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In our ramp-up to the Mavs-Heat NBA Finals, which tips off tomorrow night, we continue our wrap-up of the national media coverage of the series. Let's begin all the way up in Washington state, where Seattle Times writer Percy Allen brands this a most watchable series--and not only that, but the "dawning of a new day in the NBA" based upon the "grace, glory and glamour" of the playoffs. No word on whether this series also heralds the Second Coming. Or maybe it's just the Second Coming of Shaq: The Los Angeles Times relives the glory days when Shaq and Kobe took the Lakers to the Promised Land, before going their separate ways after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals. Ah, the good ol' days.

Something called Dime Magazine, accessible through Fox Sports' Web site, picks the Mavs to win the series. Reason? "Dallas has too many matchup problems for Miami." That's kinda the consensus over at ESPN, where three of five contributors pick the Mavs to win, including former Dallas Morning News Mavs beat writer Marc Stein. Bob Wolfley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel--and pretty much everyone else--repeats that theme, only Wolfley lets analysts Jack Ramsay and Mark Jackson do his predictin' for him.


For a little insider info, Michael Cunningham of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Mavs coach Avery Johnson's been putting his team through the paces and then some; "We are anxious to get going," Johnson says, and we know the feeling. Peter May in the Boston Globe does a breakdown of players vs. players, coach vs. coach and owner vs. owner, and figures Miami has the edge in at least one category: "Miami's Micky Arison is one of those heard-but-not-seen owners and also happens to be the chairman of the NBA Board of Governors," which means NBA commish David Stern wants to give him the Larry O'Brien Trophy, right? Right. And even The Christian Science Monitor is eager to get onto the hardwood: The paper credits the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade with helping the NBA "get its groove back." Says writer Daniel Wood: "The buzz over Thursday's opening game of the NBA finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat is proof positive that basketball has a future in the post-Michael Jordan era." Was there any doubt? --Robert Wilonsky

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