ESPN DALLAS: Oklahoma City outplayed the Mavericks for 43 minutes in each of the last two games of the series. It didn’t matter because Dallas was so dominant down the stretch. The Mavs made a historic comeback in Game 4, finishing regulation with a 17-2 run to force overtime en route to becoming the only team in the past 15 years to win a playoff game after trailing by 15 or more points with five minutes remaining. It was fitting that the Mavs finished off the Thunder with a 14-4 run in the final 4 minutes, 19 seconds of Game 5 to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals. The youth-versus-experience angle has been front and center since the Oklahoma City whiz kids beat the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 to earn a matchup with the gray-bearded Mavs. But it’s short-sighted to chalk up the Mavs’ clutch prowess to an experience edge over a bunch of NBA toddlers. After all, the Mavs were just as dominant during crunch time against five-time champion Kobe Bryant and the veteran-loaded Los Angeles Lakers during their stunning semifinals sweep.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Mavericks eliminated the Thunder 4-1 in a series that required a monster performance by Nowitzki and a terrific Game 5 from Shawn Marion, who played both ends of the court fearlessly in the clincher. Marion had 26 points, the same as Nowitzki, and was the point man on a defense that set the Mavericks up for a 17-6 closing push to end the series. “People can play 15-20 years and never get to the conference finals or even the second round of the playoffs,” Marion said. “I’m fortunate enough to go. And I’m going to make the best of it, too.” Amid chants of “Beat the Heat” — and Miami has yet to close out Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals — the Mavericks gathered at center court after their frantic rally in the final 5:28 for a jubilant but subdued celebration as owner Mark Cuban received the Western Conference championship trophy. “We ain’t finished yet,” Cuban said.
EYE ON BASKETBALL: “Resourceful” might be the perfect word, as the Mavericks’ spectacular comebacks over the last month were obviously the result of some inconsistent play earlier in the game. And that’s the huge elephant in the room here heading into the Finals: The Mavericks will likely face the Miami Heat, who have been closing games with ferocity throughout their playoff run as well. The Heat boast two scorers in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who can create their own shots and are adept at getting to the free throw line late. James and Wade also aren’t liable to wilt under pressure like the mismatched Blazers, lost Lakers and young Thunder each did. It’s much easier to be resourceful when you’re hungrier and better balanced team than your opponent. But will the Mavericks be able to enjoy a similar level of execution against the Heat? That could be the question that decides this year’s NBA Finals.
DAILY THUNDER: But with their hands on another win — I mean, they were right there — the final few minutes doomed the Thunder. Scott Brooks pulled out all the stops. Russell Westbrook absolutely busted his butt. Nick Collison did his Nick Collison thing. Kevin Durant, Eric Maynor, everyone, put in the work. Losing a seven-point fourth quarter lead makes me want to belly-flop into an empty pool, but sometimes, it’s just not your time. It’s Dirk’s time. It was just meant to be for the Mavs. It hurts right now, because the wounds were just opened. You all had visions of a Game 6 in Oklahoma City and the thought of a comeback in your head. I know, I felt it too. The way the team was playing, the way they were fighting — they proved over five games that they were every bit as good as the Mavs. The difference? Dallas knew how to finish it, the Thunder didn’t.
TRUE HOOP: Nitpicking aside, rings are a dumb way to measure talent. Every decade, thirty teams play, and they each have a coach. That’s 300 seasons of coaching. Are you telling me that, out of those 300 years, only ten seasons were really good? Do we know that Tom Thibodeau, George Karl and Gregg Popovich were lacking this season? The truth of the matter is that you can coach essentially perfectly and not win a title — the title does more than select the best. It selects the best who are also lucky. Mike Brown had five seasons as the Cavaliers’ head coach. He had poorly constructed one-star rosters every single year, and still managed a 42-29 record in the playoffs and a trip to the Finals. Over the same period, Gregg Popovich’s Spurs have been 37-28 in the playoffs, with one Finals appearance and a title. Phil Jackson is in a class by himself of course, and has won two titles and another conference championship over those same years. But even he has managed only a mildly better playoff record than Brown, at 50-29 compared to 42-29. Entirely unfair, but worth noting: When Jackson coached a “superstar and a bunch of scrubs” roster like Brown had in Cleveland, the Lakers lost in the first round both times.
THE BASKETBALL JONES: Kris Nathan Humphries and Kimberley Noel Kardashian would like to announce their engagement. Kim, daughter of the late Robert Kardashian and the remarried Kris Jenner (not weird that her fiancé and mom have the exact same name, so shut up), is a famous person who is on TV shows, sells branded versions of whatever people will buy, and was once named the ninth hottest female by a men’s magazine for high schoolers. Kris, son of William and Deborah Humphries, is a power forward for the New Jersey Nets who is known for his resemblance to Taylor Lautner, almost winning the Sixth Man of the Year once, and being OK with everyone calling him “Hump.” The couple enjoy looking at each other, frolicking in the water while wearing small swimsuits, and watching the E! network.
RIDICULOUS UPSIDE: Unfortunately, (Kalin) Lucas isn’t currently projected to be drafted in most NBA mock drafts as he’s ranked as the 79th best prospect according to ESPN’s Chad Ford and 94th by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. Fortunately, he only needs one team to fall in love with him in order to be drafted and the Pistons could be just the ticket. Lucas faces an uphill battle because he played four seasons at a major program, unlike the other players at this workout, and most NBA decision-makers have probably already made their mind up on what they think he can (and can’t) do at the next level. What can Lucas do at the next level? Win, for one, as the Spartans went 115-30 during Lucas’s four years on the team while making it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament every season. He also seems to be a good leader, fairly smart and has the ability to control the pace of the basketball; in other words, he’s a floor general. Lucas is also adept at running the pick-and-roll and seems comfortable in transition.
BALL DON’T LIE: There are few sights as exciting on a basketball court as a player crossing over his defender to get space for an open jumper or drive. It’s a move of simultaneous power, agility, intelligence, and skill. It has revolutionized the game over the past few decades, giving smaller players a tool to become some of the best scorers in the league. It’s a technique worthy of documentation, as well, so Bedel Saget and Xaquin G.V. put together this handy video for the website of The New York Times. It’s a fascinating look at the play, full of interviews and highlight videos of notable practitioners from Pearl Washington to Tim Hardaway to Allen Iverson. This is almost certainly the best basketball video you’ll see today.