Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Western Conference Finals Preview
That other series is starting tonight, in what seems like kind of a letdown compared to the star-studded Eastern Conference Finals. Yeah, the WCF has it's share of all-star and former all-star players: Dirk (that's him up there looking like Detective Holder from "The Killing"), Durant, Westbrook, and the rest of the former star players on the Mavs. But there's a reason that Miami vs Chicago game 1 was the highest rated basketball game in THE HISTORY OF CABLE TELEVISION (and not just because the Celebrity Apprentice was a rerun). The Heat have the hate factor, I'd guess that more people watching that game were rooting against the Heat than for the Bulls, and at least 3 more dynamic stars than the Thunder or Mavs can offer. Still, true hoops fans have a lot to appreciate here in the deceptively quick and powerful Durant, and Nowitzki's seemingly impossible shots that he hits so easily.
The Thunder are coming off the most unexpectedly exciting series of the Playoffs, a strange series that despite going 7 games and featuring 4 overtimes, also saw each game have a double digit lead. Dallas, meanwhile, has been sitting on their asses waiting since Mother's day after their equally unexpected beating of the champs. The usual school of thought here is that the team that has an unusually long rest period in between series can be rusty and fall out of sync. On the other hand, the extra rest should benefit the old guys in Dallas, while the intense 7 game series shouldn't bother the youngsters in OKC. Let's look at some match ups.
Jason Kidd vs. Russell Westbrook
Jason Kidd couldn't have been happier to see old man Fisher in the Lakers series, but Russell Westbrook is a whole nother story. He's about 100 speeds quicker than Kidd ever was, and he has the size to post up Jason, as well as defend Kidd when he tries to post up (as he so often tries to do against opposing PG's). If Kidd can keep up his 3 point shooting, this might not be as lopsided, but this match up should be dominated by the Thunder.
Deshawn Stevenson vs. Thabo Sefolosha
Neither of these guys is as good as their back-ups but the guy with the name that nobody can remember or pronounce is a defensive specialist who may see some time against Dirk in spurts. This one is pretty much a wash, but I give a slight edge to the Thunder since Stevenson is pretty much useless. By the way, he needs to stop doing the Tony Yayo/John Cena thing after every basket. When you hit 2 shots a game, you have no right to celebrate, and the announcers always incorrectly say it means he can't feel his face because he's so hot (which is cool but wrong).
Shawn Marion vs. Kevin Durant
Not even close. OKC by a hundred miles.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Serge Ibaka
These guys games are so completely different. Ibaka plays the more typical Power Forward game in the Oakley mode, while we all know how Dirk does. Who do you think wins this match up?
Tyson Chandler vs. Kendrick Perkins
Danny Ainge isn't looking so good these days as Perkins is still playing for a Finals berth, and his Celtics looked so overmatched by the Heat. Perk has added a lot of toughness to the young Thunder and can still get pretty damn nasty, while Tyson is probably the best center still playing in the playoffs. Edge to the Mavs here.
Dallas's strong suit (besides Dirk) is their super subs (I don't think they actually have a nickname). They absolutely dominated the Lakers bench, but OKC has some decent reserves themselves in James Harden and Eric Maynor and a couple others. If Barea, Stojakovic and Terry can keep up the pace they were playing at a couple weeks ago though, this should be advantage Dallas.
I didn't give Rick Carlisle much credit before the L.A. series but he almost outcoached the great Phil Jackson at some points. Scott Brooks was a scrappy, little white point guard who somehow forged a career in the NBA, and his toughness rubs off on his squad a little, it seems. I like Brooks as a coach a lot and give him the edge over the more experienced Carlisle.
How will the series pan out? Hell if I know. Even though I probably watch close to 40
hours of NBA basketball a week, I can't predict how anything will turn out this postseason. My instinct is to say Dallas should win being that they have more experience, have outplayed pretty much every team in the league so far this Spring, and Dirk is playing at a phenomenal level, but nothing is going as planned so far so I'll say Oklahoma City in 6.