Last night, the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the Western Conference Finals in five games (as I, ahem, had predicted) and qualify for only the franchise’s second ever NBA Finals. There, they will face whoever wins the Chicago Bulls-Miami Heat series, which the Heat could clinch tonight; whichever Eastern team wins will have home-court advantage.
How’d the Mavs get here? Great coaching; superb role-playing from the bench; the veteran savvy of point guard Jason Kidd; and, above all, Dirk Nowitzki, who especially if he secures a title will have to enter the conversation of top 15 or even 10 basketball players of all time. In the past series, against a young, hungry, and talented Thunder team, he averaged more than 32 points a game (he went a genuinely astonishing 59-for-61 from the free-throw line) and, more, quietly orchestrated the offense, almost like a bandleader, in a way that has drawn perfectly valid comparisons to Larry Bird.
All three teams still standing have Jewish majority owners. Yet from the playoffs’ outset, the Mavs have been Tablet Magazine’s team, because there is something special—and something especially Jewish—about the Mavs’ iconoclastic, stats-happy owner Mark Cuban. We’ll have more coverage as the Finals approaches. But it is nice that even before we know what the match-up is, we know which team we’ll be rooting for.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.