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Mavs vs. Thunder offers a contrast in the West

DALLAS - For just the second time since 1998, neither the Lakers nor the Spurs will represent the West in the NBA Finals.

DALLAS - For just the second time since 1998, neither the Lakers nor the Spurs will represent the West in the NBA Finals.

Instead, it'll either be Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and the aging-but-rested Dallas Mavericks or Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the rapidly maturing Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Mavericks are a collection of 30-somethings bonded by a collective pursuit of their first championship. They have plenty of guys who've come close to a title, including a few holdovers from the 2006 team that interrupted the collection of conference titles piled up by the Spurs and Lakers.

With strong defense and so many scoring options, they never know who'll share top billing with Nowitzki, Dallas swept the two-time defending champion Lakers in the second round. The reward was a nine-day wait for Game 1 on Tuesday night.

Dallas had to keep waiting because the Thunder had its hands full with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Oklahoma City went the full seven games and then some, playing three overtimes in one game and one extra period in another. While most clubs would've wanted some down time, the Thunder might be the exception. With their age and exuberance, a lone day off between series may have felt like an eternity.

NBA plays lotto

The NBA will hold its draft lottery Tuesday in Secaucus, N.J., with a lucky team earning the right to make the first pick in next month's draft.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a 25 percent chance of winning, thanks to their league-worst 17-65 record. But they shouldn't design a jersey with the name of Duke's Kyrie Irving, Arizona's Derrick Williams, or whichever other player they would consider with the top pick just yet.

The lottery has been no help at all lately to the teams that need it most. Not since 2004, when Orlando won and grabbed Dwight Howard, has the team with the worst record landed the top pick.

Deng the defender

DEERFIELD, Ill. - The Chicago Bulls saw it all year from Luol Deng, so what he did against LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals hardly shocked them.

The Bulls lead the Heat one game to none after a 103-82 victory on Sunday, and a big reason for that is Deng. All he did was score 21 points, grab seven rebounds, and contribute four steals while neutralizing James in an all-around performance that helped lift Chicago to an impressive victory.

"That's Luol Deng," Chicago's Carlos Boozer said. "He's an unsung hero for us. He should have been an All-Star this season. It's a normal game for Lu."