NBA Finals 2011: 5 Things Dallas Mavericks Must Do to Beat Miami Heat
Five years ago, Dallas won the first two games against Miami before surrendering four straight losses. The epic collapse has haunted Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks ever since. They have been bounced in early rounds of the playoffs the last few years and many have called them “soft.”
But no one has called Nowitzki and the Mavs “soft” during these playoffs.
When the playoffs started, no one thought they would make the NBA Finals, but here they are. The Mavs are one step away from an NBA title because they have a superstar who is virtually unstoppable and a collection of players who know their roles and execute perfectly.
Here are the five things the Mavs must to do beat the Heat and capture their first ever NBA title.
5. Jason Terry Must Score 20 Points a Game
In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Jason Terry averaged 18 points a game and shot over 50 percent from the field and beyond the arc.
Against the Thunder, Terry averaged only 15 points per game on 37 percent field-goal shooting. That is not going to get it done against Miami.
In James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat have three prolific scorers who can go for thirty points on any given night.
While Dirk Nowitzki is amazing, he cannot carry the offensive burden alone. Terry is a knockdown shooter and needs to play the way he did in the first two playoff rounds for his team win the Finals.
4. Mavericks Need to Steal Game 1 or 2
The Miami Heat are blessed with home-court advantage because they won just one more game than the Mavericks did this season.
While the playoffs had a 2-2-1-1-1 format during the first three rounds, the NBA Finals have a 2-3-2 format and the team with the worse record plays three straight games at home during the middle of the series.
This 2-3-2 playoff format was introduced to the NBA in 1985. Since then, only two teams have been able to win all three of the middle games at home.
During the regular season, the Mavericks were the best road team in the entire league with a 28-13 road record. They proved during the first three rounds that they can win close games on the road.
For the Mavs to win the series, they need to steal one of the first two games in Miami. If they go down 0-2 heading back to Dallas, they are toast.
3. The Dallas Bench Must Dominate
In each postseason matchup, the Mavericks’ bench has had a clear advantage over their competitor’s bench.
This round should be no different.
The Mavs are in the finals because Jason Terry, JJ Barea, Peja Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood have all stepped up in pivotal moments and made their presence felt.
The Heat have three bench players who are getting regular minutes—Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers.
On paper, the Mavs’ bench is significantly stronger and should be able to torch Miami’s bench. Unfortunately for Dallas, basketball games aren’t played on paper.
Since Miami gets such a large contribution from their starters, it won’t be enough for the Dallas bench to just play at a high level. They need to dominate the Heat bench in order to win it all.
2. Shawn Marion Needs to Slow LeBron James
LeBron James has been on an absolute tear during the 2011 playoffs and has stepped up in big games.
Many have accused LeBron of not stepping up in big games, but he has been absolutely clutch this year. His recent successes ensure that he will come into the NBA Finals with plenty of confidence.
Shawn Marion will most likely match up against James. He did a phenomenal job against Kevin Durant in the conference finals and made him take contested three-pointers and force turnovers during critical moments.
Against LeBron, Marion has an even tougher assignment. For the Mavs to win the title, Marion must slow down King James the same way he slowed Durant.
1. Dirk Nowitzki Must Continue to Play Like an MVP
Say what you want about LeBron and his incredible playoff performance, but Dirk Nowitzki is the clear postseason MVP.
Since Dallas fell apart in the 2006 NBA Finals, many have questioned Dirk as a leader and as a big-game player. In the 2011 postseason, he has proven all of his doubters wrong.
His playoff statistics are incredible. Dirk is averaging 28 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the field, 52 percent from beyond the arc and 93 percent from the foul line.
He has not only filled up the stat sheet, but he’s been incredibly clutch too. Every time his team needs a big shot, Dirk has stepped up and hit one.
When interviewed on ESPN’s PTI program, Mavs’ Head Coach Rick Carlisle said the following:
“There has never been a guy close to 7’1” that has developed a game to play this style of basketball. Dirk is an absolute original in every sense of the word. He is not like anyone who has ever played this game and to me that is one of the things that makes him historically good and unbelievably special.”
Like Rick Carlisle said, Dirk is both historically good and unbelievably special.
If he continues to play the way he’s been playing since the playoffs started, he will not only exorcise his postseason demons, but will secure his legacy as an all-time great.
If Dirk plays big for one more series, he will win his first NBA championship and will bring the city of Dallas its first NBA title.
How’s that for a storybook ending?