Can any team from the West contend with Miami?
Question: Which team from the West has the best chance to contend against Miami for an NBA title?
Kate Fagan: I wish so badly that I was about to write this:
"Sarah, the Golden State Warriors are going to come out of the West. They're going to keep playing exactly like they did on Sunday night, beat the Spurs and then take down the Westbrook-less Thunder in the West finals, setting up an epic, sexy NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
"Just picture it: Stephen Curry curling off screens to knock down 3-pointers, and Jarrett Jack -- Jarrett Jack, Sarah! -- hitting key buckets down the stretch. I even think Klay Thompson can slow down LeBron James -- just enough, just to frustrate him.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the sea of gold inside Oracle Arena because I think this could be one of the most fun NBA Finals in a long time."
Of course, instead I'm going to write this: The Spurs. Yawn.
You may not be willing to write it, but I'll go ahead and do it: The Warriors will represent the West in the NBA Finals.
The Spurs are experienced and smart, but -- newsflash to no one -- they're getting mighty long in the tooth. San Antonio's Big Three -- Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili -- showed their age Sunday. Parker was just 6-for-17 from the field, Duncan was an ugly 7-for-22 and Ginobili started strong but faded in the second half, missing nine of his last 12. Every game of this thrilling series has come down to the final minutes, and Sunday's was the second of four to go into at least one overtime. The Warriors, even when battling through injury, are much more suited to survive the physical toll this series is taking on everyone involved.
Neither of us is giving the Thunder or the Grizzlies a chance to advance -- do you think we're not giving those teams enough credit?
Kate: Nah. It's between the Warriors and Spurs. I know people are looking at Kevin Durant to see if he can bring his supporting cast to the Finals like LeBron did with Cleveland. But people forget LeBron had that team all season; Durant is dealing with an abrupt shift because of Westbrook's injury.
Anyway, I also love how we're deftly skirting the actual question: Whether a team from the West can challenge the Heat. I imagine that exchange would be short
Sarah: Yeah, nobody.
Kate: Good talk.
Sarah: That we are. Just as deftly as I, a Chicago-based reporter and avowed Bulls fan, have managed to avoid taking umbrage at the question's assumption that the Heat are assured a spot in the Finals.
Having now drawn attention to both questions, I'll begrudgingly address them. While the Bulls are certainly giving fans their money's worth (and giving the Heat all they can handle) it's clear that Miami is a better team. The Bulls have been without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng for the entire series thus far, so to have won a game and kept another close is a feat in itself. Of course, moral victories mean nothing in the playoffs -- Miami will win the series, beat the winner of Knicks/Pacers and outlast the Warriors to win its second straight title.