It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
It was supposed to end the same way last year’s playoffs did. It was supposed to end with confetti falling from the ceiling. It was supposed to end with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson giving each other one last hug as they celebrated their sixth championship together. It was supposed to be Jackson’s twelfth championship, his fourth three-peat and his final goodbye.
Instead, it ended with the falling of J.J. Barea as he was elbowed to the floor in a classless cheap-shot. Instead, it ended with Ron Artest hugging Andrew Bynum as he escorted him off the floor. Instead of Jackson winning his twelfth championship, he received his first time being swept in his coaching career, and it wasn’t even close.
The Dallas Mavericks gave the Los Angeles Lakers a send off nobody expected and Jackson deserved better.If the Lakers weren’t able to rally for one win for Jackson, you have to believe their team chemistry was definitely off balance.
Jackson’s critics will point to the surplus of talent Jackson coached, but what Jackson did was more than coaching. Jackson got the most out of his players each and every night while having to balance some of the most complex egos most of us wouldn’t even understand.
As we say goodbye to the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs, we also bid farewell to Mr. Jackson. What Jackson accomplished in his career is truly remarkable, and he should be remembered as one of the best coaches in the history of all sports.
Now that the Oklahoma City Thunder have won the first Game 7 of this year’s NBA playoffs in convincing fashion, the conference finals pairings are set, which means it’s time for me to make my picks.
1 Chicago Bulls vs 2 Miami Heat
It’s the match-up we’ve all been drooling over. We used to wish it was going to be the Heat and the Celtics battling it out for the conference championship. That is, until the Celtics traded away Perkins and sent their championship dreams down the drain. Now we’ve been dying for the NBA MVP take on the the trio of Wade, LeBron and Bosh.
In the regular season, the Bulls swept the Heat 3-0 by a combined eight points. Both teams pride themselves on defense and both teams are incredibly efficient on offense when they are clicking on all cylinders. Rose and LeBron are two of the most difficult players to defend because their size and speed allow them to gain penetration but they also has the ability to knock down a fade-away.
The Heat looked to have figured it out. LeBron and Wade have been deadly this postseason and if the rest of the NBA didn’t fear the Heat before, they should now. Chicago on the other hand, hasn’t looked like the best team in the NBA this postseason. There have been nights where Rose has had to will them to victory all by himself. There was hardly any consistent secondary scoring in the Hawks series and you have to wonder if someone will show up to help Rose.
In a defensive battle that would make the old-time NBA players proud, the Heat will overcome their deficiencies on the glass and advance to the NBA Finals.
Miami in 7
3 Dallas Mavericks vs 4 Oklahoma City Thunder
If you picked these two to play each other in the conference finals you better have documentation to back it up because no one in their right mind would believe you. The Lakers’ early exit made the Western Conference a lot more interesting and a lot more confusing.
Heading into the playoffs, many wrote these teams off right away. The Thunder were young and talented, but a year away from seriously competing for a title. The Mavericks were too soft, too old, too inconsistent and usually choked away their golden opportunities.
The Mavericks swept the Lakers in dominating fashion. The Thunder needed seven games to close out the Memphis Grizzlies. The Mavericks shot lights out and made the sweep of the Lakers look effortless. The Thunder had to fight for every inch inside against a Memphis team with a strong defense and talented big men inside.
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the most talented players in the NBA and he creates match-up problems for opposing defenses. He can take you off the dribble or shoot that ugly, weird looking fade-away that somehow always manages to go in. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are one of the most dynamic duos in the NBA. They both get to the free throw line and shoot free throws very well. Each night, one of them could explode for 35+ points or a triple double. Or, they could do it on the same night like they did in Game 7 against the Grizzlies and you can just kiss your postseason goodbye.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, along with their strong defense presence inside and sixth man James Harden, will advance to the NBA Finals in an extremely competitive series.
Thunder in 6