A day that many NBA fans (particularly Cleveland) analysts and purists did
not want to see is now upon us. I think it’s safe to say that the Miami
Heat have earned the right to be playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The
same can be said for the Dallas Mavericks who have been just as impressive
as representatives of the Western Conference.
Now it’s time to get down to business.
When these two teams last met in 2006 the Mavericks held a 2-0 lead before
a monumental collapse led to the Heat claiming their first and only NBA
title to date. The next Finals game that Lebron James wins will be his
first as he was on the Cleveland Cavaliers squad that was swept by the San
Antonio Spurs the following season.
Let’s look at the impending matchups:
Jason Kidd gets his third and possibly final shot at a ring, I would expect the Heat to stick with struggling Mike Bibby for as long as they can. Mike Bibby hasn’t been effective since coming to Miami and may see his minutes reduced if he continues to struggle. rse Dwayne Wade and/or James running the offense is never out of the question. DeShawn Stevenson will draw Wade in his assignment and will look to slow him down, but Stevenson platoons with Jason Terry so don’t expect to see much of Stevenson unless he’s successful in his assignment.
The Lebron James/Dirk Nowitzki matchup has been one that will keep fans entertained. On one end you have a sharpshooter in Nowitzki and a slashing James on the other. Problem is we will rarely see these two locked up unless Dirk is really giving Chris Bosh problems. Shawn Marion gets the task of guarding James and with Marion being far from the player that he was five years ago. James is a tough drawn because of the triple threat that he poses to defenders. Chris Bosh against Dirk Nowitzki should be an intriguing matchup as both excel in the finesse game. Bosh gets the nod as a better defender but Dirk has the strength to go to a mini post-up game if the situation calls for it.
Joel Anthony and Tyson Chandler are two defensive specialists that will make rebounding a premium. Both players will hustle for loose balls and make plays that will energize their respective teams.
Udonis Haslem has given the Heat an emotional boost as well as confidence to a bench that has played better in each series. They don’t score much but they defend pretty well and will need to. The Mavericks bench is quick and will look to score in bunches. A major boost could come in the form of Caron Butler who has been out since January with a shoulder injury. Jason Terry and J.J. Barea will look to carry the Mavs bench. It would be a huge boost if Chalmers could slow Barea down just a bit. Look for Brendan Haywood to seek an advantage against an older and slower Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Mavs will need to be mindful of James Jones, who can cause problems if he gets hot from deep.
I don’t see Miami walking over the Mavericks, if the Heat want this championship they will struggle to win it. This will be a battle of wills. Will Dirk get those same calls on the road? Will Wade break out of whatever has slowed him down? Which coach will have a better gameplan down the stretch? Will Chris Bosh quietly continue to play good ball?
Miami in Seven