Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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Twenty-eight teams down. Two left.

One will emerge victorious, while the other reflects on the question of “what if?”

We have the NBA Finals matchup for this season: Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics.

This wasn’t a matchup that we expected a few months ago, and it definitely isn’t the one I imagined. In my playoff bracket that I made before the postseason began, I had the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns: Part II. Wow, was that off!

The Warriors will be going for their fourth championship in eight years. The Celtics, meanwhile, will try to win a would-be NBA-record 18th championship. They are currently tied with the L.A. Lakers with 17 rings.

Third round Eastern Conference elimination: Miami Heat

Third round Western Conference elimination: Dallas Mavericks

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

Let’s see. The sky is still blue, the grass is still green, and a Boston sports team is in prime position to add another championship to their trophy case. Yes, that’s right. The Boston Celtics are back in the Finals for the first time since 2010.

It’s their 22nd appearance in the NBA’s biggest playoff series.

Golden State, however, will get home-court advantage. Game 1 will start in San Francisco on Thursday, June 2.

Boston literally came out of nowhere to get to this point. On January 21, the Celtics were 23-24 and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. They went 28-7 the rest of the way to finish 51-31. That was good enough for the second East seed.

In the playoffs so far, they have swept the Brooklyn Nets, defeated the reigning-champion Bucks, and stuck a dagger into the Miami Heat’s heart.

Do you know what else is something? Rookie head coach Ime Udoka led this team to the Finals in his first year in Beantown!

The Celtics have a tough task ahead of them, since the Warriors’ dynasty stands in their way. Yet, I have confidence that this will be a back-and-forth battle. Cheers!

Lowlight

Two of the best words in sports are “Game 7.”

A series tied at 3-3 is always exciting. Unfortunately, the Heat-Celtics Game 7 could’ve been a bit better in terms of those not playing.

Legendary announcer Mike Breen, along with former coaches and current analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, was scheduled to call this game. However, Breen tested positive for COVID-19, so he was unable to attend on Sunday. (This is interesting, since Van Gundy sounded awful on the broadcast. Was he also sick?)

Breen is well-known for his iconic “BANG!” calls when someone hits a big-time shot in clutch situations. Jones did a fine job filling in, but it was terrible that Breen had to miss this moment.

Additionally, I was worried there would be officiating issues in this matchup when it was revealed that Scott Foster would be the head referee. To put it kindly, Foster isn’t well-liked in the NBA community.

For example, Suns guard Chris Paul has an 0-14 playoff record when Foster is officiating. Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden is 2-13 in playoff games with Foster as the ref. And the team trailing a series tends to get a win under his watch.

Fortunately, I thought the match was called fairly. As we switch to the Finals, we hope Mike Breen gets well (and Scott Foster doesn’t cause any controversies).

Random Stat

Some players in NBA history are fortunate enough to always be on a winning team.

LeBron James went to the Finals seemingly every year for a decade. Bill Russell won 11 rings in 13 years with the Celtics. Even Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr won five championships as a key bench player during his career (in addition to the three rings he’s won as a coach).

On the other hand, some players have recently been seen as “bad luck.”

Kelly Oubre plays for the Charlotte Hornets. When he left the Phoenix Suns in 2020, the Suns went on to appear in the Finals the year after (which was last season against Milwaukee). When Oubre departed from the Warriors last year, the Warriors are now in the Finals this year.

Kent Bazemore ran into this same predicament. Currently suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers, Bazemore has had two stints with Golden State: one in 2014, and one last season. Ironically, when he left the Warriors both times, they made the Finals the year after! This is freaky if you ask me.

Sports involve winning and losing. Some players never get to hoist the trophy at the end of the season. That’s just the way life goes.

But, Oubre and Bazemore might be bad-luck charms right now. If you’re into sports betting, I wouldn’t place any bets on the Hornets or Lakers to win the title until either player leaves their team. Then, place your entire life savings on that team the year after!

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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