Posted by Matt Moore
J.J. Barea knows LeBron James shut down the MVP Derrick Rose. J.J. Barea knows LeBron James is stronger. J.J. Barea knows LeBron James has a bigger wingspan, a bigger frame, a bigger defensive skillset, and every physical attribute in the book outside of raw speed defensively.
J.J. Barea still thinks he can get around LeBron James.
"He's taller and stronger, but I still think I can get by him," Barea said Tuesday before Game 1.
The diminutive Mavs bench spark plug is not lacking for confidence in speed, nor should he. He's been torching defenders with his abilty to get to the rim all season. When the defense does adjust, Barea loops under the basket. Barea's made a name for himself by being fearless and aggressive and said he has no plans to change that.
"I'm attacking. I'm going to stay aggressive. I bring a lot of energy on both ends, and we'll see what happens."
But with LeBron guarding him? With that wingspan?
"I think Westbrook and LeBron are pretty similar. LeBron's stronger, but we'll see what happens."
That kind of confidence comes with success, and Barea's had a lot of it, and it's been predicated on speed. The Mavericks, though, aren't a barnburner, up-and-down squad, not even in the playoffs. They're just highly efficient. In this series, however, they may wind up having to try and pick up the tempo a bit more.
The Mavericks were 20th in pace this season, at an estimated 93.1 possesions per game. The Heat, funnily enough, were right behind them, 21st, at 92.9. And in the playoffs, where everything slows down, we've seen the same comparative trends. The Mavericks are ninth among all playoff teams at 86.6 possessions per game, while Miami is 12th at 86.2. What does those numbers mean? It means neither team has been running Seven Seconds or Less. It doesn't mean either team lacks ability on the break though. Both teams have the same attitude about fast breaks that Rick Carlisle described Tuesday morning.
There's a gap between running for running's sake (most of those teams you'll find in the lottery or one-and-done in the first round, not naming any names), and being aggressive when the opportunity presents itself. Carlisle said that the same things which spark the Mavericks' break are what the Heat use as their core: defense and rebounding. It's those types of elements that allow for the break, to let Jason Kidd cut down the middle and find an open cutter or a shooter on the perimeter, and that lets Barea get to the basket behind a defense. It's also those things that give LeBron and Dwyane Wade highlight opportunities. And it's those opportunities that will likely have a huge impact in this series.
Carlisle was particular before Game 1 of saying they weren't going to slow down or speed up the offense. "We're going to play our pace," the Mavericks coach said Tuesday morning. It's a generic quote meant to avoid any strategic leak of information, but it's also indicative of the Mavericks' confidence going into Tuesday night's Game 1.
The Mavericks will be fast when they need to. They'll grind when they need to. And they'll hope that they can make more plays. Half-court, full-court, defensively, this is going to be a series about speed. Whoever gets to the spot first, wins.
We know one thing, though. Barea thinks it'll be him, no matter who's guarding him, even if it's LeBron James.
Read more: 2011 NBA Finals | Miami Heat | Dallas Mavericks