With game 7 of the OKC-Memphis series coming only hours before the first game of the Conference Finals match-up between Miami and Chicago, I thought I should go ahead and put my picks up in case I forget to between games. Here goes:
Chicago – Miami: I think it will be interesting to see how people pick here. Chicago had the better record by four games; Miami had the better point differential by two tenths of a point. Chicago has had a little trouble putting away Indiana and Atlanta; Miami has looked pretty good beating Philly and Boston (and Boston is certainly the toughest opponent of the four). No one believes that anyone on Chicago is worthwhile besides Rose; Miami has LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. So there’s a lot of reason to see people picking Miami even though Chicago has home court. In fact, that’s what I think it comes down to; home court makes up for the small point differential difference in the two teams. I have Chicago in 6. But they should only win about 58% of the time; it should be a close series.
Dallas – OKC: I think the Thunder should win with home court, so I’ll cover them first. I’m guessing that people will prefer the Mavericks. They’re the better team in terms of seed and point differential and they have home court. That’s enough for me to pick them to win about 63% of the time, taking it in 6 games. How quickly we forget how fragile everyone thought the Mavs were coming into the playoffs; some people didn’t think they would get past Portland. But they beat Portland and handled the Lakers, so I think people will be high on Dallas. On the other hand, people also really like the Thunder. They have Durant and Westbrook, beat a good team in Denver, and are (probably) going to take out Memphis, who I’m sure will be a media darling in the off-season. So the Thunder might get some action, but it will be tempered by the series against the Grizzlies.
Dallas – Memphis: The Grizzlies have been very feisty. They beat the Spurs when they probably shouldn’t have, and they’ve taken the Thunder to 7 games. I have to say that I like the Grizzlies’ style, with something of a twin tower post game, but I don’t think they should be doing as well as they have been. If they manage to win tomorrow, I’ll pick against them again: Dallas wins about 73% of the time, probably in 6 games. Whether the Grizzlies make it through or not, I expect the media to be very high on them for next year. The only guy on the team over 30 is Battier, and most of the team is near its prime or even younger. Gasol is 26, Randolph and Allen 29, Arthur, Conley, and Mayo 23, Vasquez and Gay 24. Obviously not all of those guys are actually important to Memphis continuing to do well, but if they all manage to get the usual productivity boost that comes with age, this would be a very good team in a year or two. I think the Grizzlies are playing a bit over their head right now, but they may not be in the near future.
I managed to not say much about Dallas. I didn’t think they would get through the Lakers, and certainly not in a sweep. Now, they’re the best team in the West. Of course, the other two best teams lost, so maybe the Mavs shouldn’t be too happy. But with Dirk, Kidd, Chandler, and Marion, Dallas is looking pretty solid. My only concern would be that they’ve shot out of their mind from three point range so far (almost 42%, which would have put them as far in front of first (39%) in the regular season as they were actually behind (36%)), and it’s unlikely to keep up. In any event, I don’t think the Mavs will be able to hang with whoever comes out of the East; I would take the Heat or Bulls over any of the three West teams still alive.