NBA Finals 2011: 5 Things the Mavericks Have to Do to Beat the Heat
Before we get to excited about the fact that this year's NBA Finals is a rematch of the 2006 Finals, which also featured the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, it's important to remember that only a total of four players remain from those two teams that played in the series five years ago: Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem for the Heat, and Dirk Nowtzki as well as Jason Terry for the Mavericks.
Still, this is going to be a very interesting and exciting series that features two very different teams. The young and athletic Heat, playing in just their first year together, will square off against the experienced and savvy Mavericks.
This series will also feature the two hottest players in all of basketball right now: LeBron James and Nowitzki.
At first glance, the Heat would seem to have the edge here. After all, both James and Wade seem like they can't be stopped right now. Factor in an improving Chris Bosh, and the Heat look like they will be taking home the title for the second time in the past six years.
Not so fast.
Here are five things the Mavericks must to in order to beat the Heat and claim the title.
Dallas Must Contain LeBron James or Dwyane Wade
If both James and Wade are hot, Miami is almost impossible to beat.
However, if the Mavericks are able to contain at least one of the Heat's two superstars per game, they will have a chance to win each contest.
The Heat are 12-3 thus far in the postseason, but in each of their three losses, either Wade or James has been held to under 22 points or less. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the only game that Miami lost to Chicago, both Wade and James were held to under 20 points.
Holding both players down like that on a consistent basis is a tough task for any team, even for the defensive-minded Mavericks. However, they will be in good shape if they can contain at least one of the two.
Looking at potential matchups, it would seem like Dallas would have a better chance of stopping James. Shawn Marion, an above-average defender, will likely be on James most of the time. He has played well during the playoffs, and could use his experience and length to disrupt LeBron.
It might be a little tougher for Dallas to slow down Wade. While both Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea have been playing well as of late, neither player excels defensively. DeShawn Stevenson may be the Mavericks best option on Wade, and I don't like his chances, either.
Still, if they can take one of those two players away, we will have a series.
The Mavericks Must Continue to Get Solid Production from the Bench
While Miami seems to have the better starting five in this series, the Mavericks definitely have a more productive and deeper bench. As a result, Dallas must find a way to capitalize on their big advantage.
Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Peja Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood have all given the Mavericks solid production off the bench during the playoffs.
Despite coming off the pine, Terry is second on the Mavericks in scoring during the playoffs at 17.3 points per game. Barea has shown the ability to control a game, Stojakovic has been on fire from three and Haywood has provided good interior defense as well as rebounding.
The Heat, in contrast, get very little production from their bench. As of late, they have only been playing an eight-man rotation, and guys like Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers have almost been complete non-factors.
Haslem has been a nice spark off the bench, but Miami has received very little from the bench outside of him.
Dallas Needs to Forget About Their Regular Season Meetings with the Heat
During the regular season, the Mavericks defeated the Heat both times the two teams met, but those games mean nothing now. Well, almost nothing.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Mavericks' two wins over the Heat during the regular season was that Miami was playing arguably their best basketball of the year. They went on a streak where they won 20 of 22 games, but both loss they suffered came at the hands of the Mavericks.
Dallas proved they can beat Miami even when they are at their best, but the Heat may just be even better now.
The Mavericks can't be overly confident in this series based on what they did against the Heat during the regular season.
But Dallas is a veteran group, and that shouldn't be a problem for them like it might be for a younger and more inexperienced group.
This is a new season, and Dallas knows that.
The Mavericks Need to Keep Shooting a High Percentage from Three
I think we can all agree that the Heat are a more athletic team than the Mavericks. If the game is played at a fast pace with both teams being forced to get out in transition, the edge would heavily favor Miami.
So how can Dallas stop that from happening? Make shots. Especially from distance.
As a team, the Mavericks are shooting 39 percent from three during the playoffs, making nearly nine of them per game. Nowitzki, Stojakovic, Terry and Kidd are all threats from beyond-the-arc, and they would completely change the complexion of this series should they continue to knock down shots from deep at a high percentage.
However, if those shots aren't falling, this series is Miami's to lose.
Dallas Must out-Execute Miami Down the Stretch
Both James and Nowitzki have developed into two of the best "closers" in basketball during these playoffs.
Both teams have been flawless in executing down the stretch, which is a major reason why each team is still playing.
Additionally, both teams have shown the ability to make big comebacks late in games due to the fact that they execute so well late in games.
It may sound obvious, but Dallas simply must be better in the last six minutes of each game.
If they can contain the Heat for the first three quarters of each game, their veteran experience should provide them an edge late in the fourth quarter.