Life as it happens. Time as it passes.

Archive for May, 2011

2011 NBA Finals Primer

The face-off between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat take on a new meaning when you begin to break down their contrast, similarities and other pertinent statistics. Of course, all these figure are only as good as they are on paper. When they take on each other on Wednesday, none of these stats would matter anymore. Nonetheless, it helps to paint for us a picture of what to expect when the Finals officially tip off in Miami.

Let’s take a look first at their intangible factors coming into the Finals, after which we will tackle their statistical factors:

Hunger

As far as tasting the championship is concerned, it has to be Dallas. They still have yet to exorcise the ghost of their epic meltdown in Game 3 of their 2006 match, which eventually opened up the door for the Heat to win the championship. Since then, the Mavs have not lost to Heat in any of their regular season match-ups in the last five years. That’s a considerable 10-0 streak for Dallas over Miami. But their square-off in the NBA’s grandest stage makes that figure insignificant, as far as their chances of winning in the series are concerned. Still, it tells a lot about Dallas’ hunger to finally win it all. Advantage: Dallas

Talent

Dallas’ system is built on a solid core of veteran starters. They’ve got one of the most serious offensive threats in Dirk Nowitzki, surrounded by a host of skilled offensive options in Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, JJ Barea and Peja Stojakovic. Jason Kidd, at 38, can still break ankles and drop dimes as if he was a decade younger. But whatever advantage they gain with experience, age takes away. This is where Miami’s younger, more athletic line-up overtakes them. Open court, Miami’s Big Three is virtually unstoppable. Their victories over Boston and Chicago in the playoffs have proven they can tackle any defensive ploy set up against them. Give them a small crack in the driving lanes and you’ll see either a slashing LeBron or a Wade crashing into the paint for an understab, lay-up or posterizing dunk. Bosh in the middle gives them a favorable option in the post. And on the defensive end, the return of Udonis Haslem provides Miami a stronger front line of stoppers. Advantage: Miami

Bench

Dallas has tried 22 starting line-ups this season. Their most potent first five was Rodrique Beaubois, Tyson Chandler, Kidd, Nowitzki and Stojakovic. With Caron Butler still out of the season, Dallas can go to Marion, Terry, Barea, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson as the first options off the bench. This second unit has proven to be one of the most potent offensive options in the league. Terry had just tied a three-point shooting record during the playoffs in their series against Dallas, while Marion helped Dirk put up scores during their series against OKC.

With Wade, LeBron and Bosh front lining for Miami, the task of subbing for their roles is a challenge indeed. The other two starters for their best first five are Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mario Chalmers. This gives Miami options like Haslem, Mike Bibby, Erick Dampier, Joel Anthony, James Jones, and Mike Miller. This bench roster features a good offense-defense balance for the Heat, but observing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation habits, only Haslem and Bibby spend a considerable amount of time on the floor. However, Miller and Anthony are more efficient in points-to-minutes played ratio, making viable first options off the bench.

Since both teams’ bench roster cancels out each other in their defensive capabilities, we turn to their offensive firepower. Advantage: Dallas

Crunchtime

Both Dallas and Miami prevailed over their opponents through their end-game playing efficiency. They’ve both managed out of big deficits coming into the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and emerged as winners. Dallas overcame a 15-point deficit against OKC during Game Four of their conference finals, while Miami caught up and overtook a 12-point lead by Chicago during their series-winning game. It will be interesting to watch the Finals right up to the very last millisecond. Advantage: Tie.

Clutch

As always, Dallas has Dirk. And that’s seems to be all there is for Dallas when the game’s stakes go higher in the last five seconds of the game. Miami, on the other hand, has three guys to go to when the clock hits zero. Advantage: Miami.

Prediction:

Miami’s athleticism and talent will be their main weapon to winning this series. Dallas, on the other hand, will have to put up a clinical display of offensive firepower, much like what they showed in their series with LA, if they wish to finally win a championship. Let me go against majority of the predictions. Dallas in 6.


Mavs and Heat Meet Again In NBA Finals

That the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat are back to face each other in the NBA Finals isn’t exactly you would call officially a “rivalry.” Not even “destiny” could be used to describe their arrival at the grandest stage of world basketball. Amidst their various similarities with, and stark contrasts against each other, hardly anyone would buy the idea of fate in bringing together these two franchises back in the last leg of their quests for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Let’s just simply call it an “interesting match-up.”

In my opinion, it will take more than just them facing each other in this season’s Finals to officially dub their match-up as a destined rivalry. They only faced twice in the regular season, and Dallas won both games. But like any other analyst, the outcome of their regular season match-ups hardly have anything to do with how they will be squaring off in the Finals. Truth is, Dallas wasn’t really theĀ  number one bet to take it all the way to the finals. When they entered the Playoffs, the dethroned Los Angeles Lakers were still expected to emerge out of the fray for a third shot at a championship just before Phil Jackson retires. But Dallas overcame their ghosts of playoffs past, and armed with their belief in their own selves, they vanquished the defending champs with a convincing sweep. Facing a younger team in Oklahoma City, Dallas proved that they have earned enough bruises in the past to finally advance again to the Finals for a second time.

On the eastern side of things, everybody was either rooting for Boston, the fitting rival of LA, or Chicago, owner of the best record, MVP in Derrick Rose, and Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau. Miami, unfortunately, was nursing hate sentiments against them, thanks to the formation of their own version of a Big Three. But the focus was strong and the will was firm for Miami. Their goal wasn’t to please everyone. They suited up to win a trophy. And that’s exactly what they did. They outclassed the top seeded Bulls, and proved that their time was also now. And even after earning the Finals spot, and still carry the title of “villains”, the Heat are confident that all that will end once they earn the championship.

There’s a lot more to say about this renewed square-off from five years. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry knows more than anyone on their team what they’re playing for. So does Dwayne Wade and Udonis Haslem on the side of the Heat. LeBron James and Jason Kidd have had the same experience of being in the finals and losing (to the same team, actually, the San Antonio Spurs). This time, the chance to earn a championship ring has come for them. One will finally have it, the other will go on still hoping.

An interesting match-up indeed.


Experience Having Its Way In NBA Conference Finals

Both the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are a game away from meeting in the NBA Finals. The last time these teams met were 5 years ago. That was the only year they’ve ever been into the Finals. A rematch, as some would put it. But some prefer another angle of looking at the current conference finals of both East and the West.

Experience prevailing over youthfulness.

The teams the Mavs and Heat are playing–the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls–have the youngest roster among the up and coming teams from both sides of the NBA world. The Bulls have the second-year Derrick Rose, this year’s MVP, while the Thunder have the 22-year old Kevin Durant, the youngest ever to be hailed NBA scoring champion. They are both surrounded by the youngest line-up of starters, benchmen and other role players. They’re mentored by two of the newest coaches to break into the scene–Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks–who were also the last two recipients of the Coach of the Year Award.

All good on paper, a lot would say. But not good enough to challenge their more experienced opponents.

The disparity is most evident during crunch time, when the pressure is high and the stakes are higher. This is where the younger teams scramble for clues on how to solve the heat of the dying minutes of the game. On the other hand, the Mavs and Heat have the pains and stripes of defeats past to help them draw strength and wisdom down the line. That they have both prevailed three games to one against their youth-laden opponents have served proof for their ability to rise to the occasion.

But, in the words of Derrick Rose, the series is far from over.

Chicago and Oklahoma still has three more games to tackle straight if they want to win. Otherwise, they’re gone for the summer.

Youth vs. Experience.

Which one will it be?


A New Chapter for the UP Fighting Maroons

As of this writing, the UP Fighting Maroons just punched their ticket to the quarterfinal stage of the 2011 FilOil Flying V Tournament. With 4 wins and 2 losses, the Maroons are riding on a high momentum entering the bracket for the top eight teams participating in this pre-UAAP season meet.

Repeat. Pre-season.

Nonetheless, we’re taking the best out of this pre-season meet, and with it build our hopes high for the Maroons, who are now under a new head coach in the person of Ricky Dandan.

Dandan, a former Fighting Maroon himself, has been calling the shots since late last year for the Maroons, months after the team endured a winless season, and not to mention the coaching debacle. The smoke of confusion has finally died down, and there is now one clear person in front of the pack, set to draw the tactics for the Diliman squad.

After setting the hopes way too high last season, the Maroons are in no way in a hurry to barge into the top four. While that, being the ultimate goal, is like candy up for grabs between a thousand kids, UP will be more occupied with getting their acts together and taking the season one game at a time. Win or lose, what matters is the team arrives at their purposed end together.

Mike Silungan is expected to get his game a notch higher this season. In the back court, Mike Gamboa is back, together with Miggy Maniego, will provide veteran firepower, along with the inclusion of Moriah Gingerich in the system, as well as the new talents like Chris Ball, Robby Wierzba, and Julius Wong. With Magi Sison gone, the center position will be taken over by Aliniko Mbah, with Martin Pascual on the support. The mainstays Mark Juruena, Carlo Gomez and Alvin Padilla will provide power in the wing.

There are no promises for this season coming from the UP Fighting Maroons. But there will also be no let-ups.

As always, UP FIGHT FOR LIFE!


The Final Leg: The Conference Finals Square-Off

As of this writing, the Chicago Bulls have drawn first blood with a 103-82 rout of the Miami Heat, while the OKC Thunder just barged into the Western Conference Finals for a duel against the Dallas Mavericks.

Interesting, to say the least.

The Mavs earned their way to the Western finals with a sweep of the defending champs LA Lakers, while the Thunder were pushed to the limit by the Grizzlies with a win-or-die Game 7. The match-up could go either way, actually. Either the long layoff hurts Dallas, or the fatigue Oklahoma. A win by Dallas can ultimately vindicate them after years of disappointment in the playoffs, or a loss will only frustrate them even more. As for Oklahoma, reaching this far is already a franchise achievement even if they eventually fall to Dallas, but nothing short of a ticket to the finals is all Kevin Durant and the rest of the gang are aiming for.

A totally different story plot has taken on a life of its own in the East. The Chicago franchise had a shot at landing Dwyane Wade before the season, but when Wade opted to stay, LeBron pulled off his decision to move to South Beach, and, with Chris Bosh joining the fray, a new big three was born. Fittingly, they dismantled the paradigm big three of the Boston Celtics in five games. The Heat are now a round away from going back to the finals after five years.

If OKC and Chicago prevails in the conference finals, we’re looking at a square-off between two teams with the youngest line-up. A Dallas-Miami rematch will also be an interesting square-off to look forward to.

Things are just beginning to heat up in the NBA.


Phil Jackson Calls It A Wrap For Him

Phil Jackson’s legendary run is finally over.

Not that he wanted it to end like the way it did–a sweep, for the first time in his 20-something years of coaching, by the Dallas Mavericks. But after being down 3-0 in their semifinals series, Jackson knew he would have to do the impossible if he wanted the fun to continue. Nonetheless, not even the sweep could taint one bit the illustrious career he had made for himself.

And while some would hesitate, many would call his career the finest among the coaches in NBA history.

Three three-peats and a back-to-back gives Jackson a total of 11 championship titles under his belt. He coached the 1996 Chicago Bulls that posted the best single-season record of 72 wins. And he has the highest percentage of winning regular season and playoff games.

We could bring up more unnecessary stats here to prove that Jackson is the best coach in NBA history, if not one of the best. But one thing is for sure–Jackson won’t be coaching anymore in the NBA.

He might still coach, but probably somewhere else less straining and cutthroat. Whatever circumstance he finds himself into, nothing will change what he’s indelibly imprinted in NBA history.

A legend.