Tonight, the NBA Finals begin. You know what that means: taking a look back at the Conference Final predictions and offering up a Fully Reconditioned opinion on what will go down in the final round. Which sort of rhymes.
Grading the Conference Finals
(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction: Mavs in 7
Actual Result: Mavs 5
The veteran team kept it together and came out on top in this series, a shootout in contrast to the hard-hitting, defensive battle between the Bulls and Heat. Dirk Nowitzki was unstoppable enough to elicit Bird comparisons from some announcers (and violently angry reactions from the others) and Durant and Westbrook showed their youth, failing to come up big when it mattered, like closing games in which they had significant leads in the fourth quarter. In fact, the only game they did win, Westbrook spent the fourth on the bench after a bad turnover. Both have the potential to be great, but for right now, they need to put the coffee down, because coffee is for closers.
(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Miami Heat
Prediction: Bulls in 7
Actual Result: Heat in 5
With the whole country rooting against them, the bad guys have won, and they won in convincing fashion. Any talk about LeBron and Wade being unable to close games seems silly now. What did it matter if they couldn’t close against the Celtics in October when they’re closing against the Bulls, in very impressive fashion, to reach the NBA Finals? Derrick Rose looked young and in over his head, perhaps because he couldn’t play one-on-one with LeBron, much less one-on-five with the entire Heat lineup. Chris Bosh stopped being “chill” and started kicking ass. Talents have indeed been taken to South Beach, and as gross as all of that is, this was an impressive evisceration of a team that had it all going their way coming into the playoffs.
Conference Finals Grade: C-
(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (2) Miami Heat
Much has been talked about this series being a “rematch” of the two teams that met in the 2006 Finals, when the Mavericks took the first two games, then lost four straight as Dwyane Wade took the ball into the lane, bumped into people, and ended up on the free throw line in one of the most annoyingly overofficiated series in recent memory. Really, though, it can only be a rematch between Wade and Nowitzki, because pretty much everyone else on either team is different. The Heat are now the Heatles or the Big Three or the MoHeatos or the movie Heat starring Al Pacino (GREAT ASS!) and the Mavericks are now a dominant bunch of cold-blooded, robotic shooting assassins. This should actually be a good series, even if it’s not exactly what the NBA would have wanted (probably one final Lakers-Celtics matchup before those teams got too old . . . which they already happened to be this year). Dirk has looked unstoppable, and LeBron and Wade have looked great at stopping. This will be a battle of a primarily dominant offensive team (the Mavs) and a primarily dominant defensive team (the Hotnesses). This one’s really tough to call. Seems like the bad guys will take this one home, though.
Prediction: Heat in 7
It’s been a strange NBA season. The Heat never really seemed to have it all together during the regular season, even as they marched to the second seed in the East. The Spurs dominated the regular season and got knocked off by an eight-seed. The Lakers waited until the playoffs to turn the switch as usual, except the switch didn’t turn. Nor did it for the Celtics. The Bulls looked like the team to beat—and that’s just what happened. The Thunder fell apart several games in a row, making people wonder about that whole Durant/Westbrook superstars thing. Everyone forgot about Dirk.
None of that matters now. Either the Mavericks or the Heat will bring home the title, and it should be exciting, even for those (most) who don’t have a horse in the race. Bring it on, NBA. Bring. It. On.