The 2010/2011 NBA season is approaching its end, it has come down to two teams hailing from completely opposite basketball playbooks and only one can walk away with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. In the red corner we have the Miami Heat, who completely overhauled their roster ala Boston Celtics style in the hopes of gaining a Championship. In the blue corner are the Dallas Mavericks, who didn’t completely overhaul their roster and are keeping the ravages of age from denying them this chance at a Championship.
Coming into this Finals series sees Miami advancing after defeating Philadelphia, Boston and league-leaders Chicago, after the Bulls threw away their chances of winning any of the final four games of that series in the last period. On the other hand Dallas advanced after defeating Portland, reigning champs the LA Lakers and finally the energetic Oklahoma City, who like the Bulls, threw away chances to win the final two games of that series in the last period. Both teams haved played remarkably well to reach the finals, coming from behind numerous times and also defeating standout teams from both conferences.
Looking ahead to the matchup between the two of them though, it is hard to determine who will come out on top. Let’s break it down into positions via starting fives first, then bench players –
Miami: Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mike Bibby
Dallas: Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd
Miami Bench: Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Eddie House
Dallas Bench: Jason Terry, Jose Juan Barea, Peja Stojakovic, Brendan Haywood, Brian Cardinal, Corey Brewer, Ian Mahinmi
First thing that is clear to see from the starting lineups is that Dallas will expose the same weakness the Bulls did against Miami, rebounding. Tyson Chandler will be too much to handle for Joel Anthony in terms of physicality and aggression. Chandler is the bruiser type player for the Mavs and although he may get fouled out of a number of games, he performs his role – grab the boards, knock some opposition around and put in around 10+pts a game.
The Dirk v Bosh matchup will prove interesting and also form the pivotal part of the series. If Miami decides to screen with Bosh, that would leave Dirk defending Wade or James on the mismatch, who in turn would go straight at the 7-foot German and get him into foul trouble. On the flip side of that, if Dallas is able to out manoeuvre that screen play then Dirk will remain on the court and completely eat Bosh alive offensively. Dirk has been an absolute beast these playoffs so far and I can’t see Miami changing that at all. If Dallas win the Finals, he is a lock for MVP no doubt about it.
LeBron James v Shawn Marion is also an interesting matchup purely because of the athleticism shared by the two players. Marion is still athletic and there is no doubting James’ athleticism so this matchup will be won on the defensive end. Neither player is a skilled defender, I don’t care what people say about LeBron defending Rose and keeping him to below 10% shooting in the final two games of the series. The fact is that wasn’t James’ defensive skills, it was his height, width and strength that defeated Rose, not the pressure he applied or tactics deployed by James.
LeBron will knock down shots all night, any night so Marion has to do the same, I expect to see Marion slashing to the basket and getting to the free throw line where he doesn’t have to worry about having his shot blocked.
In the SG spot Wade has this position sewn up, Stevenson is an above average defender but fouls too much and gets frustrated too easily. Both of which play into D-Wades hands and will be of no help to the Mavs. Stevenson does have one thing going for him though, he can flat out shoot the ball when he feels like it. If he heats up from beyond the arc, that is just another player the Heat have to guard more closely, leaving more room for Dirk to fade-away against Bosh.
Jason Kidd is much, much better than Mike Bibby and has this position sewn up almost as easily as the SG spot and Wade. He is still an excellent playmaker, still a great shooter and as experienced as they come. Mike Bibby is… Just not near Kidds level.
Dallas has the better bench than Miami, Haywood a previous starting centre, Stojakovic a previous starter, Terry a previous starter, Brewer a previous starter. Throw in Barea and you have a completely new starting five. Haywood will come on when Chandler is resting or fouled out, whichever comes first, and will continue to own the boards against Miami. Only problem with Haywood is that he is battling it out with Shaq for the worst free-throw shooter in the NBA and while on court Miami may employ a Hack-a-Shaq strategy against him. Stojakovic has been firing throughout the playoffs and will cause headaches if he catches fire again, his quick release and seemingly limitless range allow him to get plenty of shots up. We all know what Jason Terry can do and aside from Dirk, could be the only Mavs player capable of creating his own shot. Brewer could get the call up in this series, unlike the others, he would do a superior job on Wade than Stevenson and is a handy shooter as well.
The Miami bench has a number of bit players surrounding Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, the only two real players that damage the Mavs from the bench. Ilgauskas is in the coaches bad books, Juwan Howard is old and slow, however he could match the aggression of Chandler, Eddie House has not been seen in a number of years it seems, Mario Chalmers is a poor decision maker and James Jones was surprisingly absent from the Chicago series.
This series will be won behind a few key points –
- Dirk Nowitzki – If he scores the way he has been, Dallas is on their way to a score approaching 100 and there is no notion of Dirk slowing down.
- Free-throws – Dirk v James/Wade. It’s not a question of will they get to the line, its a question of their %’s. Dirk will hit 90%+ each game, the same can’t be said for James and Wade.
- Second chance points – Chicago missed out on many extra points from offensive rebounding, Dallas can’t afford to do the same and I don’t expect them to.
- Big-3 – Which one will the Mavs target to stop? They simply can’t allow all three to have big nights, stopping one will go some ways to winning a game and,
- Three-ball – The Mavs can be deadly from outside three, Miami with the exception of Miller and Jones are not. If Dallas starts knocking down the threes Miami will have to stop playing low to minimise Dirks impact to get out to the shooters. Once that happens, Dirks wide open inside.
Dallas have too many scorers available to catch fire on any given night for Miami to contend with, however they have very little in terms of defense. The series will come down to the above points and I believe Dallas may be out in front of Miami in those points. Given that, my tip is Dallas in six games.
LET THE FINALS BEGIN!!