All signs point toward a rubber match between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA Finals. But that matchup isn’t written in permanent ink, and a few teams have a chance to upset the apple cart.
So, who are this season’s “dark horse” candidates to reach the NBA Finals behind the Warriors and Cavs, both of whom are heavily favored to win their respective conferences? ESPN set to finding out using its Basketball Power Index (BPI), which uses a number of factors, including strength of schedule, to predict a team’s performance going forward.
The result was a list of five teams: The Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Celtics, according to ESPN, are the league’s third-best dark horse, with a 27 percent chance of beating Cleveland in a playoff series without home court. Only the Raptors have better odds of unseating the Cavs in the Eastern Conference at 48 percent.
“This likely Eastern Conference semifinal matchup would probably not be the sweep it was when the Cavs and Celts met in 2015 in the first round,” ESPN’s Neil Johnson writes. “In fact, the Celtics winning in six games has effectively the same likelihood as the Cavaliers winning in four, per BPI.”
Of course, Boston still is a long shot on paper, with an 8.8 percent chance to win the East and a 0.9 chance to win the NBA title, per ESPN. But the C’s are making some noise after winning nine of their last 11, and it appears the league is starting to take notice.
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