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NBA Finals Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat

May 27, 2011, 4:45 AM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat Getty Images

SEASON RECORDS
Mavericks: 57-25 (No. 3 seed in Western Conference)
Heat: 58-24 (No. 2 seed in Eastern Conference)

SEASON SERIES
Dallas swept the season series 2-0. After a slow start to the season Miami went on a 22-2 streak — but both of those losses were to Dallas. That said, both games were before Christmas, so don’t read much into them.

PLAYOFF SERIES
Mavericks: defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 4-2, Los Angeles Lakers, 4-0, Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
Heat: defeated Philadelphia 76ers 4-1, Boston Celtics 4-1, Chicago Bulls 4-1

SERIES SCHEDULE (times Eastern)

Game 1 – Tue. May 31 at Miami 9:00 PM
Game 2 – Thu. June 2 at Miami 9:00 PM
Game 3 – Sun. June 5 at Dallas 8:00 PM
Game 4 – Tue. June 7 at Dallas 9:00 PM
Game 5 * Thu. June 9 at Dallas 9:00 PM
Game 6 * Sun. June 12 at Miami 8:00 PM
Game 7 * Tue. June 14 at Miami 9:00 PM

All games broadcast on ABC

KEY INJURIES
Mavericks: Caron Butler likely will not play this series, he has been out with knee surgery since the middle of the season. Rodrigue Beaubois is back from injury, but it hasn’t mattered he isn’t playing. The Mavs have made the finals in spite of all that.
Heat: Mike Miller has injured two thumbs you couldn’t play NBA 2K11 with, but he will be out on the court.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE PLAYOFF RANKING (points per 100 possessions)
Mavericks: Offense 114.1 (1st in NBA playoffs); Defense 106.1 (8th)
Heat: Offense 107.2 (4th in NBA playoffs); Defense 101.7 (3rd)

THREE KEY MAVERICKS:

Dirk Nowitzki. He has been a marvel, the single best player in the playoffs. He is averaging 28.4 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting grabbing 7.5 boards, and yet the numbers simply do not do his performance justice. He is efficient. His rainbow, one-legged, turnaround fadeaway is both the most devastating shot in the game today and completely ungaurdable. His passing has been phenomenal. In this series it will be interesting to see how the Mavericks use him on defense — hide him on Joel Anthony or let him cover Chris Bosh? Whatever he does, expect a monster series from him — like everyone else the Heat will have no good defensive answer for him.

Tyson Chandler. Through the regular season, the Miami Heat shot 66 percent when they got within three feet of the basket. But in two meetings with the Mavericks, they shot 52 percent. The key to beating the Heat is to turn them into jump shooters and not let them get easy baskets in transition and at the line. A lot of that falls to Chandler — he has to defend the rim without fouling. If he can do what he did in the regular season the Mavericks have a huge advantage. But it will not be as simple as it was back in December (the Heat’s ball movement and movement of players off the ball is far better now than the last time these teams played). Remember, at the end of Game 5 the Bulls did what they wanted and turned LeBron and Wade into jump shooters from three, and they knocked the shots down.

Jason Terry. He represents the entire Mavs bench here — J.J. Barea, Peja Stojakovic, Brendan Haywood. They have been key to the Mavericks success by providing scoring in a variety of ways, but now they face a very different challenge — the Heat have gone with a very small three-man rotation, keeping their big three on the floor for heavy minutes. The Mavs bench is going to have to match up to that — if they can it will mean rested Mavericks starters and a boost or them, but if the bench lets them down and Miami makes runs, it will be a big hole to dig out of.

THREE KEY HEAT

LeBron James. The Heat’s evolution through these playoffs into a team that trusts each other parallels James evolution. He has always had a well-rounded game in him, he’s always been willing to make the pass, but on his previous teams him shooting over a double team may have been a better scoring option than passing to some of his teammates. In the last few games against the Bulls James really seemed to settle into a facilitator role with the Heat. Of course, he’s still scoring 25.9 points per game and pulling down 8.7 rebounds per game during the playoffs so it isn’t all just making passes.

Dwyane Wade: He just did not look right last series, in the end shooting 40.5 percent and by Game 5 passing up open looks to feed more covered teammates. Well, that was until the game was on the line in the final four minutes when he hit three key sots. This series the Heat will need his offense — in the past Dallas has struggled to contain good two guards. Wade should be able to score easily on DeShawn Stevenson and he’ll need to. This is a matchup the Heat need to exploit.

Udonis Haslem. He brings a real toughness and energy to the Heat — this is one of the guys on this team with a ring (from the 2006 Heat). He also is here to represent the guys on Miami — Chris Bosh, even LeBron James — who have to cover Nowitzki. They need to be able to often single-cover Nowitzki because the Mavericks spread the floor with shooters and you can’t leave them. Haslem hounded Nowitzki and kept him in check during the 2006 finals and will be asked to reprise that role. The time off until next Tuesday and the amount of time between games in the finals should help keep him healthy (he had foot surgery early in the year).

OUTLOOK

This is going to be one entertaining finals. These teams are here because they were the teams executing at the end of games — both sides have tremendous come-from-behind wins and both have just simply out executed their opponents in the clutch. Both have seen their best players — Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James — win games with jump shots.

No lead will feel safe in this series, especially late. That said, both teams benefited from playing teams that helped out with tight play and poor execution under pressure last series. That will not be the case now, one team will need to step up.

One key so far is that Dallas has not played fantastic defense, they’ve been just pretty average through the playoffs. Dallas has won with their offense. Miami’s defense, on the other hand, has been impressive. Their athleticism challenges everything, takes away passing lanes and they have been physical with everyone. This will be a different kind of test because Dallas is a jump shooting team — pack it in to take away the paint like the Heat did against the Bulls and the Mavs will shoot and make right over the top, something Chicago failed to do. Either Miami’s defense or the Mavs offense has to give way, and that will be key.

Dallas needs to exploit the point guard play of Mike Bibby or the lack of size inside by the Heat — who go with a small lineup having 6’9” Joel Anthony at center — to win. The Mavericks need to hit the offensive glass hard, harder than the Bulls did, to get the series win. Rebounding will be another key.

Bench play also will matter — Dallas has gotten scoring from everyone it seems, but how will that bench fare against heavy minutes from the big three of the Heat.

PREDICTION

Dallas has been playing fantastic ball, but Miami has been playing better defense so far. Plus, the versatility of their three stars gives them more ways to attack and adjust as the series wears on. Dallas will put up a fight, and they have surprised us before these playoffs, but while this will feel different it will end just like it did in 2006.

Heat in 6.

  1. alltimeballa - May 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Prediction #1 Dirks picture on the side of a milk carton.

    • netjunkie9 - Feb 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      oops.

  2. davidly - May 27, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Predictions are predictions, so I won’t dispute the logic here; I didn’t even think either of these teams had a prayer of going to their respective conference finals, let alone meeting for the championship.

    But if Dallas doesn’t win this series, I will have lost faith in team basketball. As good as the big three are, for me, it just isn’t exciting to watch a quarter of a roster score ninety percent of the points.

    • hnirobert3 - May 27, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      That’s fair criticism, however the Heat are not playing the way Riley envisioned they would. The reason they got Haslem was because they wanted him to provide 10-12 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. They didn’t get Miller because they wanted him to score 4 points and pull down 9 rebounds. They got him because they thought he could give them 15-18 points off the bench. It hasn’t worked out because of injuries. Wade, Bosh and LeBron HAD to score 90 points combined because there two best bench players were hurt all year. You don’t think Dirk, Kidd and Marion would be putting up bigger numbers if Terry and Barrea were out most of the year? It’s a game of adjustments.

      • davidly - May 27, 2011 at 9:50 AM

        I’m not saying that the Heat are not winning how they can. I’m saying that as a fan of the game, the way they are winning now is not aesthetically pleasing to me.

        Whether or not the other players on the team are giving them what had been planned is moot. As is the supposition regarding Terry and Barrea. Had they been out most of the year, Dallas wouldn’t likely be in the finals.

    • hooopsluver - May 27, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      Most team have 3-4 scorers that does 70-80% of the scoring. So the fact that the Heat have 3 guys who does 80% of the lifting does not mean that they are not playing as a team. Boston as a team get a similar % from their top 3. The teams that are not so great in this league depends on one player to give them 30-40% of the scoring and the remaining comes from 3-4 other role player. As it is, we all know that these types of teams do not advance very far. San Antonio rely on 80% of scoring from Duncan, Manu and Parker.

      Dallas has an over reliance on Dirk and when dirk is not playing well, Dallas crumbles. Look at all the loss in the post season for dallas, they are all when Dirk is contained or not playing well.

      As for the Heat, they have had games where they won where Lebron is not the dominant. During the boston series Wade averaged better than Lebron. In the Chicago, I think Bosh had more scoring than wade and lebron in 2 games.
      Offense will not win this series, defense will because the strategy will be to remove or contain the top scorer and force the rest of the team to step up. Miami defense is better. Miami may not need to contain Dirk, if they can make it hard to the ball to come to Dirk by disrupting Kidd and the other guards. If you recall Chicago vs. Utah back then, Jordan and Pippen did not need to contain the Mailman, they smothered John stockton and created hell for Utah’s offense.
      As for offense, And if you look beyond Dirk, Dallas is thinner than the Heat who still has Wade and Bosh who can consistently give you 20 plus points per game, not just a one in a lifetime scoring night. Over a 7 game series, statistics become more important.

      • davidly - May 28, 2011 at 7:48 AM

        I am not saying that Miami isn’t a good team. I am saying that I don’t like their game. The big three log all the minutes and they are four deep. So if you read what I wrote, you’ll see that I am talking about taste. My personal taste.

        I am not making any kind of prediction as to the outcome of this series. It’s just that after watching the Mavs dismantle the Lakers and Thunder so effectively, I would rather see them win. That’s all.

        Now, as far as your points: Contrary to your claim, Boston’s top three scorers only accounted for 57 percent of their points this past season. I don’t see how 57 and 75 are similar percentages.

        As to Ginobili, Parker, Duncan: They are 56 percent of the Spur’s scoring. I don’t know where you got the 80 percent from.

        Back to my personal taste: Dallas’ top three score only 56 percent of their points, have 5 more assists and one less turnover per game than the Heat. After the top three, their scorers go 10, 9, 9, 7 as compared to Miami’s 7, 6, 4, 3.

        These may seem like subtle differences, but they are indicators of what I prefer to watch in a game. Clearly the Heat have shown that they can win with the formula they have. And for all I know, they mop the floor with the Mavs toot-sweet. I just don’t wanna watch it.

        Now. Regarding strategy. Defense absolutely. Which is why I disagree with you on Miami’s strategy. I think they can let Dirk have his and limit the other guys, most particularly Kidd and Barea. James could shut them down in his sleep.

        Whoever wins this series, credit the coach.

      • davidly - May 28, 2011 at 7:57 AM

        Sorry about my last paragraph. We apparently agree completely regarding the defensive strategy.

      • passerby23 - May 28, 2011 at 7:37 PM

        Couldn’t disagree more. First of all, Dallas has lost a whopping three games and has won 10 of 11. One of those losses was a frittering way of a 23-point lead against Portland, another when Dirk played decently but OKC shot the lights out. Dirk shot 7-21 in Game 3 against OKC and they blew them out.

        Second of all, they are probably the most balanced scoring team in the playoffs. Barea, Terry, Marion, Kidd, and Stojakovic are all capable of having explosive offensive games, while Chandler, Haywood, and Stevenson chip in 5-10 points per night.

        I think if Dallas loses, it will be because Miami just makes bigger plays in crunch time. I think the defensive matchup on Dirk will be interesting too. Lebron? Haslem? Bosh?

        All that being said, I’m taking the Heat in 6.

    • cleareye1 - May 27, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Dallas gets extra points from their owner.

  3. hnirobert3 - May 27, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    I really hope Spo doesn’t put Bosh on Dirk. I like Bosh, I like what he’s grown into during the playoffs, but Dirk OWNS him and he’s playing out of his mind right now. It’s a size disadvantage, but I’d like to see Joel on him to start the game and then rotate that with Haslem.

    • randommofo - May 27, 2011 at 9:34 AM

      They’ll probably split minutes with Joel, Bosh, UD, and LeBron and go with what works

  4. coltsfanindc - May 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I still like Anthony off the bench, but I’m not the coach and it did work against Chicago. He just seems more effective off the bench. His impact was much bigger vs Philly n Boston. buy hope it works out. Go Heat!!!

  5. 1historian - May 27, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    With the age Dallas has this is their only chance to win it all. Dirk will remember what happened 5 years ago and he will make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’m afraid that Miami will win a lot of championships with this lineup, I just hope it doesn’t begin this year.

    Mavs in 7

  6. dallasdoobman - May 27, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    MAVS IN 4

  7. coltsfanindc - May 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    @dallasdoobman

    can i quote u on that?

  8. stoneloc - May 27, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Who’s gonna stop Dirk??? more like who’s gonna stop Lebron & Wade.. I will take Best 3 players on the floor over 1 great player.

    By the way for those who forgot UD is the Dirk stopper… His defense in 06 on Dirk was stellar… Series will be great!, but Heat have to much D-fense and Offense for Dallas to handle…

  9. spytdi - May 27, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Stern got what he wanted with this series. May e he would have liked the Lake show a bit more, but can’t go wrong with the well balanced roster the Mavs possess. I’m more a fan of the college game so with these two rosters, it’s clear who the “good guys” are. I like Wades game but LeBron is a villain. A strike will take care of next season, Kidd will retire with his ring in hand. Go Mavs!

  10. delius1967 - May 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    It’s amazing how little differentiation there is between these two teams during the playoffs.

    The Heat won this series because the Bulls choked at the end of the last two games. Dallas won’t do that. Dallas won their series because the Thunder choked at the end of their last two games; the Heat won’t do that, either. Dallas is 12-3, 7-1 at home, 5-2 on the road; Miami is 12-3, 8-0 at home, and 4-3 on the road. Even their opponents have been fairly even — Dallas’ first-round opponent was better, the Heat’s third-round opponent was better, and in the second round, they defeated last year’s two conference champions.

    The only slight differentiator I can see is that the Mavericks, after dropping their first two road games to Portland, have won five straight away from home, whereas the Heat have basically split their road games in each series (going 1-1, 1-1, and 2-1 on the road through three rounds).

    What I expect to happen is: The first two games are split, and then Dallas takes two of three at home, so we come back to Miami with the Mavericks ahead 3-2. The real question is Game 6. If Dallas loses it, they aren’t going win Game 7. But I don’t know which path things are going to take.

    So, either Dallas in 6, or Miami in 7. How’s that for hedging?

    • vasliv1993 - Jun 13, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      9-10

  11. purdueman - May 27, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    I don’t have a dog in the upcoming fight between the Heat and the Mavs, but I will be rooting for the Mavs for the following reasons:

    * Mark Cuban is a “regular guy” owner who clearly is as much a fan as an owner. Pat Riley is a pompous greaser;

    * The disgraceful and childish way that Miami’s “Big 3″ carried on after the Le Bum staged narcissistic announcement special was a real turnoff; these guys could use a good old fashioned dose of humility that they’d get if Dallas wins it all this year.

    I am grateful though for one thing, and that’s that King James didn’t decide to go the damned Lakers!

    • davidly - May 27, 2011 at 2:39 PM

      I got bad news for you, boilerdude: Your dog has been kidnapped and will be used in the upcoming fight.

      Yours truly,

      David Stern

      • purdueman - May 27, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        LOL! (touche’, but you can take my dog Boozer if you like).

        You know, upon reflection I hate D-Wade a lot more than I do Le Bum (despite all the crap that I’ve obviously been heaping on him). D-Wade was little more than greaser Riley’s stooge. He used Chicago by feigning phony interest in potentially signing with his hometown Bulls and then he by all reports was the one who pulled James in by using Bosh as bait.

        Yes, greaser Riley’s scheme worked to perfection, but it didn’t reflect well on either D-Wade or Le Bum’s character and they both came out looking like self-centered dopes IMO.

        Back to D-Wade though? I thought that network commentary between Albert, Kerr and Miller was excellent throughout the entire series (and thank GOD that we weren’t all subjected again to Bill Walton too!), and they raised the point several times during last nights game that D-Wade appears to be a player who’s now peaked and is on decline.

        One of the hardest things for GM’s to gauge is when to hold and when to fold when it comes to very popular players and/or stars. I think that the Yankees caved in to public pressure and will regret the deal that they just gave an aging Jeter, and the Angels now have to regret landing Torii Hunter by adding an additional guaranteed huge guaranteed salary year that other teams weren’t willing to offer.

        Other examples? How about the number of years and money the SF Giants gave Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito. Point being the window of opportunity to win championships in professional sports is now very small due to free agency and too many teams causing the incoming talent to be spread too thin.

        The Heat aren’t going to win “7 or more championships” as the Big 3 proclaimed while celebrating the night of Le Bum’s shameless and self-centered announcement show, but they are clearly good enough to rip off 3 in a row IMO.

  12. mzwildnwet82 - May 29, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    HEAT IN 4!!!!!

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