Conference Finals Runner Ups (Did you fall for the Okey-Doke)
Let’s start with the losers first (I use the word loser in the most respectful manner).
The Oklahoma City Thunder had a great year. As a matter of fact they over achieved. If at the being of the season you told OKC they were going to lose in the Western Conference Finals, they would have taken it with a smile (why did I have to give them a smile? “LAME!”) So, can we please stop blaming Russell Westbrook for the Thunder not making it to the Finals? Dude could have shot 100% and they still would have lost in six. Now I will concede that his decision making is mind boggling at times, but is he really the reason they lost? If you look at Westbrook’s playoff numbers, they will look eerily similar to his regular season number. So you can complain about how many shots he took, but that what he did all season. With that being said, he should get the ball to Kevin Durant more…if Durant can get open. That brings me to one of the Thunders biggest problems, Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant has been prematurely crowned as a superstar in the NBA (Spoiler Alert: Derrick Rose has also been prematurely crowned, but we’ll get to that later). He is a great player, but he’s not a superstar. Durant is a set shooter that relies on a lax defense creating spacing for him to be effective. So at the end of games when defensive intensity picks up, he can’t get open (I don’t know if you noticed, but superstars are able to get open at the end of games. I’m not saying, but I’m saying). Consequently Russell Westbrook takes terrible shots, and the chances of the Thunder winning extremely diminishes. If I could give Durant some advice I would tell him to stop worrying about which back pack to wear to the press conference, and start lifting weights. As a matter of fill your back pack with ankle weights, a bible, and a steno pad full of triple threat drills.
The Chicago Bulls also had a great postseason, and in the next couple of years they should be a title contender. The problem the Bulls have is obvious. Outside of Derrick Rose they don’t have anyone that can score consistently. So when they add a scorer or two, they will be ready. The problem is they have a lot of money locked up in their current roster. That means they’re going to have to sign someone willing to take less, probably a veteran player that has already gotten paid, and just wants a championship. So Chicago, brace yourself for (drum roll please) Richard Hamilton.
Now let’s talk MVP (Did you think I forgot? “Ya’ll must have forgot” – Roy Jones Jr…why did I just reference that). Derrick Rose is a great player, and he is a future star in the NBA. Now I beg you to please give him some time to develop into the MVP, everyone has preordained him to be.
If Rose is going to be the guy, he must work on his shot…EVERY SHOT. That means jump shot, free throws, and finishing at the rim. I don’t want to hear people tell me about how Rose is the best finisher, because guess what? I watched the games, and dude couldn’t get it done. At the end of games Derrick Rose was not able to make the plays, to propel his team to victory. Whether he was at the free throw line, or taking fade away jump shots over LeBron, (BTW How many times does Tom Thibodeau have to draw up that fade away jump shot over LeBron play before he figures out, “This Caca doesn’t work?”) dude couldn’t get it done. Once he improves his shot. Then he’ll be ready to lead a team to the finals, and join the likes of Isiah Thomas and Allen Iverson. Until then let’s keep him in the class of Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury. Marbury…that’s way too harsh. Strike him and insert Tim Hardaway.
The NBA Finals
“So you made it this far, heh, we upstairs, I let you up here. You special, Marley, don’t shoot, you know what this is?”
The Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat have proven that they are the two best teams in the NBA. Now the stage is set for something epic. We have a rematch. Well kind of like a rematch… actually it’s nothing like a rematch. The only players remaining from the 2006 Finals are Dwayne Wade, Udonis Haslem, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and a complete bum in Erick Dampier (The fact that Dampier and Joel Anthony have a chance to win a title, kind of makes me want to throw up in my mouth “pink vomit”). You also have Pat Riley and Mark Cuban (anytime Mark Cuban is involved you’re going to have a good time). So there is plenty of star power. At the same time there are an abundance of scrubs, which isn’t good for the NBA. I guarantee there’s a D-League team somewhere creating cap room, hoping to get 3 guys to take less money, so they could go to the Finals. If Miami wins the tile they should only order 7 championship rings. Give LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Pat Riley one each, and let the rest of the team argue over the last three (that’s right Erik Spoelstra get in there. Earn your keep for once).
This NBA Finals has great story lines. On one side you have the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban, two guys that desperately want a championship. One guy that needs a championship to solidify his place among the greats, while the other guy just want to shove it in everyone’s face as he flips David Stern the bird. You also have the underling story of Jason Kidd, a first ballot hall of famer that is going to the Finals for the third time in his career. Will he finally get that elusive ring?
On the other side you have LeBron James wearing the black hat of the NBA that doesn’t quite fit (I think it’s because he’s scared to remove his headband and expose his loss age). This guy has validated his decision and Cleveland’s outrage last offseason. To all the people wondering why someone would burn LeBron’s jersey, and what makes a fan base have so much venom for a guy? “Did you see that last series? That’s why.” After dominating this year’s MVP, and leading Miami to a finals appearance. Can we collectively say, that’s a bad boy, or as Mark Jackson would say, “Mamma there goes that man.”
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, and it’s not close. Not only can he score on anyone, but he can guard anyone (If you disagree please see Derrick Rose in the fourth quarter of the last four games). So, let’s stop acting like he has to prove that he’s the best player on the Heat. He is better than Wade, and the alpha dog of that team. Now excuse me while I vomit.
I’m not going to sit up here and act like I know who is going to win the Championship. I will make a prediction, because I have to, but I have no idea who is going to win this series. With that being said I do see some advantages.
The Miami Heat’s biggest strength is their biggest weakness. They rely on 3 players for all their offense and defense intensity. Now when all those guys are on, you’re just not going to beat them. It’s that simple. Those three guys are better than every starting lineup in the league. You couple that with the fact that they are playing the best defense in the playoff, and their practically unbeatable. However, if you can just get one of those three off their game you have a great chance to beat them. Both the Celtics and Bulls were able to limit one of the big three at times, but they weren’t able to capitalize on the other end. So, what does that mean for Dallas?
The Dallas Mavericks will be able to stop Chris Bosh with Tyson Chandler. Don’t overreact to the fact that Bosh had a great series against the Bulls, because let’s be honest, the Bulls interior defense was putrid at best (The Bulls should have petitioned the league to only play offense…oh yeah, they couldn’t do that either). You have to give Bosh credit for taking advantage of that weakness, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate. I aspect the Mavs to limit Bosh, but can they take advantage?
Offensively the Mavericks have always been great. So, I don’t think they will have a problem scoring for the first 40 minutes of the game. My question is, what are they going to do down the stretch? We all know they have Dirk, but let’s say LeBron guards him down the stretch. Who is going to be the guy to take over? Are you going to bank on Jason Terry or J.J. Barea? Is that going to work? You can try to point to their performance so far in the playoffs, but the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers gagged away games at the end. So, I don’t think the Mavericks won as much as those teams gave it away.
So, both of these teams are highly flawed. Whichever team is able to cover up their flaws the best will win this series. I think the Mavericks will be that team. Their margin for error is higher than that of the Heat. The amount of scoring options the Dallas Mavericks have will create problems the Heat can’t fix. Miami will not be able to hide Mike Bibby/ Mario Chalmers/any other useless defensive player they put on the court. Them cats will be exposed, and Dallas will walk away with the Championship.
Mavericks win, 4-2
Have your iPhone ready to catch Mark Cuban celebrate in a toddlers t-shirt.
Then again the Miami Heat may win. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James could play like the hall-of-famers they are, and rip the Larry O’Brien trophy out of Dallas’ hands. We will just have to see.
*This piece was originally posted on The Kortney Shane Pillar on May 28th 2011
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