Today we begin the series that will determine the 2011 NBA champion. We have on one side the veteran Dallas Mavericks trying to find redemption from their implosion against this same heat organization in 2006. On the other side is the Miami Heat trying to take it all in the first season of the big three era. On close inspection this is a pretty evenly matched contest with good reasons to favor either side. There is definitely no lack of star power with LeBron, Wade and Dirk all ready to show their stuff.
Here are my thoughts
Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
Erik Spoelstra (3rd) Rick Carlisle (3rd)
Both coaches are in their third season with their current teams. Carlisle had coaching experience with the Pistons and Pacers previously. Spoelstra has shown after some early bumps that he can get the most out of his collection of superstars; but this is the only year where his team has truly excelled. Carlisle on the other hand has led both of his previous teams to conference finals and has 6 season of over 50 wins.
Joel Anthony (3.3ppg) Tyson Chandler (7.3)
The Points per game are based on playoff stats. In this case Joel Anthony’s contributions are not found in his stat line, although 5 boards and 2 blocks isn’t bad. His main contribution is hustle, defense, emotion. These attributes haven’t always been associated with Chandler, but this season has been a little different. There is no doubt of his talent and he has more ways to hurt you than Anthony. Chandler needs to board and board big so Dirk can concentrate on offense and Marion can focus on guarding LeBron
Chris Bosh (18.6) Dirk Nowitzki (28.4)
In most matchups at this position Bosh would be the one most talked about. He is , of course, one of the Heatles. It’s just Dirk has so dominated the playoffs that he has taken his name and game up another notch on the star meter. Bosh is averaging 18 points and 9 boards this postseason, but his biggest role this series will be his defense. He needs to man up Dirk and take away some of his game without getting into foul trouble. If he can’t, LeBron will have to take some of that role, and I doubt that is what Spoelstra wants. Dirk won’t win any awards on D, but offensively he has been unstoppable. The 28 a game isn’t the most impressive part. It’s that he is shooting 52 percent from the field, including over 50 percent from three.
LeBron James (26.0) Shawn Marion (11.2)
26 points….. 9 rebounds……. 5 1/2 assists……… 1 1/2 steals……. 1 1/2 blocks. These are the stats LeBron is putting up every game. He is trying to throw it in the face of everyone (like myself) that didn’t like the way he handled the decision. He is trying to make it the right decision based purely on results. He has taken over in the playoffs and finished games strong. He is four more wins from his goal. It is Shawn Marion’s goal to stop that. A few years ago this would have been a more even matchup, but he isn’t quite the player he was in the early half of the 2000′s. he, like Bosh, will have his presence measured by how much he slows down the other teams star. No one else that plays over 20 minutes a game can even come close to guarding LeBron, so good luck Shawn. You’ll need it.
Dwayne Wade (23.7) Jason Terry (17.3)
Jason Terry isn’t technically a starter, but that is hogwash. He is the second leading scorer and he plays twice as many minutes as the supposed starter. He will need to put up the big offensive numbers he has in these playoffs. The Mavs need him to give Dirk another option. He may have trouble staying on the floor to do that. Dwayne Wade has been a beast getting into the lane and getting almost 10 free throws a game. Wade will be able to out physical Terry. If Terry cannot adjust or gets into fouls trouble, DeShawn Stevenson will need to play more minutes and that will put a serious hurt on the Mavs offensive flow. Wade brought James down to Miami to get back to this point. He will probably need to defer to James in some important moments, but will still get plenty of opportunities to leave a mark on this series.
Mike Bibby (3.6) Jason Kidd (9.9)
Both of these guys were once the second overall pick in the NBA draft. Mike Bibby has had a good career, but it isn’t the Hall of Fame career Kidd has had. With two Finals losses on his resume, this is the one accolade Jason Kidd has yet to achieve. I’m sure he knows that this is his best and possibly final chance to get that. With JJ Barea giving him just enough rest he’s been able to put up big numbers in the assists and steals column. Bibby has brought some calmness and experience to the Heat at point guard. He hasn’t brought great numbers, but that isn’t what they need from him. He has played his role, but he can’t match what Kidd will bring.
Zydrunas UIlgauskas (3.6) Brendan Haywood (3.4)
Udonis Haslem (3.8) Peja Stojakovic (8.8)
James Jones (6.5) Corey Brewer (1.5)
Mike Miller (2.2) DeShawn Stevenson (3.5)
Mario Chalmers (6.1) JJ Barea (8.9)
The series will not be decided by the bench play. There are too many stars on each team to let that happen. They will affect play though. Each team has veterans coming off the bench that shouldn’t be too intimidated by the atmosphere. Each team has two bench players that will take on big roles. Miami needs Udonis Haslem to be healthy. He needs to come in, inject some toughness and rebound hard. Miami has had some trouble rebounding in these playoffs. They feel Haslem is their new weapon in that battle. Dallas needs Stojakovic to come out and drain threes when the second team is on the floor and when he is in in late game situations. He needs to up his 3 point percentage if Carlisle is going to trust him in those situations. the other big bench players are the backup point guards. JJ Barea has been a revelation this postseason. He no longer just gets a 38 year old Kidd off the floor for some rest, he injects energy and new wrinkles into the Mav offense. Mario Chalmers essentially shares PG with Bibby. He can be an active scorer, but his main focus will be keeping Kidd and Barea in check. If he has to take a big shot, I think he’ll be ok. He just hit one of the biggest jumpers in college history.
I think this will be a tightly fought series. Both teams want it and have the firepower to go get it. I am going to bet on the older desperation of the Mavericks to get it done. either way it should be fun to watch.
MY PICK: MAVERICKS in 6