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Category: NBA Finals

Which four teams will be in the NBA conference finals?

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Writers from the Tribune Co. try to predict which teams will be the last four standing at the end of the upcoming NBA season. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the discussion with a comment of your own.

Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times

Barring injuries and any other calamities that always seems to take hold of some team in the NBA, trying to decide which four teams will reach the conference finals is no easy task.

In the Eastern Conference, it is easy to pick the Miami Heat. After all, they are the favorites to win the NBA championship -– again.

The Boston Celtics are an aging group, so unless they find the fountain of youth, it’s hard to see them in the finals.

The Orlando Magic is in a quandary with the Dwight Howard will-he-be-traded situation. So no one knows how good this team will be and if Howard will even be on the team by season’s end.

That leaves the Chicago Bulls as the only other choice to meet the Heat in the East finals. The Bulls have reigning MVP Derrick Rose and they added Richard Hamilton to their backcourt.

As for the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder seems poised to take that next step and reach the conference finals for the second straight season.

After that, it’s really hard to choose.

The Lakers aren’t the team they once were and are getting older. The new-look Clippers are exciting with Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Blake Griffin, but it’s going to take some time for them to coalesce.

Well, that leaves the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to get back to the conference finals, and they aren’t as strong as last season: they lost Tyson Chandler, their anchor on defense and Caron Butler, who joined the Clippers.

But until the Mavericks are knocked off, they are the team to beat.

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LeBron James, a joke?

A friend messaged me with a joke a few moments ago.

"If you ask LeBron James to break a dollar, he'll only give you 75 cents," he said. "Why? Because he never has the fourth quarter."

Of course, he was referring to the fact that James scored only two points in the fourth quarter in Thursday's Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks. For the NBA Finals series -- which the Mavs lead, 3-2 -- he's totaled only 11 fourth-quarter points.

This after James tweeted "Now or Never" before Thursday's game.

It seems like King James is looking more like The Joker.

Will things change in Game 6 in Miami?

-- Melissa Rohlin

NBA Finals: Can the Miami Heat still win the NBA title? [Video]

Are the Heat finished?

Well, it certainly looked that way in Game 5 of the NBA Finals as the Dallas Mavericks moved closer to winning the first title in their 31-year history with a 112-103 victory over the ailing Heat on Thursday night.

NoQuitzki -- also known as Dirk Nowitzki -- once again dominated, finishing with 29 points as the Mavericks took advantage of an injury to Miami's Dwyane Wade to slowly pull away in the second half.

But with the series moving back to the Sunshine State, does Miami still have a shot?

Tell us what you think ...

RELATED:

Mavericks put the heat on the Heat

Video: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on Game 5 loss

Video: Jason Terry on big plays in the fourth quarter of Game 5

Photos: Game 5: Heat vs. Mavericks

-- Austin Knoblauch

Question of the Day: Now that the series is tied at 2-2, who will win the NBA Finals? [Updated]

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Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss the NBA Finals. Check back throughout the day for more responses and weigh in by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.

Steve Svekis, South Florida Sun Sentinel

It's a best-of-three series now, and the Miami Heat own home-court advantage. With that being the case, Dwyane Wade will take home his second championship and NBA Finals MVP trophies.

Despite LeBron James' putrid offensive production down the stretch during this series (2.3 points per fourth quarter), the Heat has still been in position to win each game. If James remains in hibernation, then there is a chance the Heat could drop another game at home, and Dirk Nowitzki could get revenge for his 2006 failings against the Heat.

Still, that scenario is highly improbable. It took the miracle of all NBA Finals miracles for the Mavericks to take Game 2 in Miami. It's hard to imagine them winning again in South Florida.

Continue reading »

Is LeBron James a greater basketball player than Michael Jordan?

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In the wake of LeBron James' dominant play in leading the Miami Heat into the NBA Finals, Scottie Pippen, in an interview on ESPN radio, said something a little, er, unexpected.

Pippen said Michael Jordan was the NBA's greatest scorer of all time, but after the showing James has made in the playoffs this season, he said that James might be the greatest player of all time.

We'll let you be the judge as to whether Pippen's memory is in steep decline, and far be it from us to try to influence your opinion on this. But a few things that might be worth considering: Pippen, Jordan's sidekick during the Chicago Bulls' six championship seasons in the 1990s, was selected as one of the top 50 players of all time in the list compiled by the NBA from a panel of experts a few years back. The guess here is that Pippen's inclusion in that elite list might have not have been a slam dunk without the impact of Jordan.

Tell us what you think. LeBron is only four wins away from that first title, leaving him with only five more to go to tie Jordan. Who's better, Michael or LeBron?

ALSO:

Mark Heisler: Heat is on fire

Heat on to Finals behind James, Wade

Heisler: Questioning the decision of Jim Buss

--Mike James

Photo: LeBron James. Credit: Jonathon Daniel / Getty Images.

Question of the day: Which teams do you currently have playing in the NBA Finals?

Kobe1 Writers from around Tribune Co. pick who they think will be playing in the NBA Finals in June. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times

If you go by records, the NBA Finals would be between the San Antonio Spurs, who own the league’s best mark at 24-6, and the Boston Celtics, who are tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the second-best record in the league at 23-5.

But the Miami Heat are right there with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

The Spurs are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA, having won 11 of their last 12 games. The thing with the Spurs is that they have won four NBA championships in the last 12 years, so they know how to win in big-game situations.

San Antonio has a great coach in Gregg Popovich and three players who have won NBA championships: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who is playing like an All-Star this season.

Boston also has a great coach in Doc Rivers and has a veteran team that’s still smarting over its Game 7 loss in the NBA Finals to the Lakers.

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The Lakers and Celtics will meet in the NBA Finals.

Don't be fooled -- however impressive -- by the regular-season surge of the Heat. When playoff basketball comes, the court will shrink, the defense and rebounding will become more important and the Heat's weaknesses will be exposed.

The Celtics are playing this well without Kendrick Perkins, who won't make anyone forget Bill Russell. But his rugged defense and rebounding will offer them more depth at a time it's most necessary.

The Lakers are currently experiencing some unexpected hiccups. But Kobe Bryant's will to win is the ultimate Heimlich maneuver. He'll demand his teammates play better when it counts the most and help the Lakers outlast the Spurs in an entertaining Western Conference finals. Length wins in the playoffs, and the Lakers are long, not to mention long on talent and teamwork.

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Based on what we know now, at this moment, don't be surprised by a rematch of the 2006 Finals.

Yes, Boston has played well, but there's still 3 1/2 months to beat down an aging roster. Ditto with the Spurs. The schedule has yet to fully put its grip on either team.

The Heat and Mavericks, by contrast, are the league's teams of the moment, each streaking, each with an attractive balance of offense and defense.

But these also are not the same teams they were in 2006.

Dallas has the added defensive boost of Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. They no longer have to count on Dirk Nowitzki to shoot them over the top. Similarly, it no longer would have to be the Dwyane Wade show in a Heat-Mavericks Finals.

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, and Boston guard Tony Allen battle for the ball during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Question of the Day: Will the Lakers three-peat? If not, who will stop them? [Updated]

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Four reporters from the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel

Considering the NBA is about to undergo an extreme makeover, it is ludicrous to even try to handicap the 2010-11 championship race, let alone make any proclamations about a Lakers team that might not even have Phil Jackson leading the way.

That said, this hardly was a team of dominance this season, but rather one pushed to the ultimate limit in the ultimate game of the season. And even before the desperate scramble from a 3-2 Finals deficit, Kobe & Co. were being pushed to Game 6s against the Thunder and Suns.

No, let's first see where LeBron & Co. land.

Of course, should LeBron land with the Lakers in some sort of sign-and-trade, then there might not be a need for a debate, or 2010-11 season, at all.

[Updated at 12:20 p.m.:

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

The Lakers will repeat as long as Kobe Bryant draws a paycheck and Pau Gasol continues to supply his occasional bursts of magic.

And, no, this team isn't as dominant as those led by Magic. But with the Eastern Conference full of pretenders like the Orlando Magic and the Whatever LeBrons, that conference isn't ready. (The Celtics' Big Three made a valiant last gasp.) And the Suns' surprising advancement to this season's Western Conference finals shows how lacking the Lakers' substantive competition is.

Yes, this title was tougher. But Tim Duncan is a year older, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a year or two too young and Kobe lives for history. He should get it in the form of his second three-peat, matching his idol, good ol' MJ.]

[Updated at 1:30 p.m.:

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel 

Get ready for a three-peat, Los Angeles. The Lakers should be considered the favorites to win a third consecutive NBA title next June, as long as Phil Jackson returns as head coach.

The nucleus of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest is under contract for the 2010-11 season. Bynum should be healthy. Even if Derek Fisher retires, Mitch Kupchak should be able to find a point guard to fill the void.

The big question marks revolve around Jackson and LeBron James. Jackson steadies the Lakers, and without him the star-filled Lakers could lose sight of the team concept.

James adds another variable to the equation. If he joins Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Heat immediately would join the league’s elite and could cause the Lakers (and everyone else) headaches.

In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the team of the future. But for one more year at least, the Lakers should be the class of the conference.]

Photo: Big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum embrace in the middle of the Lakers' celebration on the Staples Center court after an 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

For Lakers-Celtics Game 7, police will be out in full force

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Amid all the yellow and purple on Thursday, there also will be a lot of blue. 

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Wednesday that he would deploy hundreds of extra officers to the NBA championship game between the Lakers and Boston Celtics in an attempt to dissuade fans from gathering outside the Staples Center.

After the Lakers won the title last year, fans outside the Staples Center threw rocks and bottles, vandalized and looted. When the Lakers won the championship in 2000 for the first time in 12 years, fans destroyed two police cars and damaged more than 70 others vehicles while rioting.

Beck, however, said he doesn't expect any problems this year.

-- Melissa Rohlin

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Lakers fans celebrate outside the Staples Center in 2000. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Question of the day: Who will win Game 7 of the NBA Finals and what will be the key?

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Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to leave a comment and tell them why they are wrong.

Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel

The constant from the Lakers this postseason is we have seen their best game only when cornered. There was no finer example than Tuesday's Game 6.

The desperation should be similar Thursday, especially against a wounded opponent, with a limited Kendrick Perkins far more debilitating for the Celtics than a limited Andrew Bynum is for the Lakers. It's not as if rotating around a hobbled Bynum is anything new for Phil Jackson.

Unlike Game 6, the desperation will be equal on both sides, with a far closer outcome expected. And that could reduce it to one play, one moment, one all-or-nothing sequence.

Can you bet against Kobe in such a situation? This will be the ultimate moment of spiting all those who dared declare LeBron MVP for 2009-10.

Updated at 8:28 a.m.

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel

In an NBA Finals series that features four certain future Hall of Famers, who would’ve thought it would all come down to Kendrick Perkins?

The Boston Celtics’ burly starting center injured his right knee in Game 6, and with him hobbled, the Celtics won’t have the interior size to stop the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 tonight.

If these Finals have taught us anything, it’s that the Celtics and Lakers are evenly matched. Now, with Perkins hurt, the Lakers have a clear advantage — and not just because they’ve won 10 of their 11 games at Staples Center this postseason.

Perkins is Boston’s “glue” guy. He plays tenacious defense. He collects rebounds. He makes over half of his shot attempts. If Perkins can’t play, the Celtics will depend on aging Rasheed Wallace and energetic, but erratic, Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

Kobe Bryant better get his thumb ready for his fifth NBA championship ring.

Updated at 12:07 p.m.

Baxter Holmes, The Los Angeles Times

Lakerdom: Prepare the sun block, charge the camera batteries and plan for a shower of purple and gold confetti to rain all over you and yours on an upcoming parade-filled SoCal summer day. When the game clock strikes zero Thursday, your Lakers will be world champions for the second straight year.

Game 7 will come down to rebounding. Whoever has won that contest has won each game. Now, each team’s centers have banged up right knees, but the Celtics Kendrick Perkins will likely miss Thursday, whereas Andrew Bynum won’t.  It’s a tragic injury for the Celtics, who I picked to win this series in seven games before it started. If he were healthy, I’d stick with them. But, he isn’t, so I can’t.

Updated at 1:20 p.m.

Kenneth Charles Johnson

The Lakers will win Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the only key is if Kobe Bryant navigates that pesky LA traffic to find the Staples Center. Once he's indoors, he's not losing.

Kobe shines brightest when the pressure is the greatest. And his ability to demand accountability from his teammates is the closest to Michael Jordan basketball fans have seen. Kobe has been on a mission since the playoffs again, seeking one for the thumb to tie him with Magic Johnson. He's not losing when he's this close.

Also, the Lakers didn't just dismantle the Celtics in Game 6. They reversed this media-created idea that the Celtics were in the Lakers' heads. Their offensive spacing led to wonderful defensive transition; the victory proved both efficient and eviscerating. And Kobe revels in such moments and will make sure it happens again.



 

Everybody loves the Lakers, 90210-style

Several friends and I were having an early dinner Sunday at a Beverly Hills Italian restaurant, chosen mostly because it was equidistant from all of us.

The place had televisions blasting the Lakers-Celtics game, and we sat outside, on a sheltered patio, next to another TV screen that was also tuned to the game.

Presently, my friend Judy pointed out that beyond the patio barrier a homeless couple, a woman with a man in a wheelchair, were looking at us. No, said my friend Nancy after some moments -- they're not looking at us. They're watching the game.

Sure enough -- they were fans.

What's a great game without some nosh? When we ordered our own food, we also ordered the house-special pizza. When it showed up at our table, I carried it out to the homeless fans beyond the patio walls.

They thanked us. That didn't surprise me. But our waiter, when he saw where that pizza had gone, thanked us too. A bit later, someone else brought some Starbucks brew over to the couple.

The Lakers lost. But it was indeed a great game.

-- Patt Morrison

Actor Rondell Sheridan takes a look at Lakers-Celtics Game 5

The latest in an ongoing series covering the NBA Finals with actor/comedian Rondell Sheridan.


Jose Salviati: Rondell, before Game 5 there was talk of sending Bynum back to L.A. to get ready for Games 6 and maybe 7. You think the Lakers regret not opting for that option?

Rondell Sheridan:  No doubt, the Lakers should have sent Bynum back to L.A. and given him five days' rest, because the Lakers length wasnʼt a factor at all in Game 5. Though the Lakers won the offensive boards 16-7, the total was 35-34 Boston. Bynum played major minutes but was ineffective in both points and rebounds.

JS: The Lakers need a half-court game to take advantage of that length, but this game seemed to be played at a quicker pace which favors the Celtics.

Lakerslogo RS: From the beginning Boston set the pace. They were running up and down the court. They made their first three baskets and the Lakers had the disadvantage of taking the ball out of the basket. The Lakers looked fresh in the beginning too, but then Bynum handled an alley-op and came down gimpy after the slam dunk. It seemed to go downhill after that.
This game ended exactly the way I said it would. I said, if Bynum didnʼt show up, Kobe would have to score to 40. Well tonight Kobe scored 38. I said the Lakers would have to find another scorer besides Kobe and Gasol. Unfortunately nobody on the Lakers got my memo. Cause Gasol was the ONLY Laker besides Kobe in double figures and he only had 12 points.

JS: Is Rondo the next Jason Kidd, or the next Jason Williams? He seems to waver between those two extremes.

RS: The only thing that kept the Lakers in the game was Rondoʼs constant mistakes in decision making in the third quarter. Rondo led the game with seven turnovers. However, the Lakers countered Rondoʼs mistakes by keeping Gasol out of the third quarter until the 5:30 mark. Gasol didnʼt have any fouls, I didnʼt get it. That didnʼt make any sense.
When Gasol and Bynum werenʼt in the game together the Lakers showed their
vulnerability.

JS: Laker vulnerabilities seemed plentiful, didn't they?

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