Quick Pick: Western Conference Finals

The Mavs and Thunder face off in the West Finals
(image by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (4) Oklahoma City Thunder

This is a peculiar pairing right here.

On one hand we have a talent-laden veteran team who swept the defending champions in menacing fashion. They’re well-rested. They have the experience. They’re savvy. They’re deep.

On the other hand we have a young, up-and-coming team who went through a 7-game wringer against a persistent 8th seed. They may be a little tired. They’re relatively inexperienced. They’re athletic. They’re pretty deep too.

Dallas beat OKC, both at Oklahoma, in the season. Kendrick Perkins was still a Celtic then.

OKC beat Dallas once, at Dallas, in the season. Dirk Nowitzki didn’t play then.

In other words, those previous 3 games mean absolutely nothing now. In this unlikely match-up, a battle of contrasts, who will emerge as the West’s champion?

I want the Thunder to win, but I think, ultimately, Dallas will take it in 7.

Who'll stop Kevin Durant?
(image by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Nobody on Dallas can guard Kevin Durant. Not Shawn Marion. Not Peja Stojakovic. They definitely won’t put Dirk on him, but even if they did the Deutschman wouldn’t be able to keep up. KD will only have an off-night if his shot doesn’t fall, but he will get his looks, and that has Rick Carlisle worried.

Nobody on Oklahoma City can guard Dirk Nowitzki. Not Serge Ibaka. Not Nick Collison. Memphis has shown that a dynamic, jump-shooting PF can be very successful against Scott Brooks’s D, and, well, nobody fits that description better than Dirk. He’ll shoot over Collison. He’ll drive past Ibaka. If OKC puts KD on Dirk, then KD will tire out. This has Brooks worried.

Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic will be a twin-barreled shooting machine from downtown. They will not let up, and Thabo Sefolosha and Eric Maynor will have their jhands full running after these two streaky shooters.

Russell Westbrook can drive at will
(image by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook will drive to the hole at will. Even if he were still at his prime, Jason Kidd would be a step too slow. JJ Barea is quick enough, but Jet Zero will just shoot over him. DeShawn Stevenson will body him up, but Westbrook will just blow by him too. This, however, could be a double-edged sword for OKC. Westbrook knows nobody can stay with him, which might make him take more shots than he should.

The keys will be two players, both of whom are from Oklahoma City. If Kendrick Perkins can neutralize Tyson Chandler’s energy and rebounding, and manage to do his bump-and-bruise routine to the hilt, then Dallas won’t have as many repossessions as they want.

The second key is James Harden. He’s the best bench player Brooks has, but even he pales in comparison to Terry. Harden will have to up his production. He is the difference here. There is a reason why OKC opted for Jeff Green to be shipped to Boston, and that’s so Harden can have more looks. He will get his looks, and he will have to make them.

It’ll be awfully tough, though.

I want the Thunder to win, but I just can’t avoid the “this is our time” aura that seems to pervade around Dallas.

Again, I want the Thunder to win, but I don’t think the will. They’ll take it to the limit, but it’ll be Dallas standing after everything else falls.

Dallas will go the way of Dirk's shooting
(image by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
The Matrix will have to work twice as much
against the versatile Durant
(image by Danny Bollinger/Getty Images)
Can The Jet continue to wax hot?
(image by Danny Bollinger/Getty Images)
This might be Jason Kidd's last shot
at a title
(image by Glenn James/Getty Images)

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