We have come to the ultimate point of the NBA season. The conference finals are finished, and there are now just two teams left standing.
Within the next couple of weeks, two will become one, and a new NBA champion will be crowned.
In one corner we have the Western Conference Champion Dallas Mavericks, the team that has been plagued with 11 years of playoff exits: one coming at the hands of an 8th-seeded Warriors team; another from the Texas-rival Spurs; and another from a certain team in South Beach. But this time the Dallas Mavericks have not only prevailed through the rigors of the Western Conference, they’ve done so on the shoulders of a man that has now proven to be one of the all-time greats: Dirk Nowitizki.
In another corner we have a team that has been criticized from their preseason days in a military hangar, onto Christmas, and continuing up to this point even as they approach the finish line. Yes, the Miami Heat have not only proven that their stars’ individual skills can carry them a long way, but we are also realizing that the criticism they received only made them stronger. The core of Wade, Bosh & LeBron has proven to be nearly impossible to contain in a 7-game series, and they look to continue to prove us wrong in this upcoming series.
The NBA has reached its pinnacle, my friends. The Finals have finally arrived, and what a finish this is looking to be. The talents in South Beach have made it to the top of the NBA world, and on the other side is a familiar foe from 2006 in Dirk and his Dallas Mavs.
The specifics of what await us have yet to be determined, but I can assure you that this series will be hard-fought, entertaining, and truly epic.
Here is the NBA Finals TV schedule in it’s entirety:
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
Note: Be sure to follow me on Twitter for continuous NBA updates!
Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat Preview
Season series: Dallas Mavericks won 2-0
It seems like yesterday that LeBron James was in a Cavs uniform fighting off his Eastern Conference foes. Whether it was the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, or Orlando Magic, LeBron always seemed to come up short when it mattered most. And it wasn’t long ago that Dwyane Wade was putting up 35 points a night just so that his Miami Heat could make the playoffs. Even Chris Bosh in Toronto lacked a strong supporting cast for significant playoff runs.
But the summer of 2010 changed all that, and now each of the three mentioned above have combined their talents into one super team that is threatening to control the NBA for years to come. Many didn’t think they’d reach the Finals so soon, but three 5-game series later and The Talents of South Beach have arrived.
What awaits them is a strong and dangerous foe that has been built for the rigors of the West. The Dallas Mavericks, unlike the Miami Heat, were built over an extended period of time. Bringing in savvy vets, athletic wing players, and size in the interior has molded this team for another shot at a ring. Lead by the German future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas tore up the competition on its path to the Finals. The Lakers? Dirk doesn’t even know who they are.
But what makes these NBA Finals so sweet is not only the multiple all-time greats being featured, but also that it is rematch of a 2006 championship fight which left a 6’4 shooting guard with a ring, while Dirk Nowitzki was left to crave his for years.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get it on!
While I could point out the importance of Xs and Os, rotations, and the bench play in this series, there is a huge factor that comes into play first: the hunger and craving for a championship ring so many players bring into this series.
Dirk Nowitzki is one of those players who was around for the days there was no such thing as a Charlotte Bobcat and when Reggie Miller wasn’t a TNT announcer. Dirk has experienced well over a decade of NBA action in his lifetime and has proven to us that he’s an all-time great power forward, deserving All Star, and worthy of an MVP trophy.
Dirk has experienced it all, but yet he lacks the one piece of hardware that allows us to rank him among the greatest of the greats: an NBA Finals trophy. The 11 straight years of failed playoff runs for Dirk has made him a hungry man; and hungry probably went to insatiable craving after his Mavericks fell to the Heat in 2006.
Similarly, Jason Terry would, I’m sure, like to avenge 2006. Jason Kidd has two failed NBA Finals appearances, and like Dirk lacks only a ring to complete his Hall of Fame career. And other vets like Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler would love to grab their first pieces of Finals hardware.
As for the Heat, they have stars that might not have been in this league as long as the German or Kidd, but believe me when I say this: the hunger for a ring burns just the same.
LeBron James’ continued playoff misery in Cleveland has been magnified to levels unmatched since Michael Jordan’s early playoff runs with Chicago. Whether it was at the hands of the team-minded Pistons, versatile Orlando Magic, or the Big Three of the Boston Celtics, James could never seem to get over a hump, never mind the hump.
The infamous Decision to bring his talents to South Beach might have set him up to finally satisfy his hunger for just one ring. (For now…)
Let’s not forget Chris Bosh either. While he hasn’t had as many opportunities to make a run at a championship, you can bet that he and players like Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilguaskas, Mike Bibby, and the rest of Miami’s cast are ready to win it.
So the point is this: the players with the hunger, desire, and outright power to fight for what they have long desired is going to play a huge factor in this series, as it does in every series. In this case, both teams have all-time great veterans for whom winning a title is imperative.
The Supporting Cast
I’d be lying to you if I told you that both of these teams made it here on the shoulders of their stars alone. Both teams have realized that in order to win it all you must not only have the leaders, but you must have the cast that is willing to fight for the common goal that we call the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
The Miami Heat have surrounded their core of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh with players that very much share the same goal of an NBA championship. But let’s be honest here: it took the Heat’s cast quite some time to mold to the team we are currently watching.
Zyrdunas Ilgauskas went from starter to bench player, Mike Bibby was brought in midway through the season, and Udonis Haslem has changed the look of this roster since he finally returned from injury. As these playoffs have progressed, the Miami Heat have become more than just the Big Three and have begun to mold at the right time.
Even Mike Miller, who people were writing off, is beginning to come into his own even as his daughter is experiencing health problems. Then there’s been the ever-improving play of guys like Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony. Both have showed they understand that the defensive side of the ball is crucial to a championship run in becoming classic examples of “dirty-work” players.
While the Miami Heat have a strong supporting bunch, the Dallas Mavericks have perfected the importance of role players.
Dirk Nowitzki is a huge part of this team, but there is no way he is in this position without the help of his team’s role players.
And when it comes to role players, no other Maverick comes to mind first other than Jason Terry. Whether it his ability to knock down the three point shot, stick to his defender, or come up big in tight situations, Terry does it all.
Then when Mark Cuban began bringing in veteran players like Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Peja Stojakovic, the goal for an NBA title became that much clearer. While each of the aforementioned players has their amazing individual basketball abilities, they also share a hunger that is similar to Dirk’s. They’ve all been in the league long enough to know what suffering is and all sacrifice for the common goal.
Then there is the savvy part of this team: Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, and JJ Barea are all electric players who can change games. Whether it is Tyson clogging the lane, DeShawn causing turnovers on the perimeter, or Barea exploding for 20 points off the bench, these guys can cause all sorts of issues for Miami.
While the Heat do possess a solid supporting cast, the Dallas Mavericks are strongly favored when it comes to the play of their role players. They win this part of the argument.
And finally, I have saved the best for last.
The NBA Finals is a combination of dedication, heart, coaching, ability, and execution down the stretch. Whichever team can put a check beside each of the mentioned categories increases its chances of coming home with a ring on the finger. But there is always the ace of spades in a deck, and the variable that can change the tide within a span of moments is the stars themselves.
The Dallas Mavericks have launched themselves past the slumping Blazers, swept their way through the confused Los Angeles Lakers, and beat up on the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder. While many give credit to the overall play of the team, the one man who deserves most of the credit is Dirk Nowitzki.
The Conference Finals is what truly showcased Dirk’s offensive abilities on the floor. In Game 1 the man went 24 for 24 at the free-throw line, 12 of 15 shooting, a +/- of +12, and a destructive 48 points. Stats of an all-star, legend, and Hall of Famer. I’ve always known that Dirk had the ability to take over a game, but the ability to take over a series? That is exactly what he did against the Thunder. Even if he doesn’t put up numbers similar to Game 1’s, his presence is enough to make you tremble as a defender.
Now the question is who will defend Dirk for the Heat? While no one can literally “defend” Dirk, someone needs to stick him, right? What we will probably see is multiple looks being thrown at Dirk. Some Udonis Haslem, then some Chris Bosh, and at the end of games there’s a strong chance LeBron will take the 7-footer.
Good luck to Miami when it comes to that.
But at the same time Miami has a threat to throw at Dallas. As a matter of fact, they don’t only have one, or two, but they have three: the much hated trio of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and old Finals foe Dwyane Wade.
These NBA playoffs have proven to me that they cannot be stopped. As blunt as that sounds, it is very true. What the opposition can do is maybe stop one or two from getting a big game, but to contain all three in a game is looking impossible. No team in the NBA has been able to do it.
If it’s Chris Bosh, he can bring you out the perimeter, take it to the rack, and he will even give you the one or two important rebounds. He proved to be a big poison to the Bulls in the East Finals as he averaged 23 ppg, shot over 50% in the series, and was leaving the bigs of Chicago work to deal with. This might sound a bit much, but Chris Bosh is the perfect decoy for LeBron & Wade to get what they want.
Speaking of those two, what else can you ask for from two superstars? Both are amazing defenders who rotate better than most others in the league, both are nightmares for any defense in the league, and both just simply make their team better with the great decision making.
Dwyane Wade did have a less than stellar (for him) series against Chicago, but don’t expect the same results against Dallas. The Mavericks are not in the same category when it comes to defense as the Bulls, so Wade should be able to do more of what he wants against the Mavs’ wing players. And let’s not forget this is the man who led the Heat in 2006 to claim his first ring over Dirk’s Mavs.
But at the end of the day there is one man who will always be the best basketball player on the court. LeBron James has proven this to me in these last couple of series against Boston & Chicago. The offensive ability has always been there, and the same goes for his ability to pass. But the two elements of his game that are bringing him into the same category as Michael, Magic and the rest, are his improvements on defense and the newly acquired “clutch” gene.
The big shots at the end of games, the lock-down defense on the opposing star, and the critical decision making has made LeBron James the greatest player on this planet. And if one were to disagree, you’ll soon learn of your ignorance.
With that said, the Miami Heat possess the clear advantage over the Dallas Mavericks. It’s as simple as this: 3 > 1
These NBA Finals will clearly be built off of my three key ingredients: the desire of winning an NBA championship; the ability for the role players to provide firepower and support; and the play of the star players.
Not only will this matchup give us some great headliners, but it will also be a flat out entertaining, exciting, and hard-fought series. One team is built off of defense while the other has the firepower to keep up, with each possessing the key variables necessary to bring home a trophy.
But there will be one clear cut winner.
The Miami Heat built this team in the summer of 2010 for one thing, and one thing only: to win multiple NBA championships.
The blueprint for this goal includes defense, tenacity, and togetherness. All of these will be showcased in this series against the Dallas Mavericks, along with flashy play by LeBron & Wade. While the Mavericks are a strong team, led by a strong leader, the Miami Heat will simply outshine the Mavs for a second consecutive time in the Finals, and LeBron will end his NBA Title drought while contining Dirk’s.
Let South Beach’s reign on the NBA commence.
Prediction: Miami Heat in 6
- Mavs v Heat Finals photo banner courtesy: Jcansis.Wordpress.com
- Dirk Nowitzki posing photo courtesy: Yahoo! Sports & AP
- Bosh, Haslem & Miller photo courtesy: Yahoo! Sports, Getty Images & taken by Marc Serota
- Terry, Stojakovic, Haywood, Nowitzki & Barea photo courtesy: Yahoo! Sports, Getty Images & taken by Ronald Martinez
- Dwyane Wade photo courtesy: Yahoo! Sports, Getty Images & taken by Mike Ehrmann
- Dirk & LeBron photo courtesy: Steve Mitchell / US Presswire