Question of the Day: Which two teams will be playing in the NBA Finals? [Updated]
Writers from around Tribune Co. debate which teams will emerge from the NBA conference finals -- the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat from the East and the Dallas Mavericks or Oklahoma City Thunder from the West. Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and weigh in with a comment of your own.
Shandel Richardson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Even after Sunday’s meltdown, the Miami Heat still have to be considered the favorite to win the NBA title. The Heat will eventually solve the riddle that is the Chicago Bulls, and take care of business in the Eastern Conference finals. There won’t be too many nights where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are held to under 20 points.
In the West, the Dallas Mavericks are playing about as good as any team in the league. These aren’t the Mavs of the past, all scoring and nothing else. Dallas actually plays solid defense, and that will be the difference in their series against Oklahoma City. The addition of Tyson Chandler has made them one of the league’s top defensive teams, and it provides a perfect complement to the scoring of Dirk Nowitzki.
So five years later, we’ll have a rematch between the Heat and Mavs, which should prove to be an entertaining series once again.
Lisa Dillman, Los Angeles Times
It will be Dallas vs. Chicago in the NBA Finals.
Wait a minute ...
Wasn't it on April 14 when some wise minds -- well, a lot wiser than mine -- predicted in this space that Dallas was the most likely upset victim in the first round of the playoffs?
That was so last month. And although we were all in agreement on the Dallas upset possibility at the hands of Portland, there was the disclaimer "likely" attached to our offerings.
Rationalization aside, the Mavericks have gone retro, shaking off the old labels and demons.
Owner Mark Cuban played nice in the Lakers series, remaining mild and uncontroversial and almost boring. The Mavericks, since blowing a 23-point lead in Game 4 of the Portland series, have rattled off six straight victories.
Why Dallas, and why Chicago?
Deep and unselfish. That would be the Mavericks' depth and the Bulls' unselfishness and home-court advantage. Dallas has a deep and resourceful bench, and the Mavericks owned the best road record in the regular season, only bolstering that strength by winning the first two games of the Lakers series, at Los Angeles.
You can't dismiss three regular-season victories by the Bulls over the Heat, and now a statement-making win in their playoff series opener. Plus Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer has managed to assert himself just in time. Reinvention was just a rebound away.
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
Are the Lakers and Celtics still in it? Those were my preseason -- and throughout the season -- picks, but it's a new guard in the NBA, as evidenced by four different teams from last season reaching the conference finals. And the Bulls and Mavericks will advance.
The Bulls have too much depth, too much defense and are two strong at point guard and center -- which just happen to be the Heat's biggest weaknesses -- not to advance. Plus, the Heat rely too much on isolation. And although Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are singular talents, the Bulls thrive on stopping teams that don't move the ball.
In the West, Dirk Nowitzki is the ultimate nightmare matchup, and the Mavericks are loaded with perimeter shooters. Jason Kidd is an ageless wonder. And though the Thunder come with size and depth, Tyson Chandler has finally solidified Dallas' defense.
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
I think we’re headed for a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
Heat vs. Mavericks. D-Wade vs. Dirk.
The Chicago Bulls' 103-82 dismantling of the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was one of the most impressive performances by any team this postseason. But if the Heat beat the Bulls in Game 2, the momentum of the entire series suddenly turns.
As well as Luol Deng defended LeBron James in Game 1, I don't foresee James going five for 15 from the field again. Just as important, the Bulls won't continue to hit almost 48% of their 3-point tries.
In the West, experience and fresher legs will give the Dallas Mavericks the edge over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd easily have more playoff experience than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If the Mavs hit their three-pointers, it'll be a short series.]
Photo: Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki. Credit: Ron Jenkins / Fort Worth Star-Telegram