NBA Finals are here and we have two teams
that are making their first apperance
ever in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat
and the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams feature
exceptional players in Miami's Dwyane
Wade and Shaquille O'Neal and Dallas's
Dirk Nowitzki. Both have exceptional bench
players and both feature coaches in Miami's
Pat Riley and Dallas's first full year
coach Avery Johnson that stress defense
and promoting offensive strengths.
team was favorite to make it this far
but defeated last year's conference champions
to get to the finals, Miami defeated Eastern
champion Detroit in 6 games in the conference
championship round and Dallas beat Western
champ San Antonio in the conference semi-finals
before beating the Phoenix Suns in the
conference championship round.
Miami, Shaquille is going for his fourth
title in 6 appearances while players like
Jason Williams, Dwyane Wade and veterans
Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and James
Posey will go for their first.
Dallas they have no one who has one a
title (save head coach Avery Johnson)
or have been to the finals so this will
be a new experience.
This is a series that
has the potential to go seven and could
be the most entertaining in a long while.
It's really hard to predict who will win
because both teams can play full and half
court and have some special mismatches
for each other so it will be about bench
play and strategy. If it's more up and
down the court that favors Dallas. The
more half court the more I would lean
toward Miami because of O'Neal.
As always tempo will dictate the game.
Let's break down the advantages at starting
five, bench and coaching and then I'll
give my prediction
Starting Five: Miami vs. Dallas
Miami keeps the same lineup generally of Shaq at center, Udonis Haslem and Antoine Walker at the 4 and 3 positions and Dwyane Wade and Jason Williams at the 2 and 1 positions. This team likes to get the ball into Shaq early force the double team and allow for penetration from their guards. Not a great outside shoting team they have veterans that can and are used to making the big shots. Percentage wise though they can be reckless and with turnovers they can be careless at times.
Jason Williams need to play with a control this series because missed shots and turnovers means quick breaks for the opposition and Dallas can kill you playing that type of game.
Dallas fluctuates more with the mainstays being Nowitzki at the 4 position and Josh Howard at the 2/3 and Jason Terry at the 1 or point guard position. They usually start either Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris, Desagina Diop or Keith Van Horn at the other positions depending on the opponent. Expect Diop to start this series because he will guard Shaq and I expect Van Horn to start to keep Stackhouse points off the bench as a change in pace from time to time. In Nowitzki they have the best bigman shooter in the league and he's also been very aggressive in taking it to the hoop. Terry is tweener guard who can score and this team can hit the outside shot. Defense is new th the Mavs though and they can depend on their scoring too much at times.
Advantage: Miami (slightly)
The Bench: Miami vs. Dallas
The bench for Miami features Gary Payton, who gets a majority of fourth quarter minutes, Alonzo Mourning, the former All-Star center playing at a high level and Antoine Walker, the 6-9 forward who looks to score versus the other team second teamers because he's a former All-Star. These will likely be Riley's main substitutions and have contributed the most in the Heat's playoff run. If it goes farther they do have Derek Anderson, Michael Doleac and Shandon Anderson but that would mean foul trouble for the Heat which isn't good.
Dallas has a lot more flexibility but less experience in their bench. Jerry Stackhouse leads the way and is joined by Keith Van Horn and Erick Dampier. Expect Dampier to get major minutes if Shaq shows up and Van Horn will be used at best to stretch the floor with his three point shooting ability. They also have guards like Marquis Daniels and defensive stalwart Adrian Griffin who can try and partially contain Wade. Since the game plan for San Antonio all the time they have the bodies and fouls to play half court with any team and that will be a key versus Miami. If they wanna go uptempo they usually move Nowitzki at center and the rest of the players fit in well. This team can play big and small at all positions.
Advantage:Dallas (big time)
Coaching: Miami vs. Dallas
Miami has a legendary coach in Pat Riley, who won four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers showtime era and this will be his third team he has taken to the finals joining the Lakers and the New York Knicks. A notorious hard practice guy who stresses fluidity, Riley also allow players to play towards their games and not a strict gameplan which has people performing tasks they are ill-equipped to perform. He can do it all from the X's and O's to being a great motivator.
Dallas has Avery Johnson, in his first full season as head coach after being an assistant under legend Don Nelson. Johnson was the point guard for the 1999 NBA Champion Spurs team and is one of the games brightest minds. He won the 2005-06 coach of the year award and has brought defense to Dallas after years of piss poor play! Like Riley he's a great motivator and has the X's and O's down especially given his assistant coaches like Del Harris and Rolando Blackman's input.
Dallas in seven games. It's hard to go
against Shaq but I believe that the Dallas
bench and their belief in Avery Johnson's
system will provide for at least one win
in Miami and force Miami to go deeper
on the bench than they are used to. Nowitzki
has no match on Miami and is my odds on
favorite to win Finals MVP. Miami has
an unstoppable in Wade and veteran experience
in Shaq, Payton, Mourning and Walker but
I'm concerned with their age and tendancy
to turnover the ball. Miami will have
to slow down the Dallas offense and force
them to a consistent half court game to
win. It can be done but I don't see it.
It will be interesting to see how the
referees call the game because that could
dicate the flow of the game. Ticky-tack
fouls benefit Miami. I think Dallas can
offset Shaq and Wade's scoring barrage
and provide enough mismatches on offense
to get Posey, Haslem and Walker, in particular,
in foul trouble.