It doesn't matter who's next for Mavs
Whether it's Thunder or Grizzlies, Dallas going too good to be kept out of NBA Finals
- [+] EnlargeGlenn James/Getty ImagesTyson Chandler is confident about the Mavs' chances in the West finals. "We know we can beat anybody out there," he said.
It ain't bragging if it's true. And that's true, at least as far as the Western Conference finals go, as long as the Mavs keep doing what they've been doing.
For the vast majority of the basketball-watching world, the recently finished West semifinals sweep was all about the Los Angeles Lakers. We heard plenty about L.A.'s trust issues, Pau Gasol's poor performance, a Lakers bench that was thinner than that 6-foot blonde model who accompanied superfan Jimmy Goldstein to Staples Center, etc.
Folks around these parts noticed that the Mavs' performance had something to do with the Lakers' problems.
Dallas will be extremely difficult to beat as long as the 3-D blueprint (Dirk, defense and depth) continues to be executed so well. Oh, and there's a fourth key element: phenomenal clutch performances.
None of those things should change against the Thunder or Grizzlies.
Dirk Nowitzki will be a dominant force against either foe. (If you think Oklahoma City can suddenly stop Dirk now that shot-blocking machine Serge Ibaka is a starter, think again. Nowitzki averaged more than a point per minute and shot 70 percent with Ibaka in the floor this season.)
The Mavs, who have allowed the fewest postseason points per game (88.2) of the teams still alive, have proven they are a dominant defensive team when that end of the floor is their top priority. They'll continue to be stingy. If the Mavs can figure out a way to contain Kobe Bryant, they can do the same with Kevin Durant. If their big men can deal with LaMarcus Aldridge and Andrew Bynum, they'll be up for the Zach Randolph challenge.
On the other hand, Oklahoma City has allowed the most postseason points of teams still playing, followed by Memphis.
It's probably not wise to predict another 86-point game for the Mavs' reserves, but their bench is deeper and more explosive than the second units for Oklahoma City or Memphis.
While Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Memphis' Mike Conley are talented, athletic young point guards, who wouldn't rather have Jason Kidd's savvy down the stretch of a tight game? And no doubt Nowitzki is the top go-to guy for a game-winning shot on the West's final three, although Randolph did knock down a rainbow at the buzzer to beat the Mavs the last time the Grizzlies came to Dallas.
As far as the Mavs are concerned, they just want the Oklahoma City-Memphis series to go seven games, which appears to be a pretty good possibility. Let the Thunder and Grizzlies beat each other up while the Mavs rest those veteran legs for nine days.
If you made the Mavs choose their next opponent, they'd take the Thunder. They'd rather deal with the Thunder's skilled, athletic duo of Durant and Westbrook than bang with the Grizzlies' pair of low-post bears, Randolph and Marc Gasol.
2011 NBA Finals: Champion Mavericks
Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Game 3: Heat 88, Mavericks 86
Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83
Game 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103
Game 6: Mavericks 105, Heat 95
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The Mavs beat Oklahoma City two of three times during the regular season, although the Thunder made a major roster change by adding traditional center Kendrick Perkins and subtracting finesse power forward Jeff Green since then. The Grizzlies went 3-1 against the Mavs, but you can put an asterisk on the game in which Nowitzki returned from a sprained knee and played only 15 minutes before getting ejected.
The Mavs certainly fear neither foe. Consider Jason Terry's March comment on the Grizzlies, which was prompted by a question about the effect of losses to the Lakers and Spurs that week.
"It's disheartening when you lose to someone like Memphis," Terry said, "a team that you're supposed to beat."
Maybe that's trash-talking, but it's true.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
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