The 2011 NBA finals schedule is only missing an Eastern Conference champion. It is already set in stone that the finals will start June 2, with the Eastern champ hosting Games 1 and 2. Most everyone believes that the Miami Heat will be the host team, as soon as it finishes off the Chicago Bulls. But if Miami does advance, it is officially guaranteed to meet a familiar opponent now that the Dallas Mavericks have moved on.
The Mavericks have been one of the most hard-luck playoff teams in recent history — ever since the 2006 collapse against the Heat, of all teams. But for once, everything is going right for Dallas, which the team proved again in its decisive, 100-96 win over Oklahoma City in Game 5, reports Yahoo! Sports.
Despite its horrific come-from-ahead loss in Game 4, the Thunder jumped out ahead of the Mavericks once again. Although Kevin Durant didn’t have a solid shooting night, Russell Westbrook and James Hardin led Oklahoma City to an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Yet given how Dallas rallied back from a larger deficit in Game 4, it seemed to only be a matter of time before it made another move. This time, Shawn Marion was the initial spark plug, with 15 fourth-quarter points to help chip the deficit away.
As for Dirk Nowitzki, he was relatively quiet — at least until the very end. Since he has dominated the series, the Thunder had to know that he would get the final shots. Nevertheless, Nowitzki was still able to drain a three that gave Dallas the lead for good. Once that shot went down, the flailing, inexperienced Thunder was already dead, although there was over a minute left.
Oklahoma City collapsed yet again due to a lack of clutch play, an inability to stop Nowitzki when it counted, and constant turnovers. As such, the Thunder has to hope that this experience will pay off down the line, while the Mavericks head for a more immediate payoff.
Yet for the second straight time, Dallas may have clinched a series too soon. The Mavericks’ playoff run was already interrupted by an eight-day rest after beating the Lakers, although it didn’t affect the Western Conference finals. But since Dallas is heading for a seven-day rest before starting the finals — most likely on the road in Miami — the rust might be a bigger factor next time.
If the Heat clinches its series over the Bulls Thursday, both finalists will have a week off, which might balance the odds out. But the Mavericks will likely root for Miami to lose, so they will have a shorter rest before the next round. However, given how Dallas fans chanted “Beat the Heat” after Game 5, it is clear that Mavs wants Miami to finish Chicago off eventually.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoffs Schedule”
Yahoo Sports- “Mavs top Thunder 100-96 to book trip to NBA finals”