By BEN MORSE
Wow. Two Conference semifinal Game 7’s on Sunday. Two incredible results.
First, the Boston Celtics knocked out the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks with an imposing 109-81 victory.
And just when you thought that couldn’t be bettered, Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks stepped up to steal the show.
Playing in Phoenix against the Suns – the team with the best regular season record in the NBA and who made last year’s Finals – the Mavericks dominated from start to finish, comfortably beating the Suns 123-90.
The stunning set of Game 7 results set up a pair of mouthwatering Conference Finals to determine who will meet in the NBA Finals.
In the Western Conference, the Mavs will face the Golden State Warriors, while in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics face off against the Miami Heat.
Stunning Doncic leads Dallas to WCF
“How good is Luka Doncic.”
Four-time Champions League winner and World Cup winner Toni Kroos couldn’t help showing his appreciation for what he was witnessing on TV.
Doncic was on a tear on Sunday night, lighting up the Suns for 35 points and 10 rebounds in the blowout Game 7 victory.
Despite the pressure on his shoulders as the Mavericks’ talisman and leader, it never seemed to bother the 23-year-old, who calmly dissected the Suns’ previously stout defense as his team raced into an early lead.
At the end of the first quarter, the Mavs led 27-17. At halftime, they lead 57-27 with Doncic’s 27 first-half points matching the Suns’ entire team total.
Helped by 30 points from Spencer Dinwiddie off the bench, Doncic didn’t even have to play the fourth quarter such was the cushion his side had built.
And after advancing to Dallas’ first Western Conference finals since 2011, it’s no wonder the young Slovenian was beaming.
“I can’t get this smile off my face right now,” Doncic said. “I’m just really happy.
“Honestly, I think we deserve this. We’ve been playing hard the whole series. Maybe, a couple of games here we weren’t ourselves, but we came here with a statement in Game 7. We believed. Our locker room believed. Everybody believed. So I’m just happy.”
The Mavericks will now face the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday in San Francisco.
Golden State narrowly edged past the Memphis Grizzlies in their Western Conference semifinal earlier this week.
The series will see two of the NBA’s most exciting line-ups of guards go head-to-head: for Dallas, Doncic, Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson and for Golden State, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole.
Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and head coach Steve Kerr are aiming for their fourth NBA title together, as part of one of the greatest dynasties in the sport.
And although they spluttered to their series victory over the Grizzlies, it means they’re theoretically just eight wins away from hoisting yet another Larry O’Brien trophy.
A confident Doncic stands in their way though, and Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd says he won’t be standing aside.
“He’s Luka. He loves the stage,” Kidd said. “As it gets bigger, he gets better.”
Celtic coming of age
For the Celtics, it has been a season of gelling and grinding, culminating in their hard-fought Game 7 victory against the Bucks on Sunday.
Grant Williams had 27 points – hitting seven triples – while Jayson Tatum had 23 points, six rebounds and eight assists as Boston knocked out the reigning champions.
Their accuracy from long range – the Celtics set an NBA Game 7 record with 22 three-pointers – helped them nullify two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who had 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists.
The Game 7 victory capped off a back-and forth series, with the Celtics winning the final two clashes having been 3-2 down with Milwaukee needing to win just once to advance.
But, with their backs against the wall, Boston coach Ime Udoka’s men showed their determination, remaining steadfast against a relentless Antetokounmpo and the Bucks — who were without star Khris Middleton throughout the series.
And with Williams’ accuracy from deep playing a vital part in the Game 7 victory, Celtics star guard Jaylen Brown thinks he deserves a new nickname.
“Call him Grant Curry now,” Brown said.
The Celtics advance to their fourth Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the past six years and set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals as they face the Heat.
Miami clinched its spot at this stage of the playoffs with a relatively comfortable semifinal victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
Built upon its steadfast defense, the top-seeded Heat will need to be at its best to stop Tatum and company when they roll into town on Tuesday for Game 1.
Led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and PJ Tucker – a hamstring injury has plighted star point guard Kyle Lowry and his status for Game 1 is up in the air – Miami’s defense stifled Joel Embiid and the rest of Philadelphia’s team.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra has shown why he’s valued as one of the best head coaches in the league, masterminding Miami’s run to the NBA’s final four teams.
But with stars on both sides, it’ll be fascinating to see who comes out on top over the best-of-seven series.
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