Out of all the possibilities for the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat will face the Dallas Mavericks in what looks to be one of the greatest Finals rematches of all time.
Much has changed since these two teams last met. For starters, the Miami Heat turned from a slightly above average team to a multi-year dynasty in waiting. Nearly every sports writer and media outlet has taken the easy way out, criticizing Lebron and the Heat for pursuing help to win championships. In fact, I think the only positive Heat articles came from yours truly.
Believe it or not, this Heat team has actually been underrated all season long. In an era where social media dominates the sports industry, it is remarkable how the Heat managed to win 58 games and lock up the two seed in the East. Not to mention their dismantling of the Celtics and Bulls, where the Heat held a huge talent disparity in each series. And people thought Derrick Rose was the MVP (more on this later).
The Heat’s Finals opponent…my Dallas Mavericks. In contrast to the Heat’s wide media coverage, the Mavericks seemed to fly under the radar the entire season. I’ll be the first to admit, this Maverick playoff run has caught me way off guard. First the Texas Rangers, now the Mavericks. Dallas sports are running at an all time high. What’s next, the Cowboys in the Super Bowl?
As mentioned in my midseason article (link), this is the best Mavericks team of all time. The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks have finally put the “D” back in the Big D. Adding defensive centerpiece Tyson Chandler has done wonders for this Dallas team. What’s not to love about this Dallas team? A veteran-ridden lineup with two strong defensive presences down low, an array of elite perimeter defenders, a deep bench, plenty of sharpshooters, and quite possibly one of the best shooting big men of all time. Could this finally be the year Dirk and the Mavs breakthrough? I know Mark Cuban sure thinks so.
Having been driving the Heat bandwagon all season, I have finally met my match. If you haven’t figured out by now, I am very biased towards the Mavericks and would love nothing more than to see Dirk and Dallas finally win a title. As much as I would love to see Dallas win a title, the Lebron has been on a mission even since “The Decision.” With Game 1 beginning tonight, here is my preview and analysis in what looks to be an excellent Finals matchup.
First things first, the Miami Heat are the heavy favorite to win this series (as they should be, they only have two of the best players in the NBA). Dallas has won both season meetings between the two teams, but is this as relevant as it sounds? Both of these teams have vastly improved from their midseason form, and have fittingly been the two hottest playoff teams. This Maverick team has won 10 of their past 11 games including, embarrassing the two-time defending champs in four, and beating the younger, more athletic Thunder in only five games. Funny to think how after their massive collapse in Game 4 in the Portland series, that they would win 10 of their 11. The Miami Heat run has been no different, winning 9 of the past 11 games, it is tough to imagine a team that can hang with the “Big three” for a best-of-seven series. This looks like a well-matched series to me. Here is my complete position breakdown.
Point Guard: Interesting matchup. On one hand you have Mike Bibby who is years past his Sacramento days, but can still hit the three ball and is a playoff veteran. However, Jason Kidd has rejuvenated himself in his second stint in Dallas, and is sometimes the 2nd-best player on the team. If you are going into a playoff series, Kidd would be a unanimous pick to run point over Bibby. One of the greatest point guards to ever play the game gives Dallas the point guard edge. Edge: Dallas
Shooting guard: Dwyane Wade vs. Deshawn Stevenson? As much as I admire Stevenson’s tenacity and confidence (primarily on defense), Wade is the 2nd-best player in the NBA and don’t think I have forgotten about what he did in the 2006 Finals vs. Dallas. Edge: Miami
Small Forward: Don’t get me wrong, Marion has surprised me with his elite level of defense in both the Lakers and Thunder series. But (and this is a big BUT), Lebron James is the best talent this league has seen since Michael Jordan. Or in Scottie Pippen’s words, “Lebron may be better than Jordan.” Edge: Miami
Power Forward: Chris Bosh has had a great season. However, Bosh hasn’t really lived up to expectations ever since he threw his name into the formation of the Miami Big Three (It really should be the Big Two but that’s just me). As for Dirk’s playoff run thus far: 28.4 PPG, 51.7 FG%, 51.6 3-pt FG%, and 92.9 FT%. And the more amazing thing… those percentages are slightly down from last year’s playoffs. Edge: Dallas
Center: My how things have changed since Dallas has had the better Center, Tyson Chandler, in all three of their playoff series (and this series is no different). Miami Heat’s Joel Anthony has been a significant asset to this Heat team, but Dallas’ Tyson Chandler not only has improved the Mavs’ defense but has also given this team a new defensive identity. If you give Tyson a scoring power forward and great passing point guard…then watch him flourish (see 2008 New Orleans Hornets). The funny part about this is Dallas paid Brendan Haywood $55 million just last summer. I’d like to thank MJ for giving Chandler to Dallas in exchange for the Erick Dampier’s lazy carcass (If only he would have done it before Haywood’s massive contract). Edge: Dallas
Bench: Lets see: does the Miami Heat have a bench? Answer: No. And, other than Udonis Haslem, I can’t name one other decent player on the Heat bench. The Mavericks have stacked themselves with scorers, rebounders, and defenders to have arguably the deepest bench in the league. Jason Terry and JJ. Barea are two guards capable of scoring 20+ any given night. Corey Brewer hasn’t been getting much playing time, but I expect that to change this series given his great defensive skill set. Last year’s Mavs starting center, Brendan Haywood, has provided great relief for Chandler and is still an above-average rebounder and shot-blocker. Last but not least, the Serbian Sharpshooter, Peja Stojakovic, was an absolute steal for the Mavericks. No wonder this Maverick’s bench tied the Lakers’ ENTIRE TEAM in the series-clinching game 4 (86 Mavs bench pts vs. Lakers 86 total pts). Edge: Dallas
Coach: As great of a job Eric Spoelstra has done this season in managing the Miami circus, Rick Carlisle has been slightly better. I’m not sure if you were watching the Lakers series, but Carlisle SEVERELY outcoached the great Zenmaster Phil Jackson (the same Phil Jackson who has 11 rings)! And was anyone more outcoached than Scotty Brooks in the Mavs-Thunder series? Edge: Dallas
Stick’s Pick: Part of me wishes it wasn’t these two teams squaring off because I would love for each team to win a title. But let’s be honest, Dallas and its fans deserve a title (Homer Alert)! However, the Miami Heat has the X-factor. Imagine if the Mavericks had another player the caliber of Dirk Nowitzki. The Miami Heat have two players of that caliber. I would love to see Dallas take home the trophy but Lebron and Wade just seem too talented for this Dallas team. Hopefully Dallas can prove me wrong once again, but until then… Stick’s Pick: Miami in seven