The Pulse: Possible Finals matchups; Refs blowing it?

Updated: May 30, 2006, 10:43 AM ET
Friday, May 26

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Who do want to see in the NBA Finals?
2. Are NBA officials blowing it in the playoffs?
3. What will you be watching this weekend?


SN wants Dirk and the Mavs in the Finals.
With no team having the clear upper hand in either NBA conference finals series predictions abound: the Suns are dead because of Raja Bell's injury; the Pistons are playing with fire and bound to get burned by Miami; the Mavs don't play enough defense to win the title; the Heat need more than Shaq and Wade.

We don't yet know who will actually win either series but we do know who SportsNation would like to see in the NBA Finals. A Heat-Mavericks matchup is the one SN most wants to see, followed by Pistons-Mavs.

And is also seems the 'Nation would like to see better officiating in the playoffs. Players have been carping since the postseason began and it only got worse after Dick Bavetta's crew came under fire for their performance in Thursday's Heat-Pistons game.

  • Which NBA Finals matchup do you want to see?
    38% Heat vs. Mavericks
    26% Pistons vs. Mavericks
    23% Heat vs. Suns
    13% Pistons vs. Suns

  • How would you rate the officiating in the NBA playoffs?
    41% Average
    29% Below average
    22% Awful
    8% Above average

    Mavs will win because Bell is crucial for the Suns.
    Troy (Chicago)

    I think that the Mavs are toast without Josh Howard.
    Kavoen (Florida)

    The Heat lack killer instinct. You can't be satisfied with taking one game. Why not go for the neck and find a way to win Game 2?
    Keith (Detroit)

    I think the Heat supporting cast can, for lack of a better term, heat up for three more games and they can take this series.
    Mat (Scottsdale, AZ)

    I can't watch Miami and Detroit anymore. The complaining is infuriating. If I were David Stern I would make a rule for next year that players cannot under any circumstances speak to or gesture at the refs. Only coaches may speak to the refs. If you talk to a ref or gesture at them, you get a tech. It would take about five games to end this complain-after-every-foul-call madness.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    I'm a Pistons fan, but you don't have to be a Detroit slappy to have an issue with the officiating down the stretch last night.
    Jason (Detroit)

    Dick Bavetta just missed me calling timeout, too. Maybe they need refs who can hear and see.
    Jonathan (Buffalo)



    No love for Danica this weekend?
    Many think Memorial Day weekend should be reserved for picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities. Opening up the backyard pool, perhaps, or heading out to watch a parade. SportsNation knows, though, that sports are a huge part the weekend that marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

    You have the Indy 500 tradition, a smorgasbord of day baseball on Monday, playoff action in the NBA and NHL and even the NCAA lacrosse Final Four. The 'Nation will be glued to hoops and hardball over the weekend and there is some interest in that race in Indiana, but hockey and lacrosse seem to be lost in the shuffle.

  • What is your favorite Memorial Day weekend sporting event?
    35% NBA playoffs
    29% MLB games
    17% Indy 500
    12% NHL playoffs
    8% Lacrosse Final Four

    Yay, America! Happy Memorial Day to you all!
    Hannah (NYC via Blitzburgh)

    Three-day weekend. I'm not sure my liver will be in attendance Tuesday morning
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    I didn't even know the Indy 500 was on this weekend. I'll be watching hoops.
    Kito (NJ)

    Forget Indy, the best race this weekend will be the Coca-Cola 600. Will the Lowe's car win at the Lowe's track again?
    Christian (High Point, NC)

    How can you not love a grand American tradition like cooking out in the backyard on Memorial Day and watching nonstop baseball all day? Best part of the weekend, if you ask me.
    Ryan (East Lansing, MI)

    Wait, are they actually playing hockey right now?
    Bart (Dallas)


    Thursday's Big Questions

    1. What are the biggest baseball blunders of all time?


    Who knew he'd become Mr. Clutch?
    Blunders are made on the baseball field every day. Errors lead to extra outs, bad guesses lead to strikeouts and bad pitches lead to home runs. Plenty of things can cost a team a game. Blunders made in the front office, though - lopsided trades, bad personnel evaluation, etc. - can set a team back for multiple seasons and haunt an organization for decades. Just ask the Red Sox about that Babe Ruth trade.

    ESPN.com's Rob Neyer recently counted down the tip five blunders for every American League and National League team and SportsNation narrowed it down to the top 10 of all-time. Seems the BoSox will never truly get over "The Curse of the Bambino".

    What are the top 10 blunders in baseball history?

    1. Red Sox sell Babe Ruth to Yankees (1919)
    Some writers thought the Yankees were taking the big risk.
    2. Twins release David Ortiz (2002)
    That's right. They not only didn't want him, they didn't get anything for him.
    3. Dodgers trade Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields (1993)
    Everybody in Montreal considered the deal a salary dump.
    4. Mets trade Nolan Ryan to Angels for Jim Fregosi (1971)
    The Angels would have taken Gary Gentry, but Gil Hodges preferred to send Ryan off.
    5. Orioles trade Schilling/Finley/Harnisch to Astros for G. Davis (1991)
    Davis's back problems made this deal a complete disaster for O's.
    6. Nationals (Expos) trade R. Johnson to Mariners for M. Langston (1989)
    Langston was supposed to put Expos over the top but they finished 12 games out.
    7. Marlins fire sale after winning World Series (1997-98)
    Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter...
    8. Mariners trade D. Lowe/J. Varitek to Red Sox for H. Slocumb (1997)
    Lowe and Varitek are still productive; Slocumb went 2-9, 4.97 ERA and 13 saves with M's.
    9. Cubs trade Lou Brock to Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio (1964)
    It didn't work out, but who knew Brock would be a HOFer and Broglio's arm would fall off?
    10. Cardinals trade Steve Carlton to Phillies for Rick Wise (1972)
    And all because Gussie Busch didn't want to pay Carlton an extra $10,000.

    Both Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays tried out for the Red Sox. Is not signing either one of the Sox' all-time blunders?
    Jack (NYC)

    How is the Twins releasing David Ortiz considered a blunder? As a Twins fan, I watched that guy and it's not the same guy he is now. There's a reason he was released. He played in over 100 games exactly twice in his six years in Minnesota and hit 20 HR exactly once. He was fat and injured most of the time.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    The trade by the Orioles for Glenn Davis was a disaster that set the organization back decades. Well, that and Angelos buying the team!
    Sean (Arlington, VA)

    How could you miss the biggest blunder of the decade with the Expos giving up the farm for Bartolo Colon, who in turn got traded for players who were all released? That was HUGE!
    Josh (Evansville, IN)

    The Pedro for Delino DeShields trade was a blunder in retrospect but wasn't Pedro going into his second year and Delino a very good 2B that filled a hole for the Dodgers at the time? Hindsight is always 20/20. Wasn't it a good baseball trade at the time?
    Brian (San Leandro, CA)

    How about Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, who was so bad in 1997 that I was shocked anyone traded for him. How did the Ms do in 1997, anyway?
    Dave (Michigan)

    How is the Chicago Cubs' failure to re-sign Greg Maddux and let him leave for the Atlanta Braves in the prime of his career not the No. 1 Cubs failure of all time?
    Mark (Chicago)

    I know the Red Sox must have the most blunders, but I would guess that after reading this book one might come away convinced that a Mets GM should never be allowed to make any trades.
    John (Long Island)


    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Who is the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft?
    2. What's in store in the Western Conference finals?


    Best bet at No. 1 overall?
    The NBA Draft Lottery took place Tuesday night and the Toronto Raptors were the big winners. General manager Bryan Colangelo said his team needs a point guard or center and did not rule out trading the No. 1 overall pick, but SportsNation has a different idea.

    Forward Adam Morrison of Gonzaga is the 'Nation's choice at the No. 1 pick with LSU's Tyrus Thomas and Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge making noise as well. There is also support for Toronto trading the pick but some think Morrison deserves to be the top pick no matter who makes the selection.

  • Who will be the first pick in the NBA Draft?
    37% Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
    29% Tyrus Thomas, LSU
    23% LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas
    11% Andrea Bargnani, Italy

    Colangelo is a good luck charm! Raptors are making the playoffs this year!
    Dan (Toronto)

    I think Toronto is going to be very good real soon. No. 1 pick and lots of cap space to bring in a big time player.
    Robert (Wilmington, DE)

    Raps should take the Bargnani then play Bosh, Villanueva and Bargnani together with a new coach from Europe in D'Antoni's mold to try something different in the league. Matchup nightmares all around.
    Andrew (Toronto)

    After looking at the players available, my advice to the Raptors would be to TRADE it. There is no truly transcendent, can't-miss player out there.
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    Nom matter who ends up with the No. 1 pick (Raptors or someone in a a trade), they'd be crazy not to take Adam Morrison. Yes, he IS the next Larry Bird.
    Bryan (Spokane)

    Morrison may not look like a baller but the dude can play. Safest pick out there since we're not relying solely on potential but also his actual play.
    Peach (Michigan)

    Mark my words: Thomas and Aldridge will BOTH be better than Morrison as rookies.
    Wallace (Corpus Christie, TX)



    Nash must be The Man for Phoenix.
    The Western Conference finals get underway Wednesday night in Dallas and SN gives the Mavs the clear edge in the series.

    Better than 70 percent of voters like the Mavericks to win the series and advance to the NBA Finals and SportsNation gives the Suns the edge only in the backcourt. Hope you're ready, Steve Nash, because you will have to lead that backcourt and 64 percent of 'Nation voters say you're more important to the team than Dirk Nowitzki is to Dallas.

  • Which team will win the Western Conference finals?
    71% Dallas Mavericks
    29% Phoenix Suns

  • Which team holds the edge in the backcourt?
    60% Phoenix
    40% Dallas

  • Which team holds the edge in the frontcourt?
    80% Dallas
    20% Phoenix

  • Which team has the coaching edge?
    64% Dallas
    36% Phoenix

    Mavs in five. Way too much for the Suns. Two seven-game series in a row and the Mavs are way too good and way too deep. They just feel like a team of destiny, and I would shell out bucks for a pay-per-view of Stern handing the trophy to Mark Cuban.
    Mick (Miami)

    Defense? We don't need no stinkin' defense. I say Mavs in six because I think are a better team with home court.
    Jonathan (Buffalo)

    I want to see how the Mavs adjust to playing the run-and-gun Suns after a series against the the Big Fundamental.
    Keith (PA)

    Interesting to see if Dallas can get over that San Antonio hangover. After finally beating them can they move on and focus on the Suns or will they be in a 2-0 hole before waking up?
    Jon (Malvern)

    Old Mav Nash vs. his former mates. Could get interesting and scrappy. The flying German may have other intentions though. He could and should dominate.
    Hannah (NYC via Blitzburgh)

    The X-factor is here Barbosa, James and Co. in the backcourt. If they get decent production from them the Suns could make this a series.
    Dave (Michigan)

    The Rockies! Decent starting pitching and guys like Hawpe and Holliday are actually hitting on the road too. This is a pretty good young team.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Enough with the "Nash is a huge defensive liability" thing. The guy more than compensates on the offensive end.
    Mat (Scottsdale, AZ)


    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. What happens in the NBA conference finals?
    2. Which team will win the NL West?


    Guaran-'Sheed to be East champs?
    The Heat have been resting for a week while the Pistons are coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Cavaliers, but SportsNation doesn't see that at much of an advantage for Shaq and his mates from Miami. Detroit is still SN's pick to win the Eastern Conference finals, which tip off Tuesday night in the Motor City.

    In the Western Conference, the Mavs are the overwhelming favorite over the Suns after finally getting over the hump and sending the Spurs home. And as SN sees it Phoenix had better be worried about rebounding if it expects to win the series.

  • 60% Pistons will win the Eastern Conference finals.
  • 78% Mavericks will win the Western Conference finals.

  • Which do you think is more true of Detroit's marathon series against the Cavaliers?
    58% It woke up a great team that had been sleepwalking
    42% It exposed the Pistons as a flawed and unfocused team

  • Which of the following areas should the Suns be most concerned about in this series?
    45% Rebound margin
    35% Trying to slow down Dirk Nowitzki
    21% Field-goal percentage defense

    Pistons in five. Their wake-up call was just in time and they will punish the Heat. Too many answers for D-Wade and Shaq.
    Hayes (Boston)

    Heat in seven. Shaq is rested, D-Wade is hitting 3s and the Pistons made a semi-easy series very tough on themselves.
    Nick (DC)

    The Pistons played better in the Cavs series after a players-only meeting led by Billups. Which means from this point on they will be self-governing and Flip will be a decorative item on the sidelines.
    Ray (Atlanta, GA)

    If rest does for Shaq tonight what it did for Nash last night the Heat are going to come out firing on all cylinders tonight.
    Keith (PA)

    Mavs in six. They have a deep bench, Harris and Terry can keep pace with Nash, and Dirk will put up Elton Brand numbers.
    Jeff (NJ)

    How does anyone believe the Mavericks will beat the Suns? The Suns only seem to lose big when exhausted, and they aren't gonna be exhausted
    Stefan (New Mexico)

    Suns-Mavs: highest-scoring conference final ever.
    Tim (ATL)



    Jake Peavy leads the Padres
    Last year, a winning record in the NL West was enough for the San Diego Padres to punch their playoff tickets. This year, simply being above .500 in the division isn't even enough to avoid last place. Entering play on Tuesday, all five teams in the division are working on winning records, and all five teams are within three games of each other.

    So how will the race play out? The Padres are defending champs, but coming off a game in which they got 16 strikeouts from Jake Peavy and still lost, they aren't the popular pick. That honor goes to Grady Little and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Which team will win the NL West?
    38% Los Angeles Dodgers
    20% San Diego Padres
    15% San Francisco Giants
    14% Arizona Diamondbacks
    13% Colorado Rockies

    The Rockies will never win anything in Coors Field. The Padres take the West this year.
    Joel (Las Vegas)

    I think it will be the Rockies. They have a lot of young, up-and-coming hitters around Helton. Francis and Cook are anchoring the rotation, and Fuentes is a good closer.
    Rob (Manhattan)

    I will go with the Padres, because eventually these good performances for Jake Peavy will turn into wins.
    Dan (Baltimore)

    I think pitching will eventually prevail and the Giants have the best. Even with that lineup full of grandpas, they should win the West.
    Ryan (Buckhead)

    I hope it is the Rockies. Who doesn't want to see a couple of playoffs games at Coors Field? Especially if Phat Albert is involved.
    DC (Altoona, Pa.)

    I'll take the Rockies. It seems like they've finally got Coors Field playing like an actual MLB park now.
    Kevin (Virginia)

    The Rockies! Decent starting pitching and guys like Hawpe and Holliday are actually hitting on the road too. This is a pretty good young team.
    Jon (Malvern)

    I'll take the Diamondbacks. Webb's a legitimate ace, they have a strong lineup, and they'll deal prospects for Zito or Willis to push them over the top.
    Chris (Oxford, England)


    Monday's Big Questions

    1. Did No. 714 matter for Barry Bonds?
    2. Which team will win NBA Game 7 showdowns?
    3. Will LeBron and the Cavs be back?


    Does Bonds deserve praise?
    The wait is finally over, and SportsNation thinks it's about time. Barry Bonds finally hit home run No. 714 on Saturday, ending a lengthy power drought that only seemed to fuel even more coverage of his equaling Babe Ruth for second place on the career list.

    While there were some dissenters who thought the accomplishment deserved substantial recognition, a majority of voters thought Saturday's dinger received too much coverage. But will we go through it again? Not according to 75 percent of voters, who don't think Bonds will ever pass Hank Aaron for first place.

  • 59% There was too much coverage of Barry Bonds hitting No. 714 on Saturday.
  • 60% MLB would have planned an official celebration if someone other than Bonds passed Ruth.
  • 74% Bonds will not break Hank Aaron's record for career home runs.
  • 75% MLB will never take any action to erase or alter Bonds' records.

    Good for Barry, but no one will ever be Babe. His numbers are, and will always be, the best.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Did Bonds break some sort of record? No? Then it shouldn't matter. Wake me if/when he gets to 756.
    Steve (Stafford Springs, Conn.)

    Did you see the 19-year-old kid say he didn't want to meet Barry after catching No. 714 because, "I hate that guy." Kid has guts, but I think his ignorance conquered common sense there.
    John (St. Louis)

    Hate him or love him, Barry Bonds is a great baseball player. Big kudos to the Oakland fans that cheered for him!
    Kito (New Jersey)

    The one negative thing I can say about Barry Bonds is that he is about 200 wins shy of the Babe. He better learn to pitch, quick.
    Will B. (Virginia Beach)

    Every time the media gets the urge to talk about Bonds, they should take a deep breath and write about Pujols instead.
    Barry (Philly)

    Why can't we realize that Ruth's record is FAR better? How many records (or second-best) have been around that long? History in almost every other sport shows that records get broken all the time. People have gotten far more athletic. I'm more surprised no one has hit 1,000 home runs yet.
    Adam (Dearborn, Mich.)



    Horry and the Spurs or Dirk and the Mavs?
    The NBA has a big night on tap Monday with a pair of Game 7s deciding which teams will meet in the Western Conference finals. But the teams SportsNation predicts will be there are not the same teams it wantsin the conference finals.

    Both the Spurs and Suns -- the home teams in Monday's games -- get nearly 60 percent of the vote as SN's picks to win, something that must pain a 'Nation that would much prefer to see the Mavericks and and Clippers facing off for the right to play in the NBA Finals.

  • 57% The Spurs will beat the Mavericks in Game 7.
  • 58% The Suns will beat the Clippers in Game 7.
  • 65% Would rather see the Mavericks than the Spurs in the conference finals.
  • 75% Would rather see the Clippers than the Suns in the conference finals.

    I'd be more tempted to pick the Clips if Phoenix hadn't blown out the Lakers in Game 7. Also, I'll be long asleep by the time that game ends.
    Steve (Ithaca)

    I feel like both road teams have been more impressive throughout the series, but having home court in Game 7 is a huge advantage. Home team basically wins four out of five times.
    Jim (Detroit)

    I actually think the Mavs have a better chance on the road, because they present so many match-up problems for the Spurs. The Clippers don't have much Game 7 experience, except for Cassell, and the Suns have already been down this road two weeks ago.
    Charles (Pittsburgh)

    The Clippers have the best chance to win on road. No way Spurs lose tonight! Say what you want about the Spurs being boring. It seems to be BORING teams always win championships: White Sox (small ball), Spurs/Pistons, Steelers/Patriots. See a trend?
    Johnson (Haverill)

    The Clippers are young and pumped up. I think this is where Elton Brand becomes a great player (instead of just really good).
    Rob (Warwick)



    What's next for LeBron and the Cavs?
    Forget all the comparisons to Michael Jordan. What LeBron James really needs is to start hearing one of his teammates compared favorably to Scottie Pippen.

    That seems to be SportsNation's conclusion after watching the Cavs finally falter against the Pistons, turning in a woeful offensive performance in the second half of a Game 7 loss. LeBron earned praise from fans for never quitting, but it's clear voters think he needs a star sidekick to get the team to the next level.

  • How far away are the Cavaliers from winning a title?
    47% One star sidekick
    40% One or two role players
    8% LeBron needs whole new cast
    3% This roster can do it

    One player and one season. Look out next year; they are for real.
    R.Keane (Old Southington, Conn.)

    They need to find a way to get J.J. Redick in the draft this year. They have no outside shooting to complement LeBron, and J.J. would be a perfect fit, unlike Damon Jones.
    Joel (Las Vegas)

    As long as they have a stiff like Z at center, they're not sniffing a title.
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    All they need is someone who can score more consistently, other than Lebron, and they have a good shot at going all the way. They should try to get Rasheed. Wouldn't that be something crazy?
    Steve (Washington, D.C.)

    They are one dominant player away, or 2-3 solid players away. Lebron's supporting cast is just terrible. Hughes isn't working out, and the rest of the team is role players. I don't care how good you are as an individual, even Jordan didn't win a title by himself.
    Geoff (Detroit)


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