NBA Finals 2011: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks Game 1 Prediction

Tom LoughreyAnalyst IIIMay 30, 2011

NBA Finals 2011: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks Game 1 Prediction

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    DALLAS - NOVEMBER 27: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives by Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks on November 27, 2010 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    The 2011 NBA Finals are set to begin on Tuesday, and just like in 2006, the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks are the two teams that will be competing for the NBA championship.

    In 2006, Dwyane Wade led the Heat past Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs in six games. Both teams have changed their rosters quite a bit since 2006, but the competitiveness of each game that year will likely carry over.

    Just like in 2006, Jason Terry is Robin to Dirk's Batman. Instead of having Shaquille O'Neal looming in his corner, Wade now his LeBron James and Chris Bosh on his side. There are many questions heading into the series.

    Can Dirk be stopped?

    Will LeBron or Dirk get his first title?

    How will the referees call the series?

    I'm going to take a stab at all of these questions and more in this article. Also, I'll give a prediction as to who I think will come out on top in Game 1.

Can Dirk Be Stopped?

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts late in the fourth quarter before the Mavericks defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96 in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines
    Pool/Getty Images

    Dirk Nowitzki has been tearing up the 2011 NBA playoffs like nobody's business.

    Almost every performance has been yet another defining moment in the German's career portfolio. Shots from every inch of the court were swishing through the net. Double-teams haven't worked because of the team's—especially Jason Terry's—hot shooting touch.

    Dirk's most heralded night was Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. He hit 12-of-15 shots from the field and each of his 24 free throws for 48 total points. It will go down as one of the best shooting performances in postseason history.

    Is there anything the Heat can do to stop—or even slow—Dirk?

    The two best players Miami can throw on the German are Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Bosh has the length and athleticism to disrupt the shot of Dirk. LeBron is one of the most talented defenders in the league. He can guard positions 1 to 4, so putting him on Dirk will probably happen at some point.

    In two games against the Heat this season, Dirk went 17-for-44. That's far from his lights-out status in the playoffs.

    Can the Heat stop Dirk? No, but they might be one of the few teams that can slow him down a little bit.

Can the Heat Continue To Close Games?

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 26:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat attempts a shot against Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOT
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In the regular season, the Heat had a great amount of difficulty finishing games in the fourth quarter.

    In the playoffs however, they've been better than almost any team. Both LeBron and Wade have been at their best in the final period, letting shots fly without a worry in the world. In the regular season, those shots weren't going down. That caused people to doubt the clutch ability of the two superstars.

    Now, as those shots are falling, so are the doubters. Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals was when the stars aligned for the Heat. The fourth-quarter comeback stunned the Chicago Bulls, sending them home in five games after losing the first game.

    Can the Heat keep it up in crunch time?

    There's no way to tell, but Miami seems ready to make the step toward stardom.

    Personally, my vote would be that they'll keep it up, but only time can tell.

How Will the Refs Call the Series?

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 24: Head coach Erik Spoelstra (R) and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat talk with referee Joey Crawford against the Chicago Bulls in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airline
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Honestly, speculation that the referees babied Wade in 2006 seems absolutely ridiculous to me.

    It's just another case of Mark Cuban running his mouth. However, it's hard to deny that stars get favorable calls. The Heat have three elite players to just one for the Mavericks. With that in mind, it's likely to see more free throws for the Heat.

    The Heat could be the beneficiaries of more calls, but Dirk gets his for sure. None of the players in this series flop like Derek Fisher or James Harden, so it shouldn't be too dramatic.

    Don't expect to see anything out of the ordinary from the refs in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Will Chris Bosh Stay Hot?

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 26:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat celebrates after the Heat won 83-80 against the Chicago Bulls in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    With Dwyane Wade potentially struggling with some shoulder issues, Chris Bosh has emerged as a reliable second option for the Miami Heat.

    Bosh's jump shot received loads of criticism earlier this season, but now that it's going in, people have stopped talking. Bosh's confidence is seemingly soaring right now, especially with his performance in Game 3 that gave the Heat the upper hand in the series.

    The problem with Bosh's game is that he hasn't been getting the ball to the rim very often. If his jump shot stops dropping, he could be in for a battle with his confidence.

    Bosh is going to have one horrendous shooting night in the series, with my guess being Game 2.

    How will Bosh respond in the following game after stinking up the joint?

Who's More Ready To Play for a Title?

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 14:  LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference shoots against Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Western Conference during the first quarter of the NBA All-Star Game, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at Cowboys Stadium on February 14, 201
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Both LeBron and Dirk have had one shot in the NBA Finals. Both players also came out empty-handed, leaving them both hungry for their next chance. In fact, LeBron has never won a game in the Finals, as the Cavs were swept in 2007 by the San Antonio Spurs.

    So, who is better prepared to play his best on the biggest stage?

    This postseason, Dirk is averaging 28.4 points per contest, but he jumped out to 32.2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron isn't too far behind at 26 per game, and was right around there with 25.8 in the series against the Bulls.

    However, James has shown a more complete game in the playoffs. His passing and rebounding have also been off the charts. Dirk has the age factor because, at 32 years old, his physical ability to carry a team is wearing away.

    LeBron is the more visibly passionate competitor, but it's impossible to doubt Nowitzki's will to win. I'm convinced that it's more important to Dirk's legacy because LeBron will have more shots to win titles in Miami, giving Dirk the edge here.

    Dirk will lay it all on the line in the Finals, but will it be enough to win it all?

Game 1 Prediction

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41, Jose Juan Barea #11 and the Dallas Mavericks celebrate their 100-96 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center o
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    In Game 1, I've got my money on the Mavs.

    It seems as if the Heat need to feel out their opponents, and their struggles early in games need to be noticed. Unlike the Bulls, the Mavericks have an offense with which they can build big leads. In Game 1, the Mavericks will get a double-digit lead early, and keep it steadily around 10 for most of the game.

    The Heat will rally late, but they won't be able to cap off yet another comeback, as Dirk will be deadly from the foul line late in the game.

    However, the Heat will win the series in either five or six games behind clutch shooting from Wade.

    Game 1 Prediction: Mavericks 94, Heat 89