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2011 NBA Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks

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Well, here we are. 2 weeks away from having the entire NBA season not to mention the competitive balance in basketball invalidated for the foreseeable future by the Miami Heat. Without sounding like an old man shaking his fist and yelling “Get off my lawn!” I am hoping that the Heat flame out in incredible fashion. I know that they won’t, but a Clevelander can dream… After reading that statement, it’s fair to say that I am picking the Mavericks in this series. The rationale is either a) I’m a bitter Clevelander, b) I’m picking with my heart and not my head, or c) The Mavs actually have a better than average shot at bringing home a title… for my own sanity, I’ll say it’s “c,” but I know full well that there are some “a” and “b” in there too… at the end of the day, I’m allowed, it’s my site, and I can at least rationally back up my pick. Take it for what it’s worth (albeit not a whole lot as I had Lakers – Magic as my preseason pick), but read it and enjoy the series, God knows it might be the last bit of NBA basketball we see for a pretty long time.

At this point everyone is well aware that Miami is a 2.5-man show. Fortunately for them, the 2 in the 2.5 are top-5 players in the NBA based on individual talent. Dallas on the other hand has depth for days. They say that superstars win in the playoffs, and undoubtedly the most talented player is LeBron James, but Dirk Nowitzki is playing like a man possessed right now while Dwayne Wade is playing like a guy hiding an injury.

Miami is the favorite in this series and if they get anything off the bench, they will be very difficult to beat. The problem is, I’m not sure that they will. Udonis Haslem had his moment in the sun and has regressed to being Udonis Haslem. Mario Chalmers is a chucker while Mike Bibby and Mike Miller are barely able to make it up and down the court at this point.

On the other side, Dallas is considerably older, but they are playing like a team that realizes their window might be closing (think Celtics in 2008). 38-year old Jason Kidd mans the point for the Mavs and has been playing 10 years younger so far in the playoffs. If he can continue hitting shots, that gives Dallas a huge advantage at the 1 spot. If he doesn’t, well frankly the Mavs will have a tough time winning. I think he’s got a solid series in him and Dallas will be firmly in every game… and win the race to 4.

At the 2, Wade is so superior to DeShawn Stevenson that it’s asinine to even make the comparison. That said, Jason Terry will get the bulk of the minutes and even at 33 is a very capable scorer. The big question is whether or not Wade’s shoulder will limit him any. If it does, the Heat are in trouble. LeBron wasn’t able to get it done by himself in Cleveland and without Wade, he has far less support than he did with the Cavs.

Like the 2, LeBron gives the Heat a clear advantage at the 3 position. Shawn Marion is one of the more underrated players of this generation, but he’s never been capable of carrying a team by himself. He’s like a less-mouthy version of Chris Bosh, with better defensive skills. LeBron has been a terrible closer in his career, but in the Chicago series he tried, and may have succeeded in quieting those doubts. While his plays weren’t necessarily spectacular, and he still made questionable decisions, the shots he did hoist found the bottom of the basket.

At the 4, Dirk gives the Mavs a big advantage in that he is literally impossible to guard. You can’t put a big on him because none are quick enough to stay with him on the perimeter. You can’t put a small on him because he will make it rain 3’s all game. You can’t throw switches at him because he’s smart enough to recognize mismatches and can literally get his shot from anywhere on the floor. The only thing that will limit Nowitzki is if his shots don’t fall. On the other side Bosh is a very good offensive player, but seems to be a ball stopper. I don’t want to question his intelligence, but his basketball IQ is severely lacking. When he gets his points, the rest of the team suffers, when he doesn’t, his effort levels drop to catatonic levels.

Underneath the Mavs have another clear advantage. They have two bigs in Tyson Chandler and Brendon Haywood that are easily superior to anything that Miami has to offer. Joel Anthony will grab a rebound and block a shot, but would have trouble starting on any team with even a decent option at Center. Rebounding should be a big advantage for the Mavs, but the Heat did a pretty good job hanging with Chicago underneath and executed in winning time.

In order to win, Dallas will need to take advantage of Miami’s lack of size and poor play at the point. It will be a long series either way as Miami will easily win 2 games with their superstars, but in the end, I think Dallas gets the job done and brings the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Texas.

Mavs in 7.

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