With the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat both holding 2-0 leads over last season's NBA finalists, the L.A. Lakers and Boston Celtics respectively, the 2011 NBA Playoffs is starting to have the feel of mild nostalgia.
Could the Dallas Mavericks, a franchise that has always contended that it was robbed in the finals five years ago because of the massive free throw disparity in the series, be headed toward a revenge finals against the Miami Heat?
Could we be witnessing Dirk's ultimate redemption after years of playoff failures? Could Dirk, a player long considered "not mentally tough enough" at best and a "choker" at worst, actually win his first title at the expense of, ironically, one of the league's premier clutch performers in Kobe Bryant, as well as, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, truly cementing Dirk's legacy?
On the other hand, if the Heat and Mavericks were to meet in the finals and the Big Three of South Beach win the title, history will pass judgement on Dirk as a player who won most of the regular season matchups against Wade (the Mavericks have not lost a regular season game to the Heat since 2004 in Wade's rookie season and that was an overtime win for Miami), but Wade "owned" him when it matter most in the finals.
For those who believe in the role that fate plays in deciding an NBA Champion, there are several interesting parallels between this season and 2006 that suggest a Heat-Mavericks series is destined to occur.
A few notable examples:
- The Miami Heat began the season 9-8 and found themselves questioning their abilities as their new big three of Wade, James and Chris Bosh were still not in sync on the court. However, after a loss to the Mavericks, the team called a team meeting to get on the same page. This meeting resulted in an astounding 21-1 run over their next 22 games. The one loss though was to the Mavericks.
- In 2006, the Mavericks shocked the NBA world by knocking of the defending champions in the second round without homecourt advantage. In 2006 it was the Spurs, this season, with their 2-0 lead over L.A. they could find themselves advancing to the finals with an identical springboard.
- The 2006 Heat, like this year's Heat, were considered no match for the defending East champions, the Detroit Pistons, who just like this year's Boston Celtics, had lost in 7-Games in the previous year's NBA Finals. Both the Pistons and the Celtics began the next regular season on fire before fading late in the season. The Heat in 2006 and 2011 were both number 2 seeds and largely counted out as serious title contenders before the playoffs because of their inconsistent play during the regular season.
- Both the 2011 Heat and 2011 Mavericks have identical road records of 28-13, matching each other for the best road record in the league.
- The 2006 Heat, like the 2011 Heat, struggled against the league's elite teams: In 2006, the Heat were 0-2 against the Spurs, 0-2 against the Phoenix Suns, 0-2 against the Mavericks and 1-2 against the Detroit Pistons. This season the Heat were 0-3 against the Bulls, 1-3 against the Celtics and1-1 against the Spurs.
- Outside of its stars, the 2006 Miami Heat were assembled from a collection of veteran players who pundits argued weren't good enough to compliment the stars in Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. They included Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Jason Williams. The 2011 Heat were put together in like fashion with its stars backed up by players whose significance and age have come under intense scrutiny.
However, while it may be interesting to ponder the parallels of this postseason in relation to the postseason that thoroughly devided the NBA community (it was either the biggest comeback and finals performance ever from Dwyane Wade or a huge welt on the backside of NBA credibility in defending its refereeing system), both of these teams have a long way to go before a Heat-Mavericks finals would come to be.
The Lakers and Celtics are very resilient teams and the possibility of one or both coming back and winning their series cannot be underestimated.
However, while it wouldn't have the blatant "passing the torch" symbolism of a Lakers-Bulls finals, it would give one of two long maligned players (LeBron or Dirk) the chance to finally take his name off the list of "greatest to never win a title."