Blog Entry

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Posted on: May 27, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 5:58 am

An early preview of the NBA Finals matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat. Posted by Ben Golliver.


I. Intro: Western Conference Champions: No. 3 seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. Eastern Conference Champions: No. 2 seed Miami Heat (58-24)

II. How They Got Here: A look at the playoff track records

Dallas: 12-3 in the 2011 NBA playoffs (4-2 against the Portland Trail Blazers, 4-0 against the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder). Dallas is 7-1 at home and 5-2 on the road in the playoffs.

Miami: 12-3 in the 2011 NBA playoffs (4-1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-1 against the Boston Celtics, 4-1 against the Chicago Bulls). Miami is 8-0 at home and 4-3 on the road in the playoffs.

In the regular season, Dallas had the No. 8 offense and the No. 7 defense from an efficiency perspective. Miami had the No. 3 offense and the No. 5 defense. In the postseason, Dallas has the No. 1 offense and the No. 9 defense. Miami has the No. 4 offense and the No. 2 defense.

Both teams have played at a relatively slow pace in the postseason: Dallas is ranked No. 10 and Miami is ranked No. 13 out of 16 playoff teams.

III. What Happened: A look at the season series

The Mavericks and Heat matched up just twice in the regular season, with Dallas winning both times. The teams haven’t faced each other in almost five months, as the two games took place all the way back on Nov. 27 and Dec. 20. Dallas won 106-95 at home on Nov. 27 and they won 98-96 on the road on Dec. 20.

Of course, much has changed for both teams, but the regular season results are interesting for one main reason: The Heat went 22-2 from Nov. 26, 2010 until Jan. 9, 2011 ... the best stretch of their season by leaps and bounds. Both losses during that time period came at the hands of the Mavericks.

Keep in mind, Dallas had the services of small forward Caron Butler and Miami was without power forward Udonis Haslem. In all likelihood, that situation will be reversed for the Finals: Butler is expected to be out as he continues to rehab from knee surgery while Haslem has returned from foot surgery to provide a major spark for the Heat against the Bulls.

IV. Secret of the Series: Late-Game Execution

Nobody has finished games like Dallas and Miami in this playoffs. Not even close.

The main weapons have been Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James, but both teams have benefited from substantial defensive contributions from the likes of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Throw in dagger shots from Jason Kidd and Wade, as well as meaningful role player contributions from Peja Stojakovic, J.J. Barea, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, and you start to understand why these two teams have stood up so well under pressure. They’ve got tons and tons of options.

Nowitzki has left longtime NBA observers speechless with his shot-making and play-making over the last month but James has matched him shot for shot, comeback for comeback. What might prove to be the difference is James’ lockdown defense late in games. Never before has he appeared to enjoy ball-hawking as much as he did against the Bulls. Derrick Rose, one of the league’s best shot creators, often looked absolutely hopeless in crunch time with James draped all over him. What’s more, he has seemed immune to pressure ever since a critical late-game turnover against the Celtics. James closed out Boston with a monster run, and he combined with Wade to do the same to the Bulls on Thursday night. If the Mavericks can find an answer for James in the game’s final minutes four times during the Finals, they will have more than earned their rings.

V. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: The Miami Heat have dealt well with Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose so far in the playoffs, despite a middling point guard rotation featuring Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers. The defensive versatility of James and Wade helps a lot to cover up for those two. Jason Kidd, at 38 years old, has been one of many unsung heroes for the Mavericks, surviving Andre Miller, Derek Fisher and Russell Westbrook. Both sides will be thankful here. Miami will be glad they don’t need to worry about a paint-crashing young All-Star again while Dallas will take comfort in the same. Rather than worry about the Roses and Westbrooks of the world, Kidd can do what he does best: steady the ship, distribute the rock to the open man and force opportunistic turnovers. Kidd is averaging 9.9 points, 7.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the playoffs. Phenomenal numbers considering his age and the competition. Advantage: Mavericks. 

SG: Dwyane Wade or DeShawn Stevenson? Let’s not overthink this one. While Stevenson has been a nominal starter with reserve guard Jason Terry, an impact player on both ends, playing the bulk of the minutes, the Mavericks' combination falls far, far short of what Wade brings to the table. While the All-Star took a bit of a backseat in the scoring department in the Eastern Conference finals after torching the Boston Celtics, he’s a match-up nightmare for the Mavericks. Really, he’s what Kobe Bryant was supposed to be in the second round, if Bryant hadn’t decided to shoot only contested jumpers and never get to the rim or the free throw line. Wade’s been a menace on defense as well. He can cover tons of ground, which should help limit Dallas’ hot outside shooting. Huge advantage: Heat. 

SF: Like Kidd, Shawn Marion has been a major, chronically overlooked factor during Dallas’s playoff run. Marion put the stamp on the Western Conference finals, coming up with two huge late steals and a brilliant and-one dunk to push the Mavericks past the Thunder in Game 5. But even in his best days, which are behind him, Marion was no LeBron James, and, over the last month, we’ve realized just how impactful James can be. From being able to interchangeably cover three or four positions, to closing out games, to sacrificing his body for crucial hustle plays, James has been everywhere. His postseason averages: 25.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 points, 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals (entering Thursday) are just ridiculous. Perhaps, best of all, despite playing almost 44 minutes a night and handling the ball a ton, he’s committing less than three turnovers a game. Marion will have his hands full. Really, really, really full. Huge Advantage: Heat. 

PF: Nowitzki has earned gushing praise. He has taken his scoring versatility, efficiency and creativity to new heights. The leaners have been great, a dagger three has been mixed in here and there, and his passing to keep teams honest has been exceptional. His effort level on the boards and on defense have both been superb. His postseason numbers -- 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists – reflect his dominance. In Heat forward Chris Bosh, though, he’s matched up with an athletic, talented player who is somewhat similar to Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge started the first round series with good success before the Mavericks adjusted and forced Portland’s perimeter players to beat them, which they couldn’t. Against the Heat, the Mavericks won’t have that luxury, so they’ll have to defend Bosh with single coverage a lot more often. That, plus the confidence and scoring touch Bosh showed against Chicago, will help Miami keep this match-up closer than you might expect. Still, it’s Dirk’s world and we’re all just living in it. Advantage: Mavericks.

C: Joel Anthony has been the man in the middle fill-in that Miami so desperately needed. Better than a stiff, his activity level helps keep Miami from getting overrun on the glass and his help defense dissuades forays into the paint. That’s about it for Anthony, which is OK from Miami’s standpoint given the offensive talent they always have on the court. Tyson Chandler, though, has proven to be an effective two-way player for the Mavericks. Not only has he been a pest getting into the heads of his opponents, he’s been huge on the glass, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in the postseason. Foul trouble is always a lingering issue with Chandler, but his length and energy level, plus his ability to finish lob plays to prevent teams from overloading on Nowitzki, are all big plusses that tilt this match-up in his favor.  Advantage: Mavericks.

Bench: The Heat haves scaled things back to an eight-man rotation, using only Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Chalmers. Although Miller and Haslem haven’t really peaked in this playoffs, they’ve both made important contributions. Not much was expected after their respective injuries so it feels like an added bonus. If one of those three guys doesn’t get hot, Miami’s bench is really just buying time for its starters. Dallas, on the other hand, has enjoyed a big-time positive bench scoring differential throughout the playoffs. In addition to Terry, J.J. Barea has been a tempo-changing, gameplan-altering, pesky presence, Peja Stojakovic has provided the knockdown shooting and Brendan Haywood can give some fouls and pull down the occasional rebound. (He can also be counted on to get posterized.) The huge issue for Dallas’ bench will be its perimeter defense. Will the subs be able to get their full runs through the rotation? How long can they stay on the floor if James and Wade continue to play heavy, heavy minutes? Hard to say. But Dallas’ bench has been more consistent, more prolific and it does enjoy the depth advantage. Slight advantage: Mavericks.

Coach: As mentioned above, both teams enter the series having played very, very well at the end of games. Both teams have also survived against a variety of opponents, overcoming significant mental hurdles along the way. For the Heat, it was finally pushing past the Celtics. For the Mavericks, it was surviving a miracle comeback against the Blazers. Both teams have closed out series on the road. Both teams have played the “proving the doubters wrong” card during the course of the season and both have stayed true to their self-perceived identity, resisting criticism and believing in their fundamentals. Simply put: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle both deserve their share of the credit for those accomplishments. Advantage: Push.

VI. Conclusion

As dominant as the Mavericks have been in this postseason, they haven’t played a team that is as talented, focused and steady as the Heat. In the Blazers, Dallas was able to exploit a weak shooting team. Against the Lakers, Dallas made a disorganized and sloppy team pay. With the Thunder, Dallas forced Oklahoma City's younger players to crack under pressure.

Miami is well-rounded enough so that it resists straightforward tendency analysis. It’s fully motivated and focused as evidenced by its dismantling of the Celtics and Bulls in back-to-back series. And it’s proven to be very resilient in big moments, coming back to beat both Boston and Chicago in dramatic fashion.

While the Mavericks own positional advantage at three starting spots, and for the bench as a whole, they have no answer for James and Wade. This year, it’s starting to feel like no one in the NBA has an answer for that duo. Prediction: Heat in 6.


Since: Oct 14, 2009
Posted on: May 28, 2011 2:15 pm

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

  keeps saying "how deep the Mavs" are and that will be the deciding factor in the Finals. That was the same battle cry all the critics and sports writers stated before the East Finals and then the game 1 blow out by the Bulls over the Heat. How did the Heat respond? If Haslem and Miller were still on the sidelines....I might pick the Mavs in 7 games. But with the Big 3 hitting on all cylinders...the heat in 5 games...6 games if the NBA does truly control the outcome of games (as many posting here claim). The game film of their two game season series will show the Mavs that this isn't the same Heat team they beat in late Nov and Dec. The Heat's defensive only allowed the Mavs offense 106 & 98 points in their two game series...and by Mavs fans, writers and critics...the Heat were not as good as their play would indicated. Fast forward to present time...almost six months later, the Heat aren't anything like the early season team. How many games did they lose in the end without the ability to close out games with a basket or steal/block? All the Mavs fans support their team and that's a great thing for the sport...but let's not get delusional. How many people think that the Mavs will average 102 points (what they did in two games against the Heat) in the Finals? While I think it will be a good series....the Heat defense will be the pin that bursts the Mavs bubble to a title run. Dirk will get his points and is playing well...but he only averaged 24 points against the Heat this season (22 and 26). If he gets points while the Heat lock down the other scorers...Dirk could average 40 for the series and the Heat win the title. Their defense is that good....and they have proven all the naysayers wrong about their ability, heart, will, and passion to win the title.

Forgetting about the Mavs great offense and the Heat's suffocating defense. What Mavs player will stop James or Wade? of the two players...Wade has been steady the entire season, but James is heating up exponentially....pardon the pun! In the season series..this followed form....Wade shot 50% and James missed lots of shots finishing at 36%. Lots of those shots were forced jumpers or missed lay ups....did not see those kind of problems in the East Finals (watched all games and the Mavs-Heat games this season). While Dirk has been consistent this season and throughout his career. If that's not enough....Bosh has been getting lots of negative press this season and played very well against the Mavs while averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds. Haslem did not play in either game...Miller played 4 minutes in the second game and missed the first one. I believe that like in the East Finals..the Mavs will find more ways to score.....but will not be able to overcome the three-headed monster!

Since: Oct 14, 2009
Posted on: May 28, 2011 12:36 pm

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

You have no clue....Dirk will get his points but he will experience the same frustrations as Rose did in the East help to finish games. It's a joke when articles make mention of the Mavs as a good defensive team. They are by no means a bad defensive team...but be serious....the Celtics, Bulls and Heat are light years ahead of them. If their loss against the Bulls (Jan 20) has any meaning....that should be a preview of the games for the Finals. The Bulls have only one true scorer and beat the Mavs with defense. The season sweep of the Heat was way early in the season and the Heat were not playing at this level at that time. The first meeting on Nov 27 highlighted their early season problems. In the Dec 20 game, i thought the Heat showed a better game and just faded down the stretch. <br /><br />Dirk had four fouls in both games and should have had a charging one later in the fourth period. He is a great player, but do Mav fans feel good about their chances for a championship relying on Terry, Marion or Chandler is fouls become an issue? The Heat are really clicking and have overcome their nemisis is the Celtics and blew away the best team in the league. As one writer said in an article..."the Mavs always beat the Heat in the regular season....just can't do it in the playoffs". I think that holds true in 2011...HEAT in six games!!<br /><br />

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: May 28, 2011 11:27 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

I love how everyone is blaming the refs before the series even starts.  So many conspiracy fans.  I wonder, if they games are all rigged, then why do all of ya'll continue to watch the NBA?  What's the point in rooting for a team if it is rigged? 

I guess, that is a good point.  

The NBA being rigged would be the only way that the Mavericks and the Heat could possible make it to the Finals.  You know, the first round wonders from Dallas couldn't possibly get past the early rounds without the refs help.

The Heat, surely the Heat, couldn't have closed games without the refs help. 

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: May 28, 2011 11:20 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Note to dumb guy writing this post...

The Lakers were the 2-time defending champions and the favorite coming in.

Note to blind guy writing this...

The Lakers were also pegged as being in trouble before the playoffs even started.  They were pegged as needing to hit the panic button during the N.O. series.  2-time defending champions meant nothing by the time the playoffs started.

Since: Sep 25, 2009
Posted on: May 28, 2011 9:13 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Miami probably wins the first 2 since they're at home.  Then Game 3 pretty much decides everything.  If the Mavs bounce back it's a series.  They really need to win Game 3 at least but also probably 4. 

I think Heat win it in 6 though.

Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: May 28, 2011 7:52 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

IF the ref's stay out of the game...Mav's S-W-E-E-P the Heat!! We all know that will NOT happen....In the 3 games that the Heat lost...The FT were as follows:
PHI game 4 they only made 17 ft's.
BOS game 3 they only made 14 ft's.
CHI game 1 they only made 15 ft's.

It's not the Mav's vs. Heat....It's the Mav's vs Ref's. Dallas needs to keep it under 20 F.T.'s made for the Heat....IF they do they win those games. I am not sure that Dallas can do this. I still remember the '06 series when D-Wade drove the lane and the whistle blew even if he was not touched....WATCH the replay's before commenting on this FACT!!

Me being a MFFL (Mav's Fan For Life) and a true home town sports fan....I will take the Mav's in 6 games. Great series and either way it goes we will still have to listen to how GREAT the "BIG 3" are and how Dallas is riding off into the sunset.....By the way, "The sun set's in the WEST!" Go Mav's...Beat them REF's!!!

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: May 28, 2011 3:54 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Article says at end Dallas has not faced a talented, focused team as the heat. I am sorry i thought Kobe and LA win championships year in and year out. I may be mistaken. 

Since: Apr 12, 2011
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:22 pm

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

I want to see Dirk get his ring and have redemption over Miami from his former finals attempt.  Anything but LeBronda and Bosh Spice getting a ring. 

Since: Jan 4, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:09 pm

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

LETS GO MAVS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: May 27, 2011 8:21 pm

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Cuban built a great team and has a super life-  you on the other hand can barely write a complete sentence. 

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