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: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:15 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Good analysis FRAPPE...  I don't get why the Mavs have so many haters.  They've done a great job against some talented teams this year.  Portland and OKC will be contenders for years to come, just not this year.  The Mavs will need everyone to step up and play like a TEAM to beat the three headed Miami monster.  Once again UNDERDOGS, but we're getting fond of it... GO MAVS!

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:15 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

I don't have a favorite in these finals, but as a pure fan, I really do have to hope that the Refs do NOT play a role in the outcome- History favors Miami because DWade gets SO MANY phantom calls- even last night with 2 minutes to go, he gets a 4 point play on a call that really should NOT have been called. PLEASE David Stern, have your assigned refs do their homework on Flops and what constitutes a foul! and then the real best team will come through- may the best team win- let's just pray it's not the Ref's favorites!

Since: Feb 14, 2008
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:10 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

I don't get why it is concluded that the Heat played tougher teams. Miami played Philadelphia, who were much worse than Portland. The Celtics might be better than LA (you could have lots of discussion on that), but they were certainly not better after Rondo was hurt. The Bulls were better than OKC, but both teams suffered from being young. So, one out of the three matchups was tougher for Miami.

Since: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:06 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Your Reputation and Level of Profile explain your opinion all too well....  I bet you didn't have a Miami jersey until this year. What a fan!

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:02 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

The Dallas Mavericks are going to win this series.  At the end of the regular season, all we heard from the Western Conference was how San Antonio looked unstoppable, how the Los Angeles Lakers would step it up like they always do in the playoffs and get a three-peat, and how nobody wanted to play against the Portland Trailblazers.  None of the self-proclaimed experts said much about Dallas.  Well, Dallas beat the highly touted Trailblazers, 4-2.  Then, they swept the defending champion Lakers.  And they showed an incredible will to win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Sure, David Stern wants star players to market the NBA, and I know he'd be thrilled to see LeBron, Wade, and Bosh win it all.  And maybe next year they will, but this year, the Dallas Mavericks will continue to play spoiler and win it all.

Since: Jan 16, 2009
Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:00 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Should be a great series.... I'm a true Mavs fan but Dirk and Lebron are well deserving of a title.  No one has had an answer for either of these teams this year in the playoffs.  Anyone hating on the Mavs saying they aren't good don't even deserve a response from true NBA fans.  NO ONE had the Mavs favored to beat LA and they swept them so put that mush in your mouth and chew on it.  Miami has the greatest assembly of talent since Boston put their championship team together and LA as well.  This will be a great series to watch and in my opinion there are no losers in the Finals, but the greatest are defined there, MJ, Magic, Bird, etc. The best TEAM will win in the end so button it up Mavs and bring home the title! Tongue out 

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:29 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Dallas had an answer for Kobe/Pau and Durant/Westbrook.... They had an answer earlier this season for Wade/James, so I don't know what this "expert" is talking about in the last couple of sentences.

Because the three best positions on the floor for the Mavericks are Power Forward, Point Guard, & Center.  Wade/Lebron play none of those3 positions.  You have the best Small Forward in the league & one of the two best guards.  The advantage at those two positions are huge.

Miami's bandwagon has been full ever since the "Decision," so to call these guys picks legit is a little gullible.

Actually, most of the season people have talked about how the Heat haven't lived up to expectations.

Who has stopped Dirk so far?? Nobody... Wade has been off a bit, so that's a little worrysome. You cannot double Dirk because there's 3 other guys on the floor who can pop 15-20 points on you. This is not the 2006 Mavericks that couldn't play defense when it mattered.
Dallas hasn't played a defense like this.  The heat has been just as dominant against better competition.  And they have homecourt advantage where they have been unbeatable in the playoffs.

I predicted Heat to win prior to the playoffs.  Not because I thought they were some team of destiny.  I thought they got a path to the playoffs that was very favorable to them.  As the playoffs unfolded, Dallas to me looked like a very interesting match up because of their style of play.  I stick with my pick, but it's going to be an intriguing series.  Point to the regular season sweep as much as you like.  The Bulls swept them 3 games instead of 2.  The Bulls also lost four straight when they hadn't lost more than back to back all season.

Since: Jul 9, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:20 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

I cant believe people seriously think the Mavs can win. lol

Cuban was right? About what? Not being able to win a championship with no defense? The Mavs are soft. Compared to the Bulls/Celtics they are mush. Please. Heat in 5.

Since: Jul 9, 2010
Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:17 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

Your posts are hilarious. In a pathetic hater sort of way. Please come back and cry about fouls after the Mavs lose so we can laugh. Hater. lol

Since: Jun 5, 2008
Posted on: May 27, 2011 8:58 am

Mavericks-Heat 2011 NBA Finals Preview

dallas in 4 or 5.

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