Western Conference Finals
3. Dallas Mavericks vs 4. Oklahoma City Thunder
I must admit I did not think Dallas would knock off the Lakers, but they did and they did it impressively. Oklahoma City on the other hand I did have advancing through to the West Finals. OKC didn’t have it as easy, as it was clear that Memphis would give them a run for their money. What does this all mean? It means that we have a very exciting Western Conference Finals in store for us.
Over the first two rounds I haven’t shown Dallas the respect they deserve. They have two Hall of Fame players, one of the best sixth man in the league, and a stellar bench. Dallas’ defense is very underrated, and they have players they could throw in front of Kevin Durant. Tyson Chandler is one of the top post defenders and shot blockers. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the game’s best and most underrated players. Nobody can defend Nowitzki, he is a mismatch every time he steps on the court. Dirk will have to continue his superb play and attack the basket. I imagine OKC will try Serge Ibaka on Nowitzki to start. Ibaka is linky and athletic and may have some success defending Dirk, but Dirk is too gifted of an offensive player to be held in check. Dallas’ other Hall of Famer Jason Kidd will once again get a lot of open 3-point attempts. It is imperative that he takes advantage of this open opportunities so that the Thunder cannot double down on Dirk. Bench play will be crucial for Dallas. Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea have to be instant offense off the bench. They must attack the OKC defense and keep them off of Dirk. Peja Stojakovic may be an ex-factor. If he is knocking down threes, the Thunder may be in for a long series.
A long series this will be. Oklahoma City packs the thunder and will give Dallas all they can handle. OKC need their stars to play like superstars. They will also need to push the tempo and try to outrun the Mavericks. Lastly, much like Dallas, bench play will be crucial. We already know that Kevin Durant is a superstar and is ear the top of the short list of top players in the league. Durant proved that he is a superstar with his 39 point performance in game 7 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although Shawn Marion and Corey Brewer are long and active defenders, much like Dirk, Durant cannot be held in check. KD must have a huge serious if OKC wants to advance to the finals. Russell Westbrook must go from a star to a superstar in this series. At times during this postseason Westbrook has forced the issue and taken some questionable shots. Westbrook will have a decided advantage over Jason Kidd and he must attack him on the offensive end. Westbrook must push the pace and get his team out on the break. They are a younger, more athletic team and can wear out the Mavs in transition. Lastly, OKC’s bench has to be consistent. James Harden his continued to step his game up in these playoffs. He must match Jason Terry’s output if the Thunder are to have a chance. Eric Maynor, Nick Collison, and Daquan Cook will have to provide solid minutes and contribute offensively.
Due to the longer layoff, Dallas may stumble and lose game 1. As of last week I was leaning towards OKC in this series, but I feel that Dallas has just a little more fire power off the bench and more consistent players. This year will not be the year the Thunder takes the west, and the Mavericks will win an epic series in 7.