NBA Playoffs: Thoughts On The Conference Finals

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The Western Conference Finals are set to tip off tonight, with an intriguing match-up that few people anticipated seeing. It has been less of a surprise to see the young Oklahoma City Thunder maneuver through the first two rounds than to see Dallas handle Portland in round one and then embarrass the defending champs in round two.

Dirk Nowitzki and company were one of the least respected teams entering the playoffs, mainly for the reason that they were just that: Dirk and a bunch of guys. Yet, they have shown there is enough support for Nowitzki, who has been spectacular in these playoffs by the way, so far during this run. Jason Terry has been consistently killing teams with his three-point shooting. Peja Stojakovic is acting like he is back in a Sacramento Kings jersey. Tyson Chandler is giving them a legitimate inside presence and J.J. Barea is pissing everybody off by being so productive, all while looking like somebody you wouldn’t pick to play on your pick-up team.

Dallas will have to deal with shaking off the rust against the Thunder who are coming off a hard fought seven game series against the upstart Memphis Grizzlies. I wouldn’t count on the Thunder being tired considering their youth. Russell Westrbook is the X-Factor in this series. He needs to remember he has Kevin Durant on his team and that despite being a legitimate scorer himself, he is a point guard first who has to run the game and make sure Durant is getting his touches. Oklahoma City’s role players have stepped up throughout these playoffs and it will take a group effort to slow down Nowitzki and prevent Dallas from getting too many open looks from behind the arc.

The Eastern Conference Finals are already a game underway. Chicago served an emphatic reminder to Miami that they didn’t win anything when they knocked Boston out of the playoffs in round two, despite LeBron James crying on the floor for ten minutes. The Heat can’t be satisfied with beating a broken down Celtics team or they are going to get run off the floor the rest of the series, like they did in game one.

Chicago is a better, deeper all-around team than Miami. However, if LeBron James and Dwayne Wade can stay in rhythm together and produce at the end of games like they did against Boston (especially James) they have the ability to overpower Chicago, who has struggled with consistency in these playoffs. The whole world is rooting for the Bulls to make sure Miami’s pre-season celebration looks as stupid as possible but can they keep up their defensive intensity from game one?

There won’t be any Lakers, Celtics, or Spurs in this year’s NBA Finals, which will be refreshing. I would anticipate a long series in each Conference Finals match-up. At this point, any combination of winners is going to produce a NBA Finals filled with interesting subplots.

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