May 26, 2011

Looking forward to a Dallas-Miami NBA Finals
In the classic battle between youth and experience, the latter always edges out victorious. This was proven once again in the just concluded Western Conference Finals of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The veterans-led Dallas Mavericks won over the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-1, in a very offensive-minded conference championship series (only in Game 3 did both teams go under 100 points).

That 4-1 slate looks deceiving though, as Dallas actually did not completely dominate the whole series. In fact, the last two games were OKC games, simply stolen by the Mavs in the endgame. In Game 4, Kevin Durant and company were up by 15 points with just under 5 minutes to play but could only manage 2 points the rest of the way as Dallas dropped in 17 points to force the game into overtime. Dallas eventually won, 112-105. Game 5 was pretty much the same story. OKC led Dallas most of the game before the latter staged a 17-6 run down the stretch to steal the show from the Thunder, 100-96.

But you have to give it to the OKC Thunder. This is the youngest team in the league in terms of players' age (average: 24); and in just its 3rd season as a relocated franchise (they were formerly the Seattle Supersonics), they have come this close to a conference championship. A little fine-tuning of its endgame poise, it will not be difficult to imagine OKC becoming the youngest ever NBA titlist next year.

Dallas is returning to the NBA Finals after its first ever stint at the championship in 2006 ended in a debacle. Five years ago, the Mavericks dominated the league and was actually up 2-0 against the Miami Heat at the onset of the finals before folding up amidst a 4-game rampage by Shaquille O'neal, Dwyane Wade and company.

By some fateful twist, the Mavericks will probably find themselves tangled once again with the same team that dealt them broken hearts in 2006. The Heat, as of this writing, is leading its own series against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern conference, 3-1. The odds favor Miami, as a 3-1 card in the NBA playoffs have always resulted in the front-runner eventually winning the series except on only 3 occasions in the past.

Dallas and Miami may eventually mix it up once again in the finals, but both are not the same teams as five years ago. The Mavericks is still led by 12-year veteran Dirk Nowitzki but there's just Jason Terry left with him in the roster of the team which bowed to Miami in 2006. On the other hand, 29-year old Dwyane Wade still plays guard with the Heat but now forms the third post of a formidable triumvirate within the team known in the league as "the other Big 3", with MVP Lebron James (formerly of Cleveland) and erstwhile Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh. Now, that might sound like the scale tipping off in favor of Miami; but one has got to be reminded that Dallas actually won over Miami in their only two meetings in the regular season.

I am almost sure there are quite a number of Filipino basketball fans who have lost interest in the NBA playoffs after favorites L.A. Lakers, Boston, and San Antonio got eliminated. But for the remaining diehards, everyone will be tuning in beginning next week; and it's almost certain that many will be rooting for the Miami Heat to repeat over Dallas. After all, the team is coached by Erik Spoelstra, a Filipino-American.

Me, I am happy that I see no L.A. or Boston in the finals.