clear whether or not he envisions a long-term future with the Pacers, which could complicate matters for a new head coach. Still, there’s a lot to work with here. Even if Oladipo and/or Myles Turner end up on the trade block at some point, the Pacers could get a strong return for either player and can lean on the likes of Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren.

What do you think? If you were a head coaching candidate with equal offers in hand from the Bulls, Pacers, Pelicans, and Sixers, which job would you take? Which one would be the least appealing, in your opinion?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your two cents!

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Poll: Who Will Make Western Conference Finals?

It has taken them a little longer to get underway due to a pair of Game Sevens in the Western Conference quarterfinals, but the second round of the Western playoffs are finally set to tip off tonight. The No. 2 Clippers will face the No. 3 Nuggets on Thursday, with the No. 1 Lakers playing the No. 4 Rockets on Friday.

The Clippers will enter their series against the Nuggets as overwhelming favorites. Of the 19 ESPN experts who made predictions for the series, not a single one picked Denver to win — and not one thinks it will take the Clippers more than six games to dispatch the Nuggets.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George figure to be major problems for Denver. It’s unclear if the Nuggets have defenders capable of slowing down the duo; and on the other end of the court, top Denver scorers like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. will face more resistance from Leonard, George, and company than they did from Utah’s defenders in the first round.

The Lakers also open as heavy favorites over Houston. The 16 ESPN experts who made picks for the series were once again unanimous in projecting an L.A. victory, though in this case at least a handful predicted it will take a full seven games.

The well-rested Lakers will have the size advantage over the Rockets, as forwards like P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, and Robert Covington will be tasked with guarding Anthony Davis and LeBron James. L.A. also had one of the NBA’s best defenses all season long and may force Houston’s role players to beat them with outside shots.

Still, while an all-L.A. Western Finals looks – as it has all year – to be the likeliest outcome, the Nuggets and Rockets have the star power to make things interesting. Nikola Jokic, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook aren’t about to bow out quietly. And as we’ve seen in the two Eastern Semifinals so far, a solid game plan and some well-timed hot shooting streaks can quickly put a series favorite on its heels.

What do you think? Are you penciling in a Clippers/Lakers showdown already, or do you think the Nuggets or Rockets are capable of pulling off an upset?

Vote in our poll below and head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts on both series!

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Poll: Who Will Win Rockets/Thunder Game 7?

When the NBA’s playoff matchups were set last month, the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Rockets and Thunder looked like one of the first round’s most intriguing matchups — not only were the two teams fairly evenly matched, but they also share some notable recent history, having come together in recent years for blockbuster trades involving star guards James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.

Six games later, the series has lived up to its billing. It will be decided in a Game 7 on Wednesday.

The Rockets, who have held leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the series, will enter Game 7 as favorites (they’re currently listed at -5.5 by multiple sports books), and the results of the series to date help explain why. The Rockets have beaten the Thunder by an average of nearly 21 points per game in their three wins; conversely, one of Oklahoma City’s victories came in overtime, while the other two were by four points or less.

With Westbrook back in their backcourt alongside Harden, the Rockets have a star-power advantage over the Thunder and they’re getting contributions from their role players too, with Danuel House (13.8 PPG, .375 3PT%), Robert Covington (12.0 PPG, .486 3PT%), Jeff Green (13.5 PPG, .436 3PT%), and defensive dynamo P.J. Tucker among those chipping in.

The Thunder aren’t about to go quietly though, and they’ve been benefiting from a balanced attack beyond Paul. Dennis Schroder (18.2 PPG), Danilo Gallinari (16.8 PPG), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15.8 PPG) are providing scoring punch, while Steven Adams is racking up offensive rebounds and Luguentz Dort is making Harden work for his points on the other end of the court.

The Rockets’ high-volume approach to three-point shooting means that variance could play a large part in the Game 7 result, but they can give themselves a better chance by taking better care of the ball than they did in Game 6 (22 turnovers).

What do you think? Who are you picking to win Game 7 between the Rockets and Thunder? And do you believe that either team can give the Lakers a run for their money in round two?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

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Poll: Who Will Win Jazz/Nuggets Game 7?

Depending on the outcome of Monday’s Rockets/Thunder showdown, it’s possible we’ll still get one more Game 7 in the first round of the NBA’s 2020 postseason. For now though, Jazz/Nuggets is the only series guaranteed to go the full seven, with the deciding contest scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The series between two Northwest rivals has been a back-and-forth affair, with Denver taking a 1-0 lead, Utah winning three consecutive games, and Denver clawing back to make it 3-3.

The first-round matchup has also served as a coming-out party for two of the NBA’s most promising young guards. Donovan Mitchell, a first-time All-Star earlier this year, has taken his game to another level this postseason as he has assumed an even greater share of the Jazz’s offensive responsibilities, averaging an eye-popping 38.7 PPG to go along with 5.5 APG on .548/.554/.946 shooting in six games vs. Denver.

However, Jamal Murray has matched him nearly every step of the way, proving that the Nuggets weren’t wrong to sign him to a five-year, maximum-salary extension a year ago. After pouring in 50 points on Sunday for the second time in three games, Murray is now averaging 34.0 PPG and 6.7 APG on .585/.574/.913 shooting for the series.

The Nuggets and Jazz will do all they can in Game 7 to slow down the opposing team’s top scorer, but the outcome may ultimately come down to which club’s other stars and role players step up. In Game 6, Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant came up big for Denver. The Nuggets also got a boost from Gary Harris‘ return following a lengthy absence due to a hip injury.

Mike Conley (22.8 PPG on .569/.607/.889 shooting) has had a strong series and Rudy Gobert has been solid, but the Jazz may need contributions from complementary players like Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Royce O’Neale to slow the Nuggets’ momentum in Game 7.

What do you think? Are you taking either the Nuggets or the Jazz in Game 7? And which team do you think would match up better in the second round against the Clippers?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

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Poll: Who Will Make Eastern Conference Finals?

With the Celtics and Raptors officially kicking off one half of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday, it’s time to consider which two teams are most likely to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals next round.

The other half of the semis feature a much-anticipated series between the Heat and Bucks, with Game 1 scheduled to take place on Monday.

All four teams accrued impressive records during the regular season (Bucks at 56-17, Raptors at 53-19, Celtics at 48-24, and Heat at 44-29), and each have unquestionably earned the right to compete for a spot in the next round. Despite Miami finishing 12 games behind Milwaukee this season, the team is known for slowing down opposing stars and utilizing strategies such as zone defense when needed.

The Heat thrive on three-point shooting and are widely recognized as one of the top perimeter teams in the league behind the likes of Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and others. Therein lies a weakness for Milwaukee, which prefers to pack the interior while allowing a high rate of attempts from behind the arc.

Nevertheless, a clear talent disparity exists between the Bucks and Heat, with Milwaukee having the Defensive Player of the Year and perennial Most Valuable Player candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The club also has a second All-Star in Khris Middleton, who averaged a career-high 20.9 points per game on 50% shooting from the floor and 42% from deep this season.

As for the Celtics and Raptors, Boston managed to take Game 1 behind Kemba Walker‘s 18 points and 10 assists — his first career playoff double-double — and Jayson Tatum‘s 21 points. The team played without Gordon Hayward (right ankle sprain), who could return later in the series.

Toronto possesses a unique starting backcourt comprising of two smaller guards (Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet), both of whom are electric offensively and pesky on defense. However, it remains to be seen how successful the team could be in the playoffs with that undersized backcourt. The Raptors were able to force 22 turnovers on Sunday, but the team shot just 31-of-84 from the field (36.9%) and 10-of-40 from deep (25%).

What do you think? Who do you believe will reach the Eastern Conference Finals next round? Do you think the Raptors will return for a second consecutive year, or do you think the Celtics will make it for the first time since losing a seven-game series to Cleveland in 2018? Do the Heat have what it takes to defeat the star-studded Bucks, or will Milwaukee be too much to handle in a playoff series?

Vote in our poll, then take to the comments section below to voice your opinion!

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Poll: Lakers’ Postseason Outlook

A dominant regular season leading up to the stoppage of the NBA’s season in March all but locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the Lakers entering the summer restart. However, the team hasn’t quite looked like itself since play resumed. LeBron James‘ squad went 3-5 during the seeding games and dropped Game 1 of its first-round series to the No. 8 Trail Blazers.

The Lakers’ shooting doomed them in Game 1. Despite out-rebounding the Blazers, winning the turnover battle, and moving the ball better, the Lakers just couldn’t put the ball in the basket, finishing with an abysmal shooting line of .351/.156/.645.

L.A. still only lost by seven points, and the team’s shooting won’t be that bad every game. But beyond James and Anthony Davis, many of the Lakers’ secondary scorers are streaky, including Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who went a combined 4-of-21 from the floor on Tuesday. Additionally, Avery Bradley‘s absence means the club is without its top perimeter defender — that’s not insignificant in a series against Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In a discussion about the Lakers’ situation today, ESPN’s writers expressed mixed opinions on whether it’s too early to start worrying about the team. As Kevin Pelton points out, L.A. is still getting the same quality shots it got during the regular season, and it seems likely those shots will start dropping at some point. However, Nick Friedell and Andre Snellings view the Lakers’ roster as top-heavy and have questions about the supporting cast.

Neither Friedell nor Royce Young necessarily expects the Lakers to fall in the first round to the eighth-seeded Blazers. However, both ESPN writers expressed skepticism that L.A. should still be considered a prime championship frontrunner.

It’s worth noting that even before the Lakers’ Game 1 loss to Portland, sports books had generally started listing the Clippers as title favorites over the Lakers, with some moving the Bucks ahead as well, per David Purdum of ESPN.

What do you think? Has your opinion of the Lakers changed at all since the restart began? Do you expect them to start firing on all cylinders again any day now? How confident do you feel right now in forecasting a Finals appearance – or win – for the Lakers?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

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