The Mavericks are a collection of 30-somethings bonded by a pursuit of their first championship. They have plenty of guys who’ve come close to a title, including a few holdovers from the 2006 team that interrupted the collection of Western Conference titles piled up by the Spurs and Lakers.
With strong defense and so many scoring options they never know who will share top billing with Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas swept the two-time defending champion Lakers in the second round. The reward was a nine-day wait for Game 1 of the conference finals tonight.
Or maybe that was a punishment.
“That’s a looong layoff,’’ center Tyson Chandler said. “Yesterday, the scrimmage got a little chippy, so it was obvious we were ready to play somebody else.’’
Dallas had to keep waiting because the Thunder had their hands full with the Grizzlies.
Oklahoma City went seven games and then some, playing three overtimes in one game and one extra period in another. With the Thunder’s age and exuberance, a lone day off between series may have felt like an eternity.
“We have a young, energetic, athletic team that loves to play and wants to play every night,’’ coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re excited about being in the position that we are in.’’
Heat resistant The Bulls lead the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals after a 103-82 victory in Game 1 Sunday, and a big reason for that is Luol Deng. All he did was score 21 points, grab seven rebounds, and contribute four steals while neutralizing LeBron James.
Yes, Derrick Rose was up to his usual MVP tricks, scoring 28 points, but it was Deng who provided a big assist, whether he was scoring or clamping down on The King, who had just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
“[Deng is] very active and long,’’ said James. “I think [coach Tom Thibodeau] has definitely helped him a lot with their defensive schemes. It’s not ever one guy that you have to worry about.’’
Odds-on favorite? The Timberwolves have a 25 percent chance of winning tonight’s Draft Lottery, thanks to their league-worst 17-65 record. But Minnesota has gone backward seven times and stayed put the other six in their 13 previous lottery opportunities. Not since 2004 (Orlando) has the team with the worst record landed the top pick.