• Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!

    The Eastern Conference Finals are set as the third-seeded Celtics will face off against the fourth-seeded Heat. Both teams pulled off the upset on the higher seed and this series should be extremely competitive. The Heat feature a plethora of shooters and defenders such as Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Their supporting cast is better than the Celtics’, but it comes down to whether or not that is enough to beat the star power that the Celtics possess.

    The Celtics are expecting Gordon Hayward back at some point in this series, which could allow Marcus Smart to come off the bench again and provide some burst scoring and lockup defense. Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are averaging a combined 65.9 points per game in the playoffs, so the support of Smart and Hayward along with those points makes for a tough team to beat. It would be no surprise if this series went seven games due to the gritty defense and capable stars on both sides.

    The Western Conference Semifinals are still underway as the Nuggets and Clippers are heading to game 7 on Tuesday night. The Clippers blew a 19-point lead in Game 6 and have simply been unable to close out games. If they fold on Tuesday and give the series away to the Nuggets, it will be a shock to basketball fans everywhere.  Many fans had the Clippers pegged as the favorite to win the NBA title right next to the Lakers, but the Nuggets have chipped away at their 3-1 deficit and could pull off the upset in Game 7. The Lakers are patiently waiting to see whether they have to prepare for Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Western Conference Finals will begin on Friday night, so the Lakers will have more than enough rest and time to prepare for the series.

    Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

    Celtics win in seven games

    Western Conference Semifinals Prediction

    Clippers win Game 7

    Western Conference Finals Prediction if the Nuggets advance

    Lakers win in five games

    Western Conference Finals Prediction if the Clippers advance

    Clippers win in seven games

    Now here is an overview of the week ahead:

    Weekly Schedule Breakdown

    Eastern Conference Finals – Celtics vs. Heat

    Game 1- Tuesday at 6:40 PM ET

    Game 2- Thursday at TBD

    Game 3- Saturday at 8:30 PM ET

    Western Conference Semis – Nuggets vs. Clippers

    Game 7- Tuesday at 9 PM ET

    Western Conference Finals- Nuggets/Clippers vs. Lakers

    Game 1- Friday at 9 PM ET

    Game 2- Sunday at 7:30 PM ET 

    Injury/Covid Report

    Gordon Hayward (right ankle sprain) is expected to return to action at some point during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.  His timetable was originally four weeks, which just passed on Sunday.  However, he is still not ready to return and his status will be monitored closely on a game-to-game basis.

    Danuel House (personal) left the bubble after it was discovered that he had an unauthorized guest in his hotel room for multiple hours on September 8th.  He missed Game 5 of the series against the Lakers as the Rockets were eliminated.

    Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Week Ahead!

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