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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011 NBA Finals Breakdown and Prediction

While most people are still picking Bar-b-que out their teeth this morning, the Miami Heat prepare to do battle with the Dallas Mavericks for the NBA title. This is the second time for both teams making the NBA finals and ironically enough the last time both made it they faced each other in 2006. A lot has changed since that time but a lot has stayed the same as well. Franchise cornerstones Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki still play for their respective franchise’s as does to key role players in Udonis Haslem and Jason Terry. Everyone else will be new to championship party including the King himself Lebron James and Chirs “Bosh Spice” Bosh.




The match-ups in this series couldn’t be more fascinating as these two teams feature four of the top 15 players in the world. The first question I asked myself when both teams laid to rest their conference finals foes was who will guard Dirk for Miami? In that same line of thinking my second question was who would guard Lebron for Dallas? Can the two coaches making their Finals debut find a way to gain an edge on his opponent? Can Miami’s superstar cast overcome Dallas’s experience and depth? And finally can Miami’s hard nosed defense contain Dallas’s high-powered offensive attack? A lot of questions will be answered in the upcoming days as the teams face each other.



Now lets breakdown who has the advantages in the most important categories and make a (humble) prediction on who will take the series:



Defense:



Miami may have three of the best offensive players in the world at their position but as the season wore on their calling card begin to be their stifling defense. They ranked 5th in defensive efficiency, 2nd in opponent’s field goal percentage, and 9th in blocks per game. That tells you that the Heat are long and athletic on the defensive side. When you have the perimeter pit-bull combo of Dwayne Wade and Lebron James, you can create endless match-up possibilities. One of Lebron’s most overlooked specialties is his ability to check 1-5 positions on the floor. James has been able guard the likes of MVP Derrick Rose to Portland’s big man Marcus Camby and done so effectively. Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony also are very active and block shots that James and Wade concede, so Miami is always able to get hand in the face of the opposing player. Dirk is the big concern for Miami because of his length and ability to create his own shot at multiple angles (How many times have you’ve seen this guy falling all over the place only to make the shot?). Miami will throw Haslem at Dirk the most because of his quote on quote success he has had in defending Nowitzki. Haslem limited Dirk to 13-of-42 shooting in the 2006 finals. Don’t be surprised if you see James on Nowitzki as well in those crunch moments of the fourth quarter as well. Bottom line is that the Heat play great team defense and its one of the main reasons they are in the finals.



Dallas always has lived with the stigma of having a soft defense that dates back to the early years of Erick Dampier (Who actually is on Miami’s roster now) and Shawn Bradley. They bolstered that department by adding Tyson Chandler who has been a god send for the Mavericks. He has transformed them into a pretty formidable defensive team. The Mavs defensive ranks are comparable to Miami’s as they rank 8th in opponent’s field goal percentage, 7th in defensive efficiency, but only 21st in block shots. The construction of this team makes for a tough veteran savvy team defensively. Lebron creates a match-up problem for Dallas (And every other team for that matter). The Mavs will have to throw bodies at James as they have Shawn Marion, Deshawn Stevenson and even Corey Brewer for Lebron at times. Dallas knows that James, Wade, and probably even Bosh will get theirs. They have to contain them enough to give themselves a chance to win.



Advantage: Miami






Offense:



Miami will always be able to score points with anybody with the combination of James, Wade, and Bosh. The best thing about this unit though is their efficiency. When you have a roster full of superstars the concern always becomes is there enough to go around for everyone to be happy. The Heat check in at 3rd in the league in efficiency as they racked an average of 102.6 points a game. The offensive firepower this team has is on par with some of the best teams that have ever graced an NBA court. James is one best players of all-time (or the potentially the best ever as Scottie Pippen suggested over the weekend), and can breakdown any defense with his size, speed, and court vision. The same goes for Wade as he can make you look silly at times on offense as well (Just ask Kevin Garnett). Chris Bosh has stepped his game up and has matched James and Wade’s intensity. He absolutely took it to Carlos Boozer as he had a couple of 30 point outbursts on the most overrated PF in the game, so look for him to continue his hot steak.



Dallas has been on an offensive tear every since the first game of the playoffs. Dirk’s renaissance has a lot to do with it of course but he now is getting help from some reliable sources on his team that he use to not have. Jason Terry is lethal when left open, Jason (formally “Ason” for no J) Kidd is burying open 3-point shots, J.J Barea is a scat back point guard who obliterates the pick and roll and Shawn Marion is still effective enough to get the job done. This is not even mentioning Dallas’s bench as they can bring spot up shooters Peja Stojakovic and Deshawn Stevenson off the pine. They also have serviceable but overpriced big man Brendan Haywood off the bench. As a matter of fact he and Tyson Chandler present the biggest problem for Miami outside of Dirk. I really am impressed with this offense of Dallas as they have been able to put up points at will against everyone they have faced in the playoffs thus far. Can they continue it against a long and athletic Miami unit?



Advantage: Dallas






Bench:




Miami’s bench has long been the weak link for them this season. Injuries and players not playing to their ability have limited Coach Eric Spolestra’s rotations. Miami’s has used so many different units it makes you think they just aren’t comfortable with certain players on the court, but its hard to blame him when you look down and see Juwan Howard or Erick Dampier looking back at you. They did get a boost in the playoffs as Udonis Haslem has come back and showed what the Heat were missing with his gritty play. Mike Miller has also become more involved of late but his jump shot has still been inconsistent at best.



Dallas has one of the deepest teams in all of the NBA. They can send players at you in waves and tire out a team that isn’t conditioned well or doesn’t have a deep bench. Peja Stojakovic has seemingly found the fountain of youth, J.J Barea is a pest that stays in paint like an insects stay around cookouts, and Brenden Haywood as I mentioned earlier has a chance to become an X-factor in this series. Dallas has the clear advantage in this one.



Advantage: Dallas






Intangibles:




Miami will be chasing only their second ring ever in franchise history. Lebron will be attempting to get his first ring so you know he will be motivated from the start to come out strong against the Mavs. Dwayne Wade has been here before and knows exactly what to expect. Miami’s strong leadership and also motivation for being spotlighted in the media should heed them well. James and Wade both have the “IT” factor and will definitely be locked in for this one.



Dallas has the motivation of losing to this very team last time they were here. They have be relishing the opportunity to get another crack at Miami to avenge their series collapse against them in ‘06. Dirk has a chance to put a stamp on his career and not join the great career but no ring club. I think Dirk will be ready to have the series of his life and cement his legacy. The Mavs have an entire team full of players who have gotten close to holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy but haven’t done it yet. Looking at their roster you have Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and of course Dirk you know these guys know this may be their last shot at a championship.



Advantage: Dallas






Coaching:



Miami’s Erik Spoelstra has been second guessed on everything from his choice of bagel for breakfast to his constant changing of Miami’s starting lineup. He has been rumored on the hot seat and off the hot seat more than an Oakland Raiders coach as everyone expected Pat Riley to jump back into the saddle. But Spo has handled everything thrown at him and has managed to get his team all the way to the championship. His offense creativity has blossomed as time went on as he now incorporates plays for both James and Wade. His team has also bought into his defensive scheme and it shows as they play some of the best perimeter defense in the league. Spolestra will be tested by Rick Carlisle but after everything he has endured this year this last part should be a piece of cake.



Dallas’s Rick Carlisle is a Jim Carrey look-a-like but this guy can really coach. He has always been one of the better coaches since his days in Detroit and it’s good to see him finally break through and reach an NBA Finals. Carlisle out coached Phil Jackson in the conference semi-finals and sent him to Montana for good. He has his team focused and playing great defense that has to make former Dallas coach Avery Johnson proud. Look for Carlisle to try and exploit Miami’s lack of depth by keeping his players rotated in and out of the game. Carlisle also will utilize Dirk in multiple positions on the floor to spread out the defense of Miami.



Advantage: Miami







So there you have it. Miami looks to be a better defensive team and I give Spoelstra a slight advantage over Rick Carlisle in the coaching department. Dallas’s offense and the motivation they have from avenging the franchises lone final appearance against the Heat should give them the edge in those two categories. Everyone that reads my articles knows that I am not a Miami fan, but I do respect them because lets face it they have earned it at this point. This series will come down to Miami being able to rotate defensively against Dallas’s vaunted offensive firepower. Miami will want to keep the games close until the fourth quarter when they can unleash their thoroughbreds in James and Wade. Nowitzki is also one of the best closers in the game as well so it will be interesting to see how that strategy plays out. Miami will try and make some these games ugly with their defensive style as they try and impose their will on the Mavericks. Dallas has to be able to withstand Miami’s defensive pressure but if they are able to create open shots then they have a chance to take the series. If not then the Miami Heat will celebrate on Biscayne Bay with their 2nd championship in franchise history. I see the latter of the two happening.



Prediction: Miami in 7

3 comments:

  1. As a Boston Celtics fan I am afraid you are right - a tragedy beyond human belief to me. I really think Miami will take it in even fewer, max 6 I fear

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  2. Who's your NBA Finals MVP? Lebron James or Dwayne Wade? Or possibly Dirk Nowitzki?

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  3. As a Laker fan Mike I'm appalled that's the Heat have made it here this year, I thought they would spend at least one year in transition while learning to play with each other. This could be only the beginning for Miami but I think Dallas will push them to seven but I wouldn't be surprised if it only went 6. Jim I think whichever team wins will determine the MVP so since I'm picking Miami I have to go with Lebron. I still believe Dirk will have one hell of a series though.

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