MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 May) – In the Western Conference playoffs of the NBA I rooted for the Dallas Mavericks and was so overjoyed when they humbled defending champion LA Lakers (4-0) and went on to eject the Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1) to land in the finals. As for the Eastern Conference playoffs I had hoped for the Chicago Bulls to do the same feat and prove to themselves that there’s life after Michael Jordan.
Alas, the Miami Heat was also determined to take another crack at glory five years after getting a championship – by beating the Mavericks (4-2) in the 2006 finals series.
Youth versus experience clearly characterized the battle for a finals slot in both sides of the NBA’s geography. Dallas’ mainstays are all in their 30s while those of Oklahoma are in their early 20s. For the Mavs, it was Dirk Nowitzki who often carried the scoring load, making points at crucial stages of the games. With his 7-foot frame and ability to shoot from any range, he is always a headache for defenders. They also have a spunky point guard in Jason Kidd, a cutter like Shawn Marion and a bench like Jason Terry who was instrumental in their shutout of the fancied Lakers.
Oklahoma, however, is no pushover. Their main star, 21-year-old Kevin Durant is an agile 6’9” who is as prolific as Nowitzki in making points. And he has able backups in Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But as Game 4 of their series with Dallas showed, they need to learn to play a better endgame. In that particular game Oklahoma led by 15 points with less than four minutes left. Commonsense would have told them to slow down and orchestrate more deliberate plays. They didn’t, enabling Dallas to stage a 17-2 run to force overtime and literally steal the thunder away from them. Worse, Oklahoma’s coach did not call a single timeout during that stretch.
The same flaw – lack of endgame savvy — hounded Oklahoma in Game 5. Oklahoma was ahead – until Nowitzki buried a triple for the lead with 74 second left. The Thunder responded with a shot but the Mavs made four unanswered points after that to clinch the Western Conference title via another come from behind victory.
On the eastern side, the Bulls only managed to win Game 1. Unfortunately for them, they had to rely too much on MVP Derrick Rose in terms of offense. Most of his teammates were good in defense but were inconsistent in point production. Besides, whenever Miami fielded its big players Rose, a smaller guy, would be in a quandary on who to guard. And as shown in the decisive Game 5, Chicago, like Oklahoma, lacked maturity, losing a 13-point advantage with just over three minutes to go by allowing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to make three triples in a row.
So it will be Dallas against Miami all over again. The Mavs are out to slay the ghosts of 2006, when they were up in the series 2-0 and were up by 13 points in Game 3 with five minutes to play. The Heat will go back to the finals with a new lineup except for Wade and Udonis Haslem, who figured in the 2006 championship series.
Since the 2006 finals the Mavs have never lost to the Heat. But championship games are a different stuff. Let’s see what’s in store this time for these two talented, experienced teams.
What about our own team captain in government? For me, he has neither youth nor experience. No chance to make it to the playoffs. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)