Conference Finals Predictions

Dateline: 05/18/97

The Conference Finals appear on the surface to be much less competitive than the earlier rounds. Both the Bulls and the Jazz come off easy series and their opponents are coming off hard-fought seven game wars. What follows are updated odds of the respective teams winning their series and the number of games likely. For those people who doubt the numbers, I point you back to the second round predictions, which not only picked the winners, but picked the number of games it would take, missing only the Miami-New York series by one game.

Overall Four Games Five Games Six Games Seven Games
1. Chicago 90% 24% 34% 18% 15%
2. Miami 10% 1% 1% 4% 4%
1. Utah 88% 16% 35% 16% 20%
3. Houston 12% 1% 1% 7% 4%

As easy as it is to generate these numbers (they come from fairly simple high school math), I don't necessarily believe them. This year, their track record has been too good, picking every single winner.

Utah, with its history of choking in the playoffs, is tempting to pick against. Houston knows how to win in the playoffs and has three outstanding players in its starting lineup as well as the always underrated Mario Elie. Houston buries three-pointers any time they are given them and teams often give them too many in a foolish attempt to shut down Hakeem Olajuwon, whose offense is overrated. If Utah falls into this trap, they will likely fall prey to the three-pointers. During the season, the two teams split their four games and all four were played like playoff games, low scoring competitive affairs. I think that is a pretty good indication that the series is closer than the above numbers estimate. Utah should still come out on top, but it will not be easy.

On the other hand, Chicago should blow Miami out of the water. Chicago has a stop for every one of Miami's players with the possible exception of the Tim Hardaway that lit up the Knicks in the second half of Game Seven today. That Hardaway doesn't show up every game, though. Alonzo Mourning will probably have a "big series", but that will mean a lot of points and not getting in as much foul trouble as he did against the Knicks. But Mourning cannot beat the Bulls because he just makes too many mistakes offensively... unlike the Bulls leader, Michael Jordan. Jordan should really have a big series because Miami's defense will definitely slow down everyone else. When Jordan sees that, he will take over. Jordan will probably average 35 ppg in a series where the team will probably average 85 ppg. That and some clutch shooting from players like Kukoc, Kerr, and Pippen will keep the Bulls from losing the tight games that will come out of this series. Yes, the Bulls will probably lose one, maybe even two, but Miami would have to start a fight and draw Jordan off the bench for an automatic suspension in order to win this series. They wouldn't stoop that low, would they?