Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finals Preview

Tonight is the first game of the NBA finals and it should be a good one.  These teams faced off just 5 years ago (seems like much longer) so there is some history between these teams.  They are both great all-around teams to get to here, but someone has to win.  Prediction?  I will take Dallas in 7.

I'll break down each category and assess who has the advantage in each.

Recent play:  Both teams came into the post-season hot and continued their hot streaks. Both the Mavericks and the Heat have gone 12-3 in the playoffs.  I think Dallas had a bit tougher road to the finals (Portland is way better than the Pacers, and they had the Lakers on the road).  Advantage: Even

Star-power on offense:  This one is pretty clear.  The Heat have the Big 3.  Dirk has been phenomenal in the playoffs but even when Jason Terry is hot, the Heat have more.  While Terry is averaging 17 points a game, he has scored 13 or less points in 46% of the playoff games.  Advantage: Large to Heat.

Frontcourt matchups:  Dirk has been utterly dominant this postseason, scoring over 28 points a game and shooting over 50% from 3 point and 2 point territories.  Bosh is having a good series, but the Heat need a guy on D who can guard Dirk.  Theoretically, Bosh has the athleticism and size to guard Dirk, however he is not a great defensive player.  Dirk's career numbers are 23 ppg and 47.6% from the field, however against Bosh he averages 25 ppg and shooting almost 50% from the field.  Lebron is an amazing player offensively, but he has historically struggled (at least struggled for him) against Shawn marion since marion left the defensive black hole of Phoenix, shooting less than 45% from the field and only scoring 25 points per game (including 38% and 23 ppg the last 2 years).  Tyson Chandler is also a better rebounder and better scorer than Joel Anthony.  Advantage: Dallas

Backcourt matchups: While the Heat may have no answer for Dirk, the mavs may have no answer for Wade. Jason Kidd and Deshawn stevenson have solid skills, enough to be passable against Wade, but its doubtful that either can be a great defender on Wade.  They both have good size and athleticism however are not the dominant defenders that marion is.  Dallas will struggle to win the series if they don't play the D they are capable of.  Also, neither one is a great offensive player.  While Kidd can still run the offense and be a floor leader, he hasn't been a great shooter and Stevenson has been awful.  Advantage: Large to Heat.

Bench Play:  This one isn't even that close.  Dallas has their best shooter coming off the bench, whereas the Heat rely on 3 bench players, two of whom are essentially 3pt specialists (James Jones, Chalmers) and one is an energy defender and rebounder (Haslem) who is not fully healthy.  Dallas' bench is deep in scoring.  JJ Barea has been excellent in the playoffs and is a solid bench scorer and floor general.  Stojakovic is not the player he once was, but is a great shooter off the bench and Haywood is a very solid backup center.  Dallas has 9 guys who have played in all 15 games, while the Heat only have 6.  Advantage: Large to Dallas

Overall team play (defense/rebounds/passing): The Heat have a slight advantage in rebounding and have better overall team defense.  The Heat however have not been passing the ball.  Superstars these days seem to be reluctant in the playoffs to defer to teammates and trust them and pass to them.  Even distributors such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook have suffered from this.  This isn't a hard set rule either.  magic Johnson actually passed more in the playoffs.  Dallas has much better passing, which leads to easier shots.  Dallas is shooting at a 46/39% clip (2 point/3 point) whereas the Heat are shooting at a 44/32% clip in the playoffs and much of this can be traced back to ball movement (the Heat have devolved into Lebron/Wade Isos).  Advantage: Even

Coaching:  Rick Carlisle is a great coach.  He helped build the foundation of the Pistons team that Larry Brown won a championship with.  Carlisle may be one of the best NBA coaches (outside of Jerry Sloan) not to have won an NBA Championship.  He then lead the Pacers to the conference finals, losing to the team he had built in Detroit.  He got a team of offensive-minded players, like Jamaal Tinsley and Al Harrington, to play  terrific D (he also had Artest, who in some ways is comparable to his use of marion).  He led the Pacers to the 2nd round, despite having a team decimated by injuries.  He turned a Dallas team that has historically never played D into a solid defensive team.  While Spolestra has gotten the Heat to play good D and to work together surprisingly well, he is no Rick Carlisle.  Advantage: Dallas

X Factor:  I will define X Factor as who wants it more.  Lebron seems to really want a championship this year.  Bosh just seems like the Ringo Starr of the group.  He is quiet, does his job, but seems to just be along for the ride.  I do not see the fire in his belly I see with Lebron.  Wade does not seem to have a ton of fire in his belly (more than Bosh, less than Lebron).  He has already won a championship.  Jason Terry and Dirk remember that championship.  They lost it.  Dirk looks hungry this year.  He is 32 and his window is closing and he is turning it on at the right time.  Advantage: Slight to Dallas.

I think the key will be Dirk and the bench.  Dirk is playing out of his mind right now like he really wants that championship.  He also has done well historically against Bosh.  In a 7 game series (which I think it will go to), the Heat will need to dip deeper into their bench and their bench needs to step it up.  Unfortunately for them, I don't see that happening and I see Dirk averaging around 30 ppg.

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