Jason Terry (left) and Dwyane Wade will do battle in a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
The Heat has come a long way from its 9-8 start to the 2010-11 season to represent the Eastern Conference for the second time in team history. Miami is playing great basketball in the NBA Playoffs, winning each of its three series in five games.
It has been five frustrating years, but the Dallas Mavericks return to the NBA Finals facing an all-too-familiar franchise. However, this Dallas team is older, wiser and hungrier to erase the nightmares of postseasons past.
ADVANTAGE: Jason Kidd
At 38, Jason Kidd continues to impress everyone with his point guard play.
He may not be a top-five caliber point guard anymore, but the wily veteran still has a few tricks up his sleeves.
Kidd averaged 9.6 points and 8.6 assists in the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City, while playing good defense and adding a few key steals.
Bibby will split point guard duties with Mario Chalmers, but Kidd clearly has the edge in this battle.
ADVANTAGE: Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade struggled a bit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls, but he will enjoy the fact that he is in the NBA Finals for the second time.
After a stretch of eight straight games with at least 20 points, Wade only averaged 18.8 points per game against Chicago.
Expect Wade to bounce back, as DeShawn Stevenson will be no match for him.
ADVANTAGE: LeBron James
Shawn Marion is definitely turning back the clock with his play in the playoffs this year.
In Game 5 against Oklahoma City, Marion scored 26 points and added eight rebounds to help clinch the series. That performance came two days after his clutch steals helped Dallas come back from 15 points down to take Game 4 in overtime.
He will provide good defense against LeBron James, but James has the matchup here.
James is coming through in key moments for the Heat, hitting tough shots down the stretch and providing great all-around play. He has seven double-doubles in the playoffs this year and provided great defense.
ADVANTAGE: Dirk Nowitzki
Chris Bosh had a good series against Chicago, but Dirk Nowitzki continues to have a phenomenal postseason.
In Game 1 against the Thunder, Nowitzki turned in one of the greatest performances in NBA history by scoring 48 points, making all 24 of his free throws, and not attempting one 3-pointer.
Throughout the playoffs, he is showing why he is an offensive force by making tough shots and shooting above everyone.
Although Bosh may lose this matchup, he is not a pushover and can definitely hold his own.
He averaged 23.2 points and 7.6 rebounds in the Eastern Conference Finals and blocked four shots in Game 5. However, he may have his toughest test in guarding Nowitzki.
ADVANTAGE: Tyson Chandler
Of a shaky center situation, Joel Anthony proved that he is Miami’s best option.
Anthony blocked 15 shots in the Eastern Conference Finals and has 31 rejections in the playoffs.
With that said, he will be up against a greater challenge in Tyson Chandler.
Chandler continues to provide a good presence in the post for Dallas with his scoring and rebounding. Against the Thunder, Chandler averaged 8.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while grabbing key offensive rebounds.
If he can take advantage against Miami’s big men, watch out.
ADVANTAGE: Dallas Mavericks
Mario Chalmers continues to lead Miami’s second unit, but now he has help thanks to the re-emergence of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.
Miller had a horrific start to the playoffs, but he found his touch in Games 4 and 5 against Chicago—shooting over 40 percent in both games. Haslem missed most of the season, but scoring 13 points and his toughness in Game 2 against Chicago cemented his place in the rotation.
However, the Heat does not have a solid backup center to counter Brendan Haywood, who can take advantage of Miami’s front line just as well as Chandler.
If Miami’s bigs tire because of this, expect JJ Barea to go at them with a full head of steam and possibly leave Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic open for shots.
It will be a joy to see three of the best players in the NBA—James, Nowitzki and Wade—battle it out in the NBA Finals.
Miami may have a terrific trio that has been dominant in this year’s playoffs, but this veteran Dallas team is playing with a purpose to win and rewrite its history.
Miami will give everything it has, but Dallas will prevail in the end.
PREDICTION: Mavericks in 6