Mavericks in 6
The rematch five years in the making sees the Miami Heat taking on the Dallas Mavericks. The 2006 NBA Finals of course were won by the Heat in six games, as they overcame a double digit deficit in Game 3 to comeback from a 0-2 deficit to win four straight. Since those Finals the Mavericks have been haunted by what might have been. Both teams have taken different roads to return to the NBA Finals. The Mavericks remained a strong contender that just could not get over the hump, suffering humiliating heartbreaks such as their 2007 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round. The Heat meanwhile quickly fell off the mountain and are a different team completely as they went from Champs to 15-67 in 2008, before they made the splash of the summer by signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh last July.
When the season began the Heat were expected to be here as the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade gave the Heat three All-Stars that were hard to compete with. However, their season was not without struggles as the Big Three needed time to adjust and learn how to play with each other, all while the spotlight was on them the entire season. The Heat often struggled against the NBA’s elite and not until a strong finish did they get the number two seed in the East with a 58-24 record. The Mavericks were not expected to be here, in the West the focus was on the Lakers, and the up and coming Thunder at the start of the season, while the Mavericks were seen as a team with too many playoff failures whose window was closing. The Mavs would have a strong season, as they posted a 57-25 record and got the third seed, but as the payoffs began some picked the upstart Trail Blazers to beat them in the first round.
For the Mavericks they faced an early test in the playoffs as they were tied 2-2 with the Blazers after blowing a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter in Game 4. Naturally the experts waited for the other shoe to fall and another season off what if in Dallas. However, that game would be a turning point as the Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki have become a different team since. They beat Portland in six, they then went on sweep the Lakers, overcoming fourth quarter deficits in Games 1 and 3. They would than beat the Thunder in five games, overcoming fourth quarter deficits in Games 4 and 5. The Heat meanwhile after and easy first round against the 76ers overcame regular season struggles against the Celtics and Bulls to win both series in five games. Like the Mavericks the Heat have been great closers winning several games along the way with late fourth quarter rallies.
Talent wise the Heat will be hard to beat, as LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, and Dwyane Wade is not far behind. However, Dirk Nowitzki is an elite player in his own right and nobody in NBA history has shown more desire during a single postseason than Dirk has shown in the first three rounds this year. The Heat have not lost at home during this postseason, and they do have homecourt advantage. However, the Mavs have won five straight games on the road, winning twice in the Staples Center so if anyone can beat the Heat in South Beach it is them. The Mavericks did win both games against Miami in the regular season, but the Heat lost three of four to the Celtics and were swept by the Bulls in the regular season and turned the tables on both to get to the 2011 NBA Finals.
For the Heat the key will be to contain Dirk Nowitzki, if he continues to be a one man wrecking crew the Mavericks will win this series quickly. The Mavs meanwhile must contain the big three. A big game from LeBron James is inevitable. However, if all Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are also dominating the Heat will start a NBA dynasty. The Heat will win their share of titles with the Big Three, if they win this year it may be three of four years before anyone can knock them off the mountain. However, the Mavericks have a little thing called destiny and desire on their side as they are an older team that knows this may be their final chance.
The Mavericks have more depth than the Heat, as players like Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Peja Stojakovic all considered past their prime have at times played like the All-Stars they once were at times in the playoffs. The Mavericks have also gotten big performances from J.J. Barrera and Tyson Chandler. The Heat it’s been the Big Three as no other player as averaged seven per game in the postseason. No other players have five boards per game and no other player have two assists per game. The key ultimately will be rebounding as throughout the playoffs the team who has won the battle of the boards has won the game, so look for Tyson Chandler to play a big role for the Mavericks in the series.
The one thing that cannot be measured is heart. The Heat have it and there is no doubt LeBron James can taste it. This is why he left Cleveland; this is what he has waited for a chance to win the ring. However, at 26 this won’t be his last chance. The same can’t be said for Dirk Nowitzki who is soon to be 33. When the Heat won beat the Celtics they celebrated like they won the NBA Championship. The Mavericks won the West and looked like they did not want to be bothered with any celebration. The eyes of Dirk Nowitzki tell the story its one goal avenging 2006. They will it will be hard fought, but in the end the depth of the Mavericks will overwhelm the big three and win the championship in six games.