The final four teams standings in the NBA playoffs might evoke some deja vu from the bubble.
In 2020, the Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers and Heat all advanced to the conference finals and those are the four teams who are back in the penultimate postseason round fighting for a spot in the NBA Finals. More recently, Boston and Miami met in the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago where the former prevailed in an epic, seven-game series.
The Celtics, who lost the 2022 Finals in six games to the Warriors, are heavy favorites (+110) to capture their first title since 2008. Theyre followed by Denver (+250), then Los Angeles (+300) and the Heat (+1200) have by far the longest odds to raise their first championship banner in a decade.
Once the Bucks were bounced by Miami, the Cs became the favorites to come out of the East and to win it all, but Boston has been consistently challenged throughout the playoffs. The Hawks surprisingly pushed their first-round series with the Celtics to six games by winning Game 5 on the road at TD Garden. The 76ers also got out to a 3–2 series lead in the semifinals before the defending conference champions stormed back and won Game 7 handily on Sunday.
The Nuggets dispatched the Timberwolves in five games in Round 1 and then eliminated the Suns in six to set up their date with the Lakers. It took Los Angeles six games to knock off both the Grizzlies and Warriors. As for the Heat, they ended Milwaukees season early in an all-time, five-game upset and then sent the Knicks home in six.
Denver leads all playoff teams in offensive rating and net rating but its defense ranks fifth (second among remaining teams after Los Angeles). The Nuggets also employ the best remaining player in the field, two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, whos averaging 30.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game on 55/48/79 shooting splits.
The Lakers have the No. 1 defense in the playoffs, anchored by Anthony Davis, whos swatting 3.3 shots on average. Boston has the No. 2 offensive rating in the playoffs, led by Jayson Tatum, whos fresh off a 51-point performance in a Game 7 win. As for the Heat, they have the highest remaining scorer in Jimmy Butler, whos been good for 31.1 points per game.
In the regular season, both conference finals teams played one another four times and those season series were split, 2–2. As for the conference finals odds, Denver is a -155 favorite to beat the Lakers and the Celtics are massive -550 favorites to end Miamis season, again.
That the No. 7 Lakers and No. 8 Heat are even in the conference finals is an extremely rare occurrence. Only one other No. 7 seed has ever advanced this far: The 1987 Supersonics, who were swept. As for the history of No. 8 seeds on this stage, the 1999 Knicks made it all the way to the Finals, where they lost in five games — the list ends there.