Top 10 Most Likely NBA Finals Matchups

Which teams will be competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy come October

With the NBA season officially being approved for a July 31 restart, it’s time to look ahead to the matchups we’re most likely to see in the NBA Finals.

10. Denver Nuggets vs. Boston Celtics

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Expected result: Celtics in 7

Both the Celtics and Nuggets have been impressive up until this point in the season. Both teams are third in their respective conference; and both share similar records (43–21 for Boston, and 43–22 for Denver). Each team has the talent to make an NBA Finals run. However, the likelihood of both Denver and Boston defeating the powerhouse one seed in their conference is unlikely, which is why this matchup comes in at number ten.

9. Houston Rockets vs. Boston Celtics

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Expected result: Rockets in 6

Much like the Denver/Boston matchup at number ten, a Rockets/Celtics NBA Finals is unlikely mainly because of the top teams in each conference. Both Houston and Boston have All-Star players who could lead their team to the Finals. The possibility of both making it though are slim.

8. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Toronto Raptors

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Expected result: Lakers in 5

Coming in at number eight is a matchup between the west’s number one seed, and the east’s number two seed. Toronto doesn’t get the same amount of respect as other top teams, largely due to Kawhi Leonard’s departure. That doesn’t mean the Raptors aren’t a threat however. They currently have a 46–18 record, which is third best in the entire league. It’d be difficult to beat the Bucks, but it’s possible. As for the Lakers, they have the second best record in the NBA, and are perhaps the favorite to come out of the west. This is the first matchup on the list which has a real shot of happening.

7. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Toronto Raptors

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Expected result: Clippers in 5

What a matchup it would be to see Kawhi Leonard face off against the team he just brought a championship to. Along with the Lakers, the Clippers are the other favorite to come out of the west. The Clippers are one of the deepest teams in the league; and with Paul George and Kawhi being fully healthy, LA will prove to be a challenge for any team. If Toronto can make it past Milwaukee, this matchup is very possible.

6. Denver Nuggets vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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Expected result: Bucks in 5

The Bucks are the powerhouse of the NBA. They are the top candidate to make it out of the eastern conference, and many assume them to almost be a lock for the NBA Finals. The Nuggets on the other hand would have to fight for a trip to the Finals. If they don’t have to face both LA teams, Denver could seriously be competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Promising young talent Michael Porter Jr. should be fully healthy, and with reports of Nikola Jokic being in great shape, Denver could be a dangerous matchup in the west.

5. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

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Expected result: Lakers in 6

Imagine after a stoppage in the season, we wind up with a Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals. The historical value in that matchup would be off the charts. Lebron James and Anthony Davis can definitely lead LA to the Finals. The real test for this matchup would be whether or not Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker could defeat Milwaukee. Both Milwaukee and Boston have won one game against the other opponent this season. The possibility is there, if Boston can put it all together.

4. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics

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Expected result: Clippers in 6

While a Clippers/Celtics matchup doesn’t share the same historical value as a Lakers/Celtics Finals, that doesn’t mean it would lack excitement. Both times the Clippers and Celtics faced off this season, the game went to overtime, with each team winning once. Much like in the Lakers vs. Celtics scenario, the onus would be on Boston to hold their own making it to the Finals. If they could, this would be both a possible and thrilling Finals.

3. Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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Expected result: Bucks in 5

You may look at a NBA Finals matchup involving the sixth seeded Rockets being ranked this high as crazy. But I’m here to say otherwise. Houston is only four games back of the two seed in the western conference. They have two superstars in Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who could each give you 40 points on any given night. They also have a unique style of play which could cause issues for their competition. Houston’s new small ball style of play allows Westbrook to flourish, and even allowed for the Rockets to defeat the Lakers in one of the first games testing it out. If the Rockets avoid both LA teams, there’s a serious chance they wind up in the Finals. Milwaukee on the other hand is expected to make the Finals. If all goes smoothly for them, this matchup could easily happen.

2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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Expected result: Bucks in 7

The one seed in the west versus the one seed in the east. The two MVP front runners facing off. The Lakers and Bucks appear to many to be on a collision course. So why isn’t this matchup number one? While it’s extremely likely this is the matchup once the Finals roll around, there’s one team in the west who’s slightly better than the Lakers.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
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Expected result: Clippers in 7

An NBA Finals matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks is the most likely outcome of this season. Milwaukee has dominated teams for much of the year, and should be the representative for the eastern conference in the Finals. While the Clippers don’t have the best record in the west, they should still be considered the favorite. A meeting with the Lakers in the playoffs would be difficult, but the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in two of their three matchups this season. The Clippers have more depth than their crosstown rivals, and two superstars just like the Lakers. The Clippers have also been load managing their players so they’re ready come playoff time. When it’s time for the Finals, expect it to be a Clippers/Bucks matchup.

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist

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