Happy Playoffs! For over a month now we have been given the opportunity to watch one of the best playoffs in NBA history, and they all come to an end with this series. Here’s the schedule, and click after the jump to check out Blake and my series predictions.
Best of seven (2-3-2 format)
Game 1 — Tue May 31, Dallas at /Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 — Thu June 2, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3 — Sun June 5, Miami at Dallas 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4 — Tue June 7, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5* — Thu June 9, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 6* — Sun June 12, Dallas at Miami 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 7* — Tue June 14, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC
It’s the time you’ve all been waiting for (or haven’t been waiting for, since the Heat have made it): the 2011 NBA Finals have arrived. Fans will get to witness two of the most unique players in the NBA face-off: super athlete Lebron James and sharp-shooting seven-footer Dirk Nowitzki.
Before Game One even starts, many questions are left unanswered: Who will guard Dirk? Will it be Lebron, himself? Or will it be some sort of combination of Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony? I feel as if Lebron would be the best option to shut down Dirk at this point. Lebron is fast enough and has enough energy to do the job. If you could hold Derrick Rose to 6.3 percent (he shot 1-15 while guarded by James) from the field, you could probably shut down anyone you want. Anyways, I seriously doubt Haslem or Anthony have the speed to guard Dirk.
What about when Lebron is on the offensive? You could probably look to Shawn Marion and Dirk at different points in the game. Marion, at 33 years of age, is still versatile and athletic enough to do a feasible job on Lebron, but he won’t be completely shutting him down, obviously. If he happens to get in foul trouble, the Mavs will be in quite a bit of trouble. Who can step up then? The injured Caron Butler probably won’t make an appearance. I doubt Corey Brewer will be called upon from the dog house.
The Mavericks’ center Tyson Chandler will make things interesting in the low post. Chandler will make it very tough for the Heat’s Chris Bosh to score like he did against the Bulls (he averaged 23.2 points per game) and should make it difficult for Dwyane Wade and Lebron to get to the hole. His rebounding may also be key both offensively and defensively. It’ll be interesting to see how Miami deals with him.
The X-factor for both teams will be their bench play. If the Heat can’t contain the energetic J.J. Barea, problems will arise. However, if the Heat’s James Jones gets playing time and gets in a zone, the Mavs will also have problems. Mario Chalmers may also pose a problem for Jason Kidd. Chalmers is deceptively quick and has his nights shooting. The Mavs’ star sixth man Jason Terry may have a little more trouble than usual when matched up Dwyane Wade. Wade’s been a defensive stalwart this postseason and is showing everyone who voted Kobe Bryant to the NBA All-Defense First Team the mistake they made.
In conclusion, I think this series will go six games, with Miami proving the haters wrong by winning it all. I don’t think this is the year Lebron gets denied his championship trophy and I also think that Miami will continue their shut down defense that has led them to a 12-3 record in the playoffs thus far.
Prediction: Heat in six
I am not going to run down much of what Blake has already said again, but I’m on the other side of the fence for these finals. I have picked against the Mavericks twice this postseason (once against the Lakers and again against the Thunder) but I do not think I am going to be fooled again. The word destiny has hovered around this team for the last couple of weeks, and I think it is spot on.
Beating an upstart Blazer team that was actually the favorite in their first round series (despite the 2-7 matchup), even after blowing a 23 point lead late in the 3rd quarter of a game and losing (the masterful Brandon Roy performance). SWEEPING the best team in the NBA, with what seemed like ease. Believe it or not, the Lakers were the defending champs, with our generations best player still on the team (no not Lebron James). But the Mavs bench destroyed the Lakers, leading Andrew Bynum to do one of the most “bush-league” things Mike Tirico has ever seen (Don’t worry, I had to google that definition as well, bush-league refers to early minor league baseball parks, whose play was considered inferior and not quite professional in quality). Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks then took down one of the hottest young teams in the NBA, in Kevin Duran… Russell Westbrook and the Thunder? That discussion is for another day, but with “experts” once again picking against them, the Mavs made 2 huge late game come backs at the end of game 4 and 5, breaking the hearts of OKC fans around the league. Nowitzki’s Game 1 performance (48 pts, 12-15 shooting, 24-24 from the line) was one of the most efficient in league history, moving Dirk into Larry Legend discussions.
The Miami Heat have had a less impressive road to the finals (in terms of opponents) but have handled business. The Philly series was an after thought with nobody giving the Sixers a chance to even win a game. Miami proved Boston old and… well old. Dwyane Wade turned up the intensity in the series on offense and defense, and propelled the Heat forward. In the Chicago series, Miami was able to expose the Bulls desperate need for a better number 2 scorer, and with Chris Bosh finally showing his worth in the Big 2.5 early, Lebron James was able to take over late in games 4 and 5 and end a magical run for our hometown hero. The Heat have been “Hollywood as hell” all season, even in terms of expectations.
That brings us back to the word destiny. Sure, many would say that 2 and a half superstars coming together to one team (including 2 of the best 5 players in the league) would be destined for a title. And hell, they probably are in the future. The Dallas Mavericks have a different kind of destiny behind them in this series though. Coming through in 3 series’ that many pegged as losses for them, battling after an injury midseason to their second best player in Caron Butler to still get the number 2 overall seed in the west, winning with old guys that many consider this being their last “shot”, and matching up against the team that beat them in the 2006 finals even after they won the first 2 games (with the help of MANY suspect calls that led to a crazy free throw margin in games 3-6–>+55 free throws attempted for Miami!). Hey, you can’t fight fate.
Prediction: Mavs in 6