I am very aware that I am posting "predictions" for a series after game two. But in fairness, I wrote this two days ago after game 1, and these opinions largely reflect how I felt before the series, and nothing happened to change my mind. Also, this is my blog. Don't tell me what my business is, devil woman.
Two. That's the number of players that are left over from the 2006 epic Finals meltdown squad.
Three. That's the number of players that are left over from the 2007 epic 1st round meltdown squad.
Those three players are Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Based on their performances the last two weeks, do you see those players showing any scars from those two infamous playoff meltdowns?
For the last 5 years, that's all we've ever heard about the Mavs - playoff chokers that can't get it done when it matters. But 5 years have passed, Dirk is still playing at the same, if not better than his MVP 2007 season and most importantly, the team has an infusion of new guys that are either too crazy or too dumb to care about past playoff failures. They've learned how to come back from deep deficits, how to win on the road and how to ignore the whispers that a team that lost 4 straight in the Finals SHOULD hear.
The Mavs win this series because they are bigger, hungrier and deeper than this young Thunder squad. With the Lakers taking an early exit, the Spurs trending downwards and right on the precipice of a Western conference ruled by elite OKC, Memphis and Portland squads, this might be the Mavericks' best - and last - shot. And I think they all know it.
Kevin Durant will go absolutely bonkers this whole series. Even with Corey Brewer, Shawn Marion and Peja to throw at him, I think that KD is just as likely to be stopped as Dirk - a very low percentage proposition. But what worries me about the Thunder is that they are still trying to figure out what's the best way to play. Yes, Russ Westbrook is going for 30+ a night, but is that the best way to win when you have the greatest scorer in the league on your side? How can you always have the ball in the hands of a guy who turns it over with alarming regularity? There seems to be a conflict of interest on the the OKC side of offense, which is not something you want in the last 14 games of the season.
This whole playoff run for the Mavericks is about conquering playoff ghosts and 30 years of inferiority to their two Texan NBA neighbors and the big bad Lakers. Dallas needs to finish this in game 6, and not just to escape the uncertainty of a game 7 (even at home). They need to win this game 6 on the road to a smaller, chippier team in an extremely hostile road environment. It won't erase what happened in 2007, but should serve as not only a catharsis of sorts, but propel them to face their next painful apparition of the past. Revenge is coming LeBron. Watch out.
Mavericks in SIX