Breaking down the Finals

By Douglas Pils

With the NBA Finals starting Tuesday, one question comes to mind: If the Western Conference is so tough, how come only the Lakers (seven times), Spurs (four) and Mavericks (two) have won it in the past 13 years?

In the 13 years before that, six teams won the West — the Lakers, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Suns, SuperSonics and Jazz.

Here are a few other story lines before the Miami Heat start a long run of NBA titles or the Dallas Mavericks give Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and their other veterans a ring:

Point guard battle

I figure more than a few thought Express-News NBA writer Mike Monroe was a tad crazy when he gave the edge in the Western Conference finals to Kidd over the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

It’s a safe bet he’ll go with Kidd over Miami’s Mike Bibby after what the 17-year pro did to the Oklahoma City kid.

The Thunder’s young one is 15 years younger and most figured he’d run circles around old man Kidd. Somehow, age and experience overtook speed and flash.

Westbrook outscored Kidd 118-48, with Kidd scoring only three in Game 1 and two in Game 5. However, the Thunder’s one victory came with Westbrook on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, and other numbers show Kidd dominated.

Kidd won the following battles: 26-24 in rebounds, 43-24 in assists, 17-8 in steals, 9-2 in threes made and 10 to 24 in turnovers.

Those who see that and say the Thunder can’t win titles with Westbrook, who finished his third season, should reconsider. Kidd ended his third season — when he was 24, not 22 like Westbrook — with a first-round playoff exit.

Kidd missed all seven of his shots in one game, and the Suns were eliminated in the final game of a best-of-5 series by Gary Payton’s SuperSonics.

Give Westbrook time, and he’ll be returning the favor to point guards young and old for years to come.

Back again

The Finals may be a repeat of 2006 when Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal gave Miami a title over Dallas, but the rosters are almost completely different.

In five seasons, the Heat have turned over the entire team except for Wade and forward Udonis Haslem, who joined Miami the same season as Wade.

The Mavericks also have two left with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who made 80 starts in 2005-06. Now, Terry is Dallas’s top reserve, averaging 15.8 points and 4.1 assists in the regular season and 17.3 and 3.2 in the playoffs.

However, the Heat have one who was a Maverick in 2006 — center Erick Dampier. The 15-year vet was with Dallas through 2009-10, signed with the Heat because Haslem was injured and played in 51 games with 22 starts. He hasn’t played in the playoffs.

Old-timers’ shot

Kidd and Dampier are looking for their first titles after careers of 15 years or more. The Heat’s Juwan Howard entered the NBA the same year as Kidd, and he’s in the same boat.

Howard, the last active member of Michigan’s Fab Five, played in 57 games and has appeared in six playoff games this season. Howard has had fewer chances than either Kidd or Dampier, making just five trips before this season.

Kidd has made 15 straight trips, including that 1997 exit, and Dampier made six with Dallas after spending most of his early years in Golden State.

Texas three step

The Mavericks take another stab at making Texas the first state to have three teams win an NBA title. The Rockets (1994-95) and Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007) put Texas in a current tie with New York (Nationals, Knicks), Pennsylvania (Warriors, 76ers) and California (Lakers and Warriors).

The Syracuse Nationals moved and became the 76ers in 1963, and the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1962.

New York would have three if we counted the New York Nets’ two ABA titles and California would have three with the ABA’s Oakland Oaks.

Not much S.A. love

In an unscientific poll of readers last week, 43 percent of 1,862 respondents said they are true Spurs fans and will not root for the Mavericks to give Texas a third NBA champion.

Still, 29.4 percent, or 547 readers, say they are Spurs fans but will root for the Mavs anyway. That’s probably more hate for the Heat than love for the Mavs.


Monday, May 30

Rangers at Rays: Texas takes a healthy lineup to Tampa Bay for the season’s first meeting between the 2008 and 2010 AL champions. (5:30 p.m., FSNSW)

Tuesday, May 31

Astros at Cubs: Houston prospect Jordan Lyles makes his MLB debut at Wrigley Field. He’s 3-3 with 3.20 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A this year. (7:05 p.m., FSNSW)

Mavs at Heat: Dallas needs two road wins for the title, because beating Miami three straight (Games 3-5), even at home, seems remote. (8 p.m., ABC)

Thursday, June 2

The Memorial: Jack Nicklaus welcomes the PGA Tour to Ohio. Justin Rose won his first title there in 2010. (2 p.m., Thu.-Fri, Golf Channel; Sat.-Sun., CBS)

Saturday, June 4

Shock at Silver Stars: Season opener, as Tulsa starts second WNBA season at ATT Center, where the Silver Stars were 8-9 in the regular season in 2010. (7 p.m.)

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