Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat
Opening Game 1 Line: Miami -5
Current Game 1 Line: Miami -4.5
Opening Total: 188
Current Total: 187
SERIES ODDS: MIA -175; DAL +155
Game 1: at MIA
Tue, May 31 – 9:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
Game 2: at MIA
Thu, Jun 02 – 9:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
Game 3: at DAL
Sun, Jun 05 – 8:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
Game 4: at DAL
Tue, Jun 07 – 9:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
*Game 5: at DAL
Thu, Jun 09 – 9:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
*Game 6: at MIA
Sun, Jun 12 – 8:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
*Game 7: at MIA
Tue, Jun 14 – 9:00 pm EDT
TV: ABC, TSN
The long anticipated NBA Finals are finally here, and though both of the top seeds in each conference were eliminated, it’s not that much of a shock to see the two teams that did reach the Finals. The Miami Heat were billed as one of the favorites going into the 2010-2011 season due to the fact that they signed LeBron James, giving them two of the best five players in the league, not to mention Chris Bosh, whose status could be said to be at least top 15.
Dallas does it quite differently, with only one standout all star in Dirk Nowitzki and a former perennial all star in the ancient Jason Kidd. It’s their depth that got them this far and that depth figures to play a big role against a Miami team whose only question marks hover around their less than stellar bench. With Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers emerging as solid complimentary pieces, not to mention the return of Udonis Haslem, and the Heat do have some nice complimentary pieces to match Dallas’ firepower off the bench. Without further ado, let’s examine the matchups in this series.
Jason Kidd & J.J. Barea vs. Mario Chalmers & Mike Bibby
It’d be hard to say that the Heat have any advantage here. Though Jason Kidd is now 38, he still averaged 33 minutes of play a night and managed 7.7 assists per game this year in the Playoffs, good for 4th in the Playoff leaders. The true negative surrounding Kidd was his inefficient shooting from the field. He shot 36.1% from the floor during the season, the lowest of his 18 year NBA career. His three point percentage (34%) was under 40% for the first time since 2007-2008, and a far cry from the 42.5% he shot last season. All that said, he’s still significantly better tahn either Mario Chalmers or Mike Bibby.
What of J.J. Barea? While Barea was a non-factor in the opening round against Portland, he scored 22 May 8th against the Lakers and followed it with a 21 point performance on May 17th against the Thunder. He’s capable of scoring in bunches by utilizing his speed and blowing by defenders in getting to the paint where despite standing under 6’0″ he still manages to finish amongst the trees.
Mike Bibby has yet to score in double figures in the Post season and is not looking like the piece the Heat thought he would be when they signed the veteran off waivers late in the season. There’s been 5 games in which Bibby has played under 20 minutes and he hasn’t hit more than 3 field goals in any game so far. Chalmers has had two decent games so far but was a near non-factor in the Bulls seriesa, save game 4 when he managed to swipe the ball four times.
It’s really an injustice to the Heat to compare these point guards when 80% of the time it’s either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James handling the ball at point, but they aren’t true point guards, while Dallas has one of the best play makers of all time in Jason Kidd.
Jason Terry & DeShawn Stevenson vs. Dwyane Wade & Mike Miller
While Jason Terry is one of the best 6th men in the league and capable of scoring in heaps, how can anyone deny that Wade is world’s better? Terry averaged 15.8 points per game this season and has scored 20 or more in 7 of Dallas’ 15 playoff games and is averaging 17.3 points per game in the postseason.
Wade, meanwhile, averaged 25.4 points per game during the season and has averaged 23.7 points per game in the 15 Miami Heat playoff games. He did struggle in games 3 & 4 of the Miami series when he shot just 11 of 33 (33%) from the floor in both games combined. He hasn’t performed well in games in which he received over 3 days of rest, averaging only 23.0 points per game in such situations. Against Dallas for his career he is averaging 24.4 points per game. Wade did have a career high 6.4 rebounds per game this season and Miami is going to need him to continue to hit the glass hard against a good rebounding team in Dallas.
Mike Miller had been a complete non-factor in the Heat’s first 13 playoff games but came off the bench to hit two key threes in game 4 that helped the Heat seal the game up coming down the stretch. Stevenson, like Miller, has also been pretty much a non-factor in the playoffs as well. His defense has been good, as usual, but he has only scored 52 points in 15 games and has yet to score in double figures, so essentially we’re looking at a shooting guard matchup of Wade vs. Terry and I think you can guess who gets the edge there.
Shawn Marion & Peja Stojakovic vs. LeBron James (and James Jones, sorta)
Again, we’re looking at one of Miami’s big 3. While Marion and Peja both seem to have found the fountain of youth in this year’s playoffs, they still don’t hold a candle to LeBron, who would win the NBA Playoffs MVP – if such an award existed (and I agree with Bill Simmons that it should). LeBron’s suffocating defense on Derrick Rose coming down the stretches of games was impressive, as was his continued clutch play, bringing the Heat back to win a Game 5 that they appeared to have no chance at with 2 minutes to go, down by eight.
Shawn Marion is known to be one of the better defenders at the small forward position and has played a lot of good lockdown defense throughout his career, but LeBron’s 265 pound frame is sure to batter Marion a lot and it can be expected that he’ll be taking Marion down into the post as much as possible, while trying to simply over power him – something James can do against pretty much every small forward in the league (save maybe Ron Artest).
While Peja is still a shadow of the player he once was, he’s had three big games in the playoffs this year, including 21 point performances against both the Portland Trailblazers (game 2) and the Lakers (game 4 of the 4 game sweep). Marion has been a pleasant not-so-surprising save the day situation at small forward after Dallas lost Caron Butler for the season. Marion’s averaged 11 points per game this year, and had a monster game in the closing game of the Thunder series, as he went for 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assist, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. If he played like that every night, there might almost be a comparison here, but LeBron is probably going to have his way with Marion.
Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
Dallas doesn’t really have a back up power forward, but with Dirk do they really need one? The same can be said for Miami, who also strut a true stud at power forward. Dirk has continued to be nearly unstoppable this year in the post season and has already had 2 games with 40+ points, and fell but 2 points shy of 50 in game 1 of the series against Oklahoma City. He’s really had only one bad game in the playoffs, a 18 point stinker against the Thunder where he shot 7 of 21 from the floor, but who isn’t entitled to a bad game once in a while? Moreover, the Mavericks still won that game.
It would be an injustice to Bosh to say that Nowitzki will destroy him this series, given the fact that Bosh has been one of the best power forwards in the league throughout his career, but that is what I am going to say: Dirk is going to step up to the challenge and punish the living daylights out of Bosh in this matchup. He’s a big time player and big time players have big time games. I fully expect Nowitzki to average 32 to 35 points per game this series.
Tyson Chandler & Brendan Haywood vs. Joel Anthony & Udonis Haslem
This is the weakest position on the court for both teams. While Chandler has returned to form this season, he’s still a far cry from the player the Bulls thought he would be when they traded for him as a rookie. Haywood had some good years in Washington but hasn’t provided much this post season for the Mavs.
The Heat have Anthony and his shot blocking prowess, but receive almost nothing from him offensively. The real boon was getting Udonis Haslem back for the playoffs and having him return to form in the last 4 games of the Bulls series. His best game was game 2, in which he scored 13 points and pulled down 5 boards. It’s nothing that will blow you away, but he’s been a 10 point and 8 rebound player over his career, so it’s in line with what he normally gives the Heat when healthy. If he continues to step up, he’ll enable the Heat to finish the game with 2 players (himself & Mike Miller) that compliment the big 3 very well.
The Mavs don’t have exciting options at center, but they are a bit better than what the Heat have to offer.
Advantage: Dallas, by a hair.
This series promises to be a great one, and the teams are matched up pretty evenly, with Dallas and Miami both having advantages at 2 of the 4 positions, and Dallas with a slight edge at Center. One important fact to remember is that the Mavs have beaten the Heat have lost 14 straight to the Mavs in the regular season. To most people that would indicate that the Mavs will sweep the Heat, but the Heat just brought together their true team this off-season, making that stat somewhat overstated and almost irrelevant. The series really comes down to how well Dirk can carry the Mavs. It’s hard to contend with a team that has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and it’s going to be a tough series for both teams.
Series Prediction: Heat in 7