Do J.J. Barea & The Mavericks Really Want To Play The Grizzlies In The NBA’s Western Conference Finals?
When the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies tip off tonight in Game 6 of their best-of-7 series in the NBA Playoffs, it’s probably safe to say that Dallas Mavericks backup point guard J.J. Barea will be rooting hard for the Grizz to win the game and, eventually, overcome a 3-2 deficit to overcome the series. Barea—who made headlines during the Mavericks/Los Angeles Lakers series for taking not one but two flagrant fouls at the end of games—admitted as much earlier this week on ESPN’s First Take when he admitted that he would prefer to play the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals next week. And, on paper at least, his choice makes sense.
The Thunder are the better team and proved it by winning more games than the Grizzlies during the regular season. They have a young group of guys who play well together and almost knocked off the Lakers during last year’s playoffs. In a few years, they’ll likely be the perennial favorites in the Western Conference every year—and they’d probably like nothing more than to start that this year now that the Lakers are out. Oh, yeah. And they’ve got a guy named Kevin Durant, who is poised to become the best player in the NBA any day now.
So, it’s only natural that the Mavericks would be vocal about wanting to play the Grizzlies over the Thunder, right? Er, not so fast. For starters, what Barea did is a cardinal sin in the world of sports. When he was asked who he’d rather play in the Western Conference Finals on First Take, he should have respectfully declined—trust us, Jason Kidd called and schooled him to this two minutes after he got off the phone with ESPN!—or, at the very least, given a PC answer that wouldn’t become bulletin board material for both teams regardless of who advances.
But, even more importantly, it sounds like the Mavericks might already be overlooking the Grizzlies if they’re confident enough to say that they’d rather play them. And that probably isn’t the wisest decision. If you remember, this is the same Mavs team that got knocked out of the playoffs a few years ago by the eight-seeded Golden State Warriors. They’re the same team that lost a 2-0 lead to the Miami Heat back in 2006 in the NBA Finals. They’re the same team that blew a 23-point lad against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the playoffs. So the last thing they should be hoping for is a matchup against a team that’s got nothing to lose if they manage to make it to the Western Conference Finals.
It’s also important to remember that the Grizzlies aren’t your typical No. 8 seed. Yes, they’re young. Yes, they’re inexperienced. And yes, they would certainly need a little bit of luck on their side to keep up with the Mavericks. But they’ve also shown time and time again in this year’s playoffs that they are a team that can play with anyone in the NBA right now. They weren’t afraid to bang with the San Antonio Spurs, they’ve played the Thunder tough, and they would provide some problems for the Mavericks if they reach that point in the playoffs.
So while it’s only natural for J.J. Barea and the rest of the Mavs to favor playing the Grizzlies over the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, they also might want to be careful what they wish for. Because if the Grizzlies can pull off another win tonight against the Thunder, they just might get it. And that might not actually be what’s best for Dallas.