And so begins the NBA version of the Red River Shootout. The Los Ange—. Scratch that. The Dallas Mavericks. The Oklahoma City Thunder. Get yo’ game face on, folks. This year’s Western Conference Finals promises to be one of the best we’ve seen in a while. When the WCF gets underway on Tuesday, the league’s oldest team will trade punches with the league’s youngest bunch. Who will prevail? I say the Mavericks, of course.
The 3 Most Important Storylines
Dirk Nowitzki v. Kevin Durant
A lot of this series will come down to which superstar emerges as the MVP. Durant has been a scoring machine thus far in the playoffs, averaging more points than any other player. But Dirk has arguably been playing the best basketball of his career – knocking down 3s, 90+% at the line, and playing solid D by Dirk’s standards. I give the edge to Dirk. He knows that his window for winning a championship is small, and there’s no better time than now.
Which version of Russell Westbrook will show up in the WCF?
If Westbrook plays like Derrick Rose, he’ll crush us. I know the Mavs play good help defense, but he’ll still crush us. However, thus far in the playoffs, he’s looked less like Derrick Rose and more like…um, Jason Williams? This is really going to come back to bite me in the ass. Anyways, if Westbrook takes more shots than Durant, and emerges as the “Durant stopper” (thanks, PakaStallion), the Mavericks will be overjoyed. If he accepts his role as the second scoring option on the team, and manages to rebound and drop dimes in addition to scoring (as he did in Game 7), the Mavericks are in trouble. Oh, and did I mention turnovers?
The bench play of the Mavericks proved to be pivotal in their sweep of the defending champs. But will they continue to show up? If they’re going to beat the Thunder, the Mavericks will need quality minutes from Stojakovic, Barea, Terry, and Haywood. On the other hand, the Thunder will need a BIG-TIME effort from James Harden, because the Mavericks will not lose to a two-man scoring team (Westbrook and Durant). If the Mavericks’ bench plays like they did against the Lakers, the Mavericks might wrap this one up earlier than most would think.
The Mavericks in six.
I shouldn’t do this, I really shouldn’t. I know that this is going to come back to haunt me. But I really do think the Mavericks are the superior team. And I think they’ve overcome their mental issues, after closing out the Blazers in Portland and sweeping the Lake Show. Dirk is playing the best basketball of his life, and the Mavericks might be the deepest team left in the playoffs (with Chicago a close second). I know the Thunder are young, quick, and high-scoring, but I think their youth will catch up with them. The Mavericks have suffered a series of heart-breaking playoff losses, but they’re undoubtedly the more battle-tested of the two teams. That’s why I give the nod to my Dallas Mavericks.