Dirk Nowitzki holds up the Western Conference Champion's Trophy
For the first time since the brutality of 2006, the Dallas Mavericks are headed back to the NBA Finals for a date with someone they've already been there with. It's a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
The Mavs find themselves here after steamrolling, and I mean steamrolling, through Portland, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.
The Miami Heat are fresh off of clearing the Chicago Bulls 4-1, the team that held the best record in the league. LeBron erased personal ghosts in the series vs Boston, Chris Bosh destroyed all doubts that he was a third wheel, and Dwyane Wade actually struggled a lot in the series versus Chicago, it's just that James and Bosh masked it.
I've been through the experts' picks on ESPN, and 17 out of 24 of them say the Heat will take it. Let's see why the other seven went with the Mavs.
Mavs Fans cheer as their team locks up their 2nd trip ever to the NBA Finals.
Choker, softy, tall guy who could never finish at the rim. At least that's what they used to call him.
This guy has been unstoppable during these 2010-2011 NBA Playoffs.This man is on a mission; he doesn't care about a Western Conference Championship trophy, he wants a ring.
In Portland, he just did what he did the entire regular season: go one on one and drop buckets.
In Los Angeles, Phil Jackson said, "Why not double him?" In that series, Dirk found Jason Terry along with Tre-ja Stojakovic, who dropped a combined 14/15 three-pointers to sweep the greatest coach in NBA history and the two-time defending champions out of the playoffs.
In OKC, not only did they double team him, but at some points even tripled team him. The result of that? Dirk's school bus was big enough to take Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison all to school!
Not to mention, he dropped 48, 29, 18, 40, and 26....legendary.
Who on the Miami Heat can guard Dirk Nowitzki? Some might say Udonis Haslem because he played Dirk well in the Finals in 2006, but wait—this isn't the same Dirk.
The answer to this question is; Dirk Nowitzki is unstoppable; not only does he put the team on his back, but he also finds the open man and helps Dallas' ball movement.
Udonis Haslem may have "shut down" Dirk in 2006, but Dirk is back stronger and wiser than ever.
Jose Barea has been the offensive sparkplug for the Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks' bench has not only been the best in the playoffs, but the best of the season. Key additions of Brendan Haywood, JJ Barea and Peja Stojakovic over the past few years have helped bring not only an offensive edge, but a solid defensive core.
JJ Barea's endless penetration helps to space out the floor, which lets shooters like Peja and DeShawn get wide open looks.
We saw this technique run to perfection during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Brendan Haywood has brought toughness and a good role of leadership on the defensive end to help the Mavericks lock down in the zone and man coverages. He will definitely bother James and Wade, who are both prominent slashers.
He's come back stronger than ever and is a very valid threat on the offensive end. Surprisingly, he's also picked up his defense.
Tyson Chandler gets the crowd on their feet at the American Airlines Center.
"You can see it in their eyes. Going to the Finals and losing is the worst thing that can happen. Obviously, I want to win a ring for myself, but I truly do want to win a ring for Dirk and Jet." -Tyson Chandler
This passion and leadership is what is driving the Dallas Mavericks to win their first ever Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Shawn Marion had never been past the Western Conference Finals. Peja Stojakovic had never been past it either. Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood had all never been past the second round. Jason Kidd went to the Finals back to back times and lost both. We all know about Dirk and Jet.
These stories represent the unique bond that these Mavericks are using to hold them together and succeed.
A rookie Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd was a rookie once? Jason Kidd and Rookie in the same sentence sound weird.
Jason Kidd is 38 years old and has been playing in this league for 17 years. That's a long, long time. As I said before, he's lost back to back NBA Finals.
Dirk and JET have seen it all, from being up 2-0 in a Finals series and losing four in a row, to going 67-15 and losing in the first round of the playoffs. Lots of analysts call the Mavs "old", and usually, with age comes experience.
A good majority of the current Dallas Mavericks roster has seen things that no NBA player wants to go through.
Tyson Chandler contests a Russell Westbrook jumper.
I am a die hard Dallas Mavericks fan, and I have never, ever ever ever seen the Mavericks with such good defense. I have also never ever ever ever seen the Mavs make as good of an offseason acquisition as Tyson Chandler.
Everyone thought that this was just a move to match the length of the Lakers and it wouldn't really have an impact on the team. Lets just say they were wrong.
I love this guy. I love his energy. I love the way he gets ticked when teammates don't do their job. This guy will give the Miami Heat a run for their money.
Dirk draws a hard double team from Diogu and Gomes of the Clippers.
Dirk Nowitzki is a vortex in the paint. He draws all defenders on the court around him. That means that two to three players—usually three-point shooters because Dallas has a lot of them—are open, just camping out on the three point line. Dirk passes them the rock, BAM. That is how the Dallas Mavericks kill you.
When you have killers like Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki on the floor, buckets aren't the only thing they're good for.