Grizzlies vs. Thunder…Who Will Finish the Conference Final’s Landscape?

Kevin Durant vs. Zach Randolph

Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph will battle for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.

This afternoon at 3:30 pm on ABC, the Oklahoma City Thunder will take on the Memphis Grizzlies in game 7 of their series. The winner will earn themselves a trip to the Western Conference Finals. On one side you have the Thunder, a team that has come on in the last two years to become one of the NBA’s premiere teams and a trendy pick to win a championship this year. And then on the other side you have the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that got into the playoffs using the final seed and then turned heads by beating the 1 seed San Antonio Spurs all while missing Rudy Gay.

The matchup of these two teams has been a pleasure to watch. It’s a testament to the fact that small market teams can in fact be quite talented simply because young players are typically hungry to prove themselves and that is what has occurred in both of these cities. These were two franchises that a few years ago were in the basement of the NBA standings. Both traded away stars to acquire younger talent and both had to go through relocations due to feeble fan support in their cities and now both are dueling for an opportunity to duke it out with the Dallas Mavericks.

Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks past the Lakers in 4 games.

The fact that has been floating around the past few days has been that this will be the first NBA finals since 1998 to not include Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal. This is a clear sign that the tides are turning in the NBA. It’s a youth movement. The new stars are starting to leave their stamp on the league while the stars of yesteryear are slowly fading. The Big three’s in Boston and San Antonio are aging rapidly and dwindling away despite strong regular seasons. The L.A. Lakers are beginning to look human and indications are that they will look very different next season. The interesting question is will teams like the Grizzlies and Thunder be able to sustain their recent success for long. Think about it. Next season, should we expect to see the Grizzlies we’ve seen in these playoffs or the Grizzlies that we saw in the regular season?

Regardless of what they show next season, they are here now. The Grizzlies and Thunder have the Mavericks awaiting them. Dallas has looked impressive in the postseason, getting past Portland who a lot of people picked to upset Dallas and then by sweeping the two-time defending champion Lakers in a series that embarrassed not only the current Lakers organization but also former Lakers such as Jerry West and Magic Johnson who characterized the Lakers’ actions as “thuggish”. Either team would be capable of beating the Mavericks and no matter who advances it will make for a compelling series.

Derrick Rose vs. Dwayne Wade

Dwayne Wade will look to reach the Finals for the second time in his career as he leads the Heat against the Chicago Bulls and MVP Derrick Rose.

In the East, it’s the two teams that everyone thought it would be. The Miami Heat, everyone’s favorite team to hate will be taking on the Chicago Bulls and MVP Derrick Rose. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Heat three times during the regular season and will look to try to continue that streak during the playoffs. The task will be daunting as the Heat have sought to quiet all their naysayers by beating the Sixers and then defeating Lebron’s greatest nemesis, the Celtics. James showed how much of an accomplishment it was for him by kneeling in relief following the Heat’s final victory in the series and by making it clear that he could not get past that team without the help of the rest of the big three in Miami.

It will basically be the big three against Derrick Rose since the rest of the Bulls team has somewhat fizzled out during the playoffs and they will certainly have to wake up to have any chance to beat the Heat because they are leaning 100% on Wade, James, and Bosh.

The playoffs this year have been very compelling and this afternoon, another round will be complete and we will be one step closer to knowing who the NBA champions will be.

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