NBA Finals 2011: 5 Biggest Possible X-Factors in the Heat-Mavericks Series
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki. That's a lot of firepower for one series, whether you include Bosh or not. Say what you want about the Heat's third wheel's production this season, but he's been playing more like a boss and less like a Bosh as this postseason has played out.
We know what we're going to get from LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Dirk: 40 percent of what's going to be on the court most of the time. For the Mavericks to have a chance in this series, they'll need to win the battle of the other 60 percent, because while Nowitzki can carry a team over a superstar guard and a forward everyone thinks is a superstar (the Lakers), a superstar forward and a guard who thinks he's a superstar (the Thunder), he won't be able to do it against two superstars and Bosh.
Here are five X-factors for the 2011 NBA Finals. Or, more aptly, five matchups the Mavericks will need to win to have a chance at the title.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that Erik Spoelstra is so concerned with JJ Barea that he'll be using his best defender, LeBron James, to cover the barely-six-footer. Barea ran wild past slower guards like Eric Maynor and Derek Fisher, but he won't be able to do the same against the 6'8'' wildebeest that is LeBron James.
The former Northeastern guard has a knack for getting into the paint and finishing around bigger defenders. He's also shown the ability to hit the open three and mid-range jumper.
The Heat will almost always have one weak defender (Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers) on the floor. To have a chance, the Mavericks will need to exploit this matchup, whether it's with Barea, Jason Terry or Shawn Marion in the post.
The Heat thrive on Anthony's motor and ability to hit the offensive glass. The Celtics couldn't match Anthony's young legs and energy, while the Bulls and Carlos Boozer couldn't elevate enough to get out of Anthony's reach. Tyson Chandler is a leaper and a high-energy guy, so in theory, he matches up well.
Anthony's a physical player, but so is Chandler. If Anthony comes even close to matching Chandler's production on the boards and the blocks, the Mavericks are in trouble.
Shawn Marion, owner of one of the ugliest shots in the NBA (matched by the likes of Josh Childress and Kevin Martin), will have the pleasure of guarding LeBron James in the finals. Nobody can truly guard LeBron, but if anyone will give his best effort and change some shots, it's Marion.
The Mavericks won't expect much on offense from Marion—maybe a few putbacks and breakaway dunks—but if he can hold LeBron under 30, he's doing his job.
Entering the season, I thought all of the Heat's struggles would be solved once Mike Miller started playing. He can shoot the ball, he can rebound and he can defend. When he finally played and didn't produce, the chatter about the Heat's struggles only grew louder.
Miller has been wearing braces on both hands for his injured thumbs, rendering him an ineffective shooter. He'll still be able to defend and hit the glass, and he's such a renowned shooter that the Mavericks won't dare leave him open. When on the floor, Miller opens up lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and prevents double-teams of Chris Bosh. And if he knocks down a three or two per game, it'll only help the -175 favored Miami Heat.
As far as second options go, Jason Terry isn't very good, especially going against Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. But he does do one thing better than anyone else on the court: shoot the three.
The Jet will need to put up huge numbers in order for the Mavericks to have a chance. I'm thinking at least 20 points per game with a few 30-point performances sprinkled in. Terry can't cover Mike Bibby, let alone Dwyane Wade, but he'll have to stay out of foul trouble and on the floor.
The Heat's core trio is too young and athletic for the Mavericks to match up with. In order to compete the way they want to, Dallas will need its bench and role players to step up production or this series could be over in four or five games.