by Micah Hart
Each day until the end of the NBA Finals, we’ll be taking a look at the conventional wisdom of the moment — which team is currently the favorite to win it all, and which team should be ashamed to still be putting on its jerseys.
Here’s how it looks on the morning of Friday, May 20.
Start planning the parade:
The Thunder sat a second-team All-NBA player for the fourth quarter of Game 2 on the road. In the team’s biggest game of the season, with the possibility of going down 2-0, OKC coach Scott Brooks sat Russell Westbrook for the final 12 minutes. And the Thunder won.
Talk about cojones.
A lot is being made of Westbrook’s benching today, but what is being overlooked is what really allowed Brooks to make the call — the play of James Harden. Eric Maynor was steady in Westbrook’s spot, no doubt, but without Harden providing essential non-Kevin Durant offense, I imagine we’d have seen Westbrook return.
Durant and Westbrook were already a nearly unstoppable combo, but now add in the firepower of Harden (who is a better perimeter threat than Westbrook, and probably a better passer as well), and you have a championship-caliber threesome.
Give it up already:
The Mavs barely won Game 1, needing a historic offensive performance from Dirk Nowitzki to hold off the Thunder. Now they lose Game 2 with the opposition’s second-best player sitting out the final stanza? It doesn’t bode well.
The playoffs are a marathon, and the Mavs’ most important players have a ton of mileage on their legs. Oklahoma City is younger, faster, and more athletic. At this stage in the game, that can’t help but play a large role in determining who will advance to the NBA Finals.
With last night’s loss, the Mavs’ home-court advantage is gone, and after a few more games, so too will be their title hopes.