NBA

Jazz break through for maiden championship as Nets wait goes on – Stats Perform AI predicts NBA playoffs

By Sports Desk May 18, 2021

It is that time of year again – the NBA playoffs.

Although this season has a different feel due to the new play-in tournament, it's crunch time as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers eye back-to-back championships.

The Utah Jazz claimed the best record in the league for the first time in their history, while Eastern Conference top seed the Philadelphia 76ers and the star-studded Brooklyn Nets loom large.

With the play-in tournament due to get under way to determine the final eight teams from each conference set to feature in the playoffs, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers to find a worthy winner of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusted for each team's pace. In addition, the home team get a slight boost for home-court advantage.

The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The winners receive a victory in the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy – this was done for every game in the playoffs.

So, here are the AI-generated results in the event that the play-in winners are the Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

 

Suns sizzle as Lakers crash out, Heat stun Bucks in sweep

Much has been made about the Phoenix Suns this season. Led by All-Star Devin Booker and star veteran Chris Paul, the franchise returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10. Second behind the Jazz in the Western Conference, the Suns ease past the Lakers 4-1. Winning the opening three games 120-93, 90-88 and 105-104, Phoenix never look back as they end the Lakers' quest to land consecutive championships for the first time since 2009-10.

The Milwaukee Bucks loaded up heavily in the offseason, bringing in Jrue Holiday to aid two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in his quest for a title and the franchise's first since 1971. But after trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and semi-finals, the third-seeded Bucks are sensationally swept 4-0 by last season's runners-up the Miami Heat.

Eastern Conference top seed for the first time since 2001, the Joel Embiid-led 76ers flex their muscles 4-2 against the Wizards but it is not easy. Dropping consecutive games to Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Washington, Doc Rivers' Philadelphia rally past the Wizards 112-109, 91-99 and 110-104 to bounce back from last season's first-round sweep at the hands of the Celtics.

Boasting a three-headed monster in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the second-seeded Nets dig deep against the Celtics 4-3 in the east. With all eyes on the star-studded Nets big three following an injury-interrupted regular season, Brooklyn lose two of the opening three matchups but reel off back-to-back victories to set the tone before progressing beyond the first round for the first time since 2013-14 thanks to a 110-91 Game 7 triumph.

Looking to put last season's playoff capitulation behind them, having sensationally surrendered a 3-1 lead at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals, Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers make light work of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 4-1. A 128-106 rout in Game 1 ignites the Clippers, while the third-seeded Nuggets – spearheaded by MVP favourite Nikola Jokic – are upstaged by the Portland Trail Blazers 4-3. Following in the footsteps of the Clippers, Denver cough up a commanding 3-0 lead as Damian Lillard's Trail Blazers complete a stunning comeback.

The New York Knicks and their fans have been waiting since 2013 to play postseason basketball. Their playoff return does not disappoint as the fourth seed – spearheaded by All-Star Julius Randle – make the most of their home-court advantage against the Atlanta Hawks to come out 4-3 winners. Trae Young's Hawks race out to a 3-1 lead but the Knicks are not to be denied.

 

Trail Blazers continue giant-slaying run, Clippers bow out to Jazz as 76ers roll on

Ranked sixth heading into the playoffs, the Trail Blazers defy their seeding by producing another shock performance, this time outlasting the highly fancied Suns in seven games. Western Conference finalists in 2018-19, Portland humble Phoenix 129-96, 117-86 and 126-92 in Games 1, 3 and 4 to seize the momentum and while the Suns storm back to force a series decider, Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Trail Blazers step up to the plate.

Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert experienced consecutive first-round exits in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but featuring in their first Conference semi-final since 2018, the Jazz prove too hot for the fourth-ranked Clippers and take a 4-2 series win. Utah, who beat Los Angeles in two of the three regular-season contests, win the opening three games of the second-round series and never look back as pressure mounts on Leonard, Paul George and the championship-chasing Clippers.

The standout teams in the east, the 76ers and Nets barely raise a sweat en route to the Conference Finals. In pursuit of a first championship since 1983, the 76ers sweep the Knicks 4-0, while the Nets end Miami's hopes with their own devastating 4-0 success.

 

Nets conquer 76ers, Jazz rally past Blazers

A matchup many predicted when the 76ers appointed head coach Rivers and the Nets landed former MVP Harden in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets in January. Philadelphia's cast of Embiid, fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, sharp-shooter Seth Curry and Danny Green come up against Durant, Harden, Irving and Blake Griffin, and it is Brooklyn who prevail in a thriller. The Nets and 76ers split the opening six games before a deciding seventh game. With a championship berth on the line, Steve Nash's Nets edge the 76ers 112-109 as question marks again emerge over whether the Philadelphia franchise can succeed with both Embiid and Simmons.

Not since 1997-98 had the Jazz secured a spot in the Finals, having enjoyed back-to-back appearances in the midst of Karl Malone's greatness, but Utah end that drought against Portland. The Jazz overturn 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to finally end the Trail Blazers' fairytale run as Portland fall agonisingly short of their first Finals appearance since 1992.

 

Jazz make history

The last five head coaches to win a title in their first year were Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors, 2019), Tyronn Lue (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016), Steve Kerr (Warriors, 2015), Pat Riley (Lakers, 1982) and Paul Westhead (Lakers, 1980). Rookie and two-time MVP Nash has been looking to join that list with a Nets side eyeing their maiden championship – having faced a long wait since joining the league in 1976-77.

Despite a frightening array of talent, the Nets go down 4-1 in the Finals as the Jazz make history, headlined by a resounding 121-102 win in Game 5.

After consecutive Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998, the Jazz finally break through for their first NBA title thanks to coach Quin Snyder, Mitchell, Gobert, Mike Conley and Co.

Related items

  • NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead NBA: Doncic's late 3-pointer gives Mavericks 2-0 lead

    Luka Dončić drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3 seconds remaining and finished with a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 109-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

    Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career playoff games for the Mavericks, who erased a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter.

    After winning two on the road, the Mavericks look to take a commanding 3-0 lead as the series shifts to Dallas on Sunday night.

    Naz Reid scored 23 points with seven 3-pointers, but his last shot at the buzzer rimmed out as the Timberwolves endured another off night from stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards had 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting and Towns scored 15 on 4 of 16 from the field.

    Jaden McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of Minnesota’s last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

    Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3 from the corner with 65 seconds left that drew Dallas within 108-106.

    Minnesota committed two turnovers, the last one by Edwards, who recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds to go.

    Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen for Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves. Rudy Gobert covered Doncic, but the Mavs superstar sank the 3 and then flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates mobbed him.

    The Wolves pushed their lead to 68-52 on Mike Conley’s free throw with 9:07 left in the third quarter, but Dallas scored eight straight points and was within 79-77 on Irving’s basket with 1:22 to play in the quarter.

  • Atlanta United v Los Angeles FC: Pineda insists Five Stripes 'on the right path' Atlanta United v Los Angeles FC: Pineda insists Five Stripes 'on the right path'

    Gonzalo Pineda insists Atlanta United "are on the right path" as they look to get back to winning ways in MLS.

    The Five Stripes are 12th in the Eastern Conference following a run of eight matches without victory.

    Although, they enjoyed a reprieve in the U.S. Open Cup last time out, defeating Charleston Battery on penalties to reach the quarter-finals.

    And Pineda hopes his side can build on that momentum when they welcome Los Angeles to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

    "I think we are on the right path," he said. "I think it is really encouraging for the team, for the mentality of the team, to win. 

    "There are many positives out of that. We have to hold onto that positivity, and the mentality of the players that fought and put that together on Saturday."

    "I think that, especially being at home, we need to make sure we are on the front foot right away," midfielder Dax McCarty added.

    "Obviously, our stadium is such a fortress. When you score an early goal, you get everyone excited and the other team feels that pressure, which is such a benefit."

    By contrast, LAFC are fifth in the West and on a four-match winning streak across all competitions – during which they have scored 11 goals and conceded just once.

    "The team is in a good way – winning games, scoring goals and not conceding – and we'd like to continue that," head coach Steve Cherundolo said.

    "We feel good about the moment we're in, and our players are confident. 

    "The players have shown an amazing response [to their defeat by San Jose Earthquakes at the start of the month]. We were shooting ourselves in the foot by making some mistakes in portions of the field where we don't usually do that.

    "The message was that we are really in control of our own destiny, which is a great place to be."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

    Atlanta will be hoping for inspiration from the likes of Almada as they look to end their winless streak.

    The Argentina international has scored in two of their last three league games on home soil.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga

    Bouanga scored both goals in LAFC’s 2-0 win over St. Louis City last time out in MLS.

    He has now found the net 33 times since the start of last season (including play-offs), seven more than any other player during that time.

    MATCH PREDICTION: LOS ANGELES FC

    Only once in their MLS history have Atlanta endured a longer winless streak, going 12 straight games without victory between May and August 2021.

    Meanwhile, LAFC have won successive games to nil for the first time during the regular season since August 2022.

    That came after they recorded just one victory while keeping a clean sheet in their previous 21 such matches.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Atlanta United: 38.2%
    Los Angeles FC: 32.8%
    Draw: 29.0%

  • Confidence will not get the job done for the Celtics, warns Mazzulla Confidence will not get the job done for the Celtics, warns Mazzulla

    Joe Mazzulla warned the Boston Celtics that the confidence garnered from taking a 2-0 series lead against the Indiana Pacers is not enough to secure progress.

    The Celtics won 126-110 on Thursday to move two games ahead in their Eastern Conference finals series against the Pacers.

    Indiana were also dealt a blow when star player Tyrese Haliburton suffered a hamstring injury, which the Pacers will wait agonisingly on.

    Yet with the Pacers having overturned a deficit to overcome the New York Knicks in the last round, Celtics coach Mazzulla knows the job is nowhere near done.

    "The only thing we should be thinking about is, they were down 2-0 a series Tago and brought it to Game 7," Mazzulla said.

    "They do a great job protecting their home court. They're undefeated at home. It's going to take a lot more than confidence to get the job done.

    "We have to focus on the details and the execution and the mindset, the things that go into playing against a team like this at home.

    "I know they're going to respond so it's up to us to do the same."

    Jaylen Brown starred again for the Celtics, finishing with 40 points on the day he missed out on an All-NBA selection.

    "We're two games from the Finals," he said when asked about that snub. "So, honestly, I don't have the time to give a f***."

    Indiana, meanwhile, face the prospect of having to fight back against the NBA's best team without their key player.

    "He does so many things for our team," T.J McConnell said of Haliburton.

    "I think everyone has to move the ball more, get in the paint more. The ball movement has to be at another level. He gets 10 assists in his sleep, so it's hard for another person on our team to replicate that. It's a group effort when he goes down."

    Pacers coach Rick Carlisle added: "We'll know more [on Friday] and then probably more Saturday."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.