Grizzlies, Heat now in Finals forecast

Here's the latest ESPN Forecast:

Mama, there goes that team

The Golden State Warriors are shaking up the postseason in some unexpected ways.

After upsetting the Denver Nuggets, the Warriors are threatening to do exactly the same to the San Antonio Spurs.

In the Denver series, Golden State lost a heartbreaker on the road in Game 1, stunned the Nuggets in Game 2 ... and then won its three home games to make the Western Conference semifinals.

In the San Antonio series, Golden State lost a heartbreaker on the road in Game 1, stunned the Spurs in Game 2 ... and now has three home games to make the Western Conference finals.

For the Warriors-Spurs series, the original ESPN Forecast was a level-headed, perfectly rational, tried-and-true traditional pick of Spurs in 5. And maybe that still happens.

But the Warriors don't really care about anyone's forecast, in part because they're not the team we thought they were. With David Lee injured, they've reinvented themselves on the fly to become a different team than the one that was outscored for most of the season by opponents (moving into the black only with some late wins). They didn't even clinch a playoff spot until about a week before the end of the season.


Now, they're pushing the Spurs hard.

How hard?

The panel still thinks the Spurs can hang on, but only by their fingernails.

The new ESPN Forecast: Spurs in 7.

The panel expects the Spurs to struggle in front of Golden State's legendary crowds, but our voters expect the Warriors to struggle even more in those next two critical contests in San Antonio: Game 5 and Game 7.

But that "Spurs in 7" forecast is shaky enough that it might flip if the Warriors can get Game 3 -- which the panel does, in fact, expect them to get, though by a slim margin.

That's how close the series is now: If the Warriors can win a game they should win, they would likely move into the role of favorite over the mighty Spurs.

And if they could also take Game 4, which the panel thinks they can, then they would move decidedly into the driver's seat.

West champs?

What's the secondary effect of Golden State's surge?

A clearer path to the NBA Finals for the Memphis Grizzlies.

On Thursday, we asked, "Which team will win the Western Conference title?"

The result: For the first time ever, the Grizzlies are favored to win the West, with 60 percent of the vote.

The Spurs still get 34 percent of the vote, and the Thunder and Warriors get the scraps, with 5 and 1 percent, respectively.

NBA Finals forecast

With Miami favored in the Eastern Conference, we have an odd bit of regional history developing. While the Grizzlies might be in the "Southwest Division" and the "Western Conference," Memphis itself is in the Southeastern U.S. -- or the Mid-South, as it's called.

So we might have the NBA's first all-Southeast Finals: Memphis versus Miami, even if Miami is about as different culturally from Memphis as it could be.

It would also be the first Finals matchup of two teams that didn't exist in 1981, with Miami coming on the scene in 1988-89 and the Grizzlies born in Vancouver in 1995-96.

And one major item of intrigue: Memphis is actually the team Miami probably should fear the most. The Grizzlies hold a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the SuperFriends era, and have the size and defense to make things difficult for LeBron & Co.

As Dan Le Batard said on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" on Thursday, from Miami's point of view, "Memphis is terrifying. What Chicago did to Miami in Game 1, Memphis can do to you for a series."