The Miami Heat vs. the Dallas Mavericks. At face value it’s easy to think this is a rematch of the 2006 Finals, but in a way this is much more like the 2007 Finals, where an old and wily Western team gutted themselves to the Finals to play against a defensive squad featuring LeBron James.
The NBA Finals are about one thing and one thing only – matchups. It doesn’t matter how well a team played against another in the regular season, or past results from previous seasons. Don’t believe me? Let’s examine these items in some further detail then.
Head to Head Results
Head to head results are a popular and easy way to compare the fortunes of two teams whenever they meet in the Playoffs. Paul spent hundreds of eloquent words and included some statistical analysis that showed why Dallas might be in some trouble. Of course he then went on to pick Dallas to win, so I’m not 100% sure what his game is. Anyway, I promised you a discussion on head to head results, so let’s get to it.
Head to head results during the regular season is an overly simplistic comparison with several problems. One, teams often don’t go full-strength during the regular season or don’t show their full bag of tricks, and two, what happened in January is often not representative of a team come June. Miami are 0-2 this year versus the Mavericks, but this is rather misleading. Miami where 1-3 against Boston and we saw that went. Miami were also 0-3 against Chicago, and that didn’t end so well for the Windy City boys.
Long story short, Miami are a different club in the last month, and not because of some magical switch they flipped, but mostly because their chemistry works much better when the stakes are highest. It’s easier to step aside in May if a teammate has a hot hand, than it is in November when you are trying to figure out who is the alpha dog. It doesn’t help that they replaced Eddie House and Zydrunas Ilgauskas as their fourth and fifth players in November with Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem in May. That’s a huge step up.
How many games have the Mavs lost to Miami since the 2006 Finals? None. They are 10-0 since the Heat were carried to the Championship on Wades shoulders. How does this matter this June? It doesn’t. Moving on.
Now we get to the heart of the matter; the real crux of the issue that is going to define who hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy. Matchups are key and besides what Tiim MacMahon would have you believe, they all favour Miami. Sure, the starting lineups go to Dallas as Bibby is no Jason Kidd and Joel Anthony is not the threat on offense that Tyson Chandler can occasionally be. This hides the real truth though, the players who start for Miami are not the guys who get the most minutes or make the most impact.
The Mavericks have been an amazing team offensively, but this is likely to cease in the NBA Finals, but not for the reason that first leaps to mind. Yes, the Heat have been a dominant defensive force, but the Mavericks will struggle to score because they will be forced to match up with the Heat at the defensive end. There will be little to no opportunity for Rick Carlisle to play a three guard front of Kidd, Terry and Berea. Nor will we see Peja Stojakovic getting much run (or waddle as he does nowadays), as he will be such a liability against a player like LeBron. As well as Peja was able to do, much to almost everyone’s surprise, against Durant in the previous round, LeBron is a different beast requiring much more than just length, but also mobility and strength. Those two attributes are long gone from Peja’s arsenal.
The challenge facing Rick Carlisle is how to squeeze offense out of a unit that will be forced to rely on DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion and Corey Brewer for long (and key) periods of the game. Jason Kidd has been amazing in these Playoffs, perhaps as influential as he was on his teammates as back in his New Jersey days, if not as impactful on the game overall, but he will need to score consistently to provide a punch for Dallas to have any shot.
What’s that you say? Dallas has a red-hot Dirk Nowitzki, and he’s twice the player Chris Bosh is. Well, he’d need to be a lot more than twice the player Bosh is, and even then it likely wouldn’t be a determining factor, since Dirk will need to score 50+ per game to give Dallas a punchers chance.
So with that done, it’s time to talk turkey; who will win, not only Game One, but the entire series. I have to say sorry to fans of Dallas and all those who have hopped on board the Miami Hatred Express because this one is gonna be a sweep. It won’t be pretty, but it will be quick. With Dallas forced to bench its most effective offensive players, the gaudy point totals are done, and so are its hopes at winning a Championship.