NBA Finals 2011: 5 Things Miami Heat Must Do to Beat Dallas Mavericks

Nathan TannerContributor IIIMay 31, 2011

NBA Finals 2011: 5 Things Miami Heat Must Do to Beat Dallas Mavericks

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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 30:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat stands with teammates Chris Bosh #1,  Dwyane Wade #3, and James Jones #22 against the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center on March 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are both in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006.

    When they matched up five years ago, Miami came back from an 0-2 deficit and finished off Dallas in six games for their first NBA title in team history.

    Both teams have changed dramatically since and have only two players each from the 2006 Finals. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are still members of the Heat, and the Mavs have kept Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

    While 15 of 22 ESPN analysts predict the Heat to win the championship, most expect this to be a hard-fought series that could go the full seven games.

    For Miami to win the NBA title and the “Superfriends” experiment to be labeled a success, here are the five things the Heat must do.

5. Heat Must Defend the Way They Did Against Chicago

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 26:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against Chris Bosh #1 and Mike Bibby #0 of the Miami Heat in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago,
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces last summer, no one questioned their ability to put points on the board.

    The main question everyone wanted answered was, “Will they be able to defend?” While the Heat started out slow, they meshed well as the season went on, and their defense morphed into one of the NBA's best.

    In the playoffs, the Heat defense has been incredible. Chicago, a team that averaged almost 99 points a game during the regular season, was held to only 83 points a game in the last four games of the conference finals.

    Defending Dallas will be a bit tougher.

    The Mavericks don’t rely on just one player to score. They have several offensive weapons who can get buckets. For the Heat to beat the Mavs, they must play lock-down defense.

4. Heat Need to Win Games 1 and 2 at Home

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 30:  An exterior view of the American Airlines Arena before the start Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks on May 30, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Miami Heat are blessed with home-court advantage because they won just one more game than the Mavericks did this season.

    As I shared in my 5 Things Mavs Must Do to Beat The Heat article, since the inception of the 2-3-2 playoff format, only two teams have won all three of the middle games at home.

    Interestingly enough, the 2006 Miami Heat team is one of those two.

    If the Heat can hold home court and win Games 1 and 2, they will not only have a 2-0 lead, but they will hold an overwhelming psychological edge over the Mavericks.

3. Chris Bosh Must Step Up and Consistently Play Well

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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

    Bosh has heard all the nicknames—the "Big Two and a Half Men" and "the RuPaul of big men," just to name a couple.

    Since joining the Heat last summer, Bosh has been criticized more than any member of the "Big Three." Despite averaging the same minutes per game as last season, Bosh’s stats were down in almost every major statistical category.

    In the playoffs, Bosh has been very inconsistent.

    He has two games where he’s scored more than 30 points and two games where he’s scored less than 10 points. He averaged 23 points a game in the Chicago series but scored only 13 a game against Boston.

    When LeBron and Wade receive a lot of attention from the Mavs’ defense, Bosh will either be left open or will be guarded one-on-one. If he can reverse the clock and contribute the way he did in Toronto, the Heat will be very tough to beat.

2. Heat Must Slow Dirk Nowitzki

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts after making a three-pointer in the fourth quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airl
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Dirk Nowitzki has had one of the greatest playoff runs in recent memory.

    In the first three rounds of the playoffs, teams have tried everything to slow him down. Nothing has worked.

    According to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, the Miami Heat might use four different defenders against Dirk—Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and James.

    LeBron probably has the best chance of slowing him down. He is quick enough to stay in front of Dirk and has the strength to not get pushed around. LeBron does surrender several inches to the big German, so he will probably force Dirk to be a jump shooter.

    The Heat have the personnel to slow Nowitzki. But the question remains—can they actually do it?

1. LeBron James Must Prove He’s the Best Player in the Series

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 30:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat talks with the press during practice before Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks on May 30, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Miami Heat versus Dallas Mavericks. LeBron James versus Dirk Nowitzki.

    Both players have been to the NBA Finals only once in their careers. Both players came up empty-handed.

    This postseason, LeBron and Dirk have had very impressive runs. Dirk’s offensive numbers have been outrageous, while LeBron has wowed us with his clutch late-game shots and his all-around performance.

    LeBron is averaging an astounding 26 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.7 steals a game during the playoffs. He has stepped up in big moments on both offense and defense.

    In the conference semifinals, he finally conquered his long-time nemesis—the Boston Celtics. Against the Bulls, LeBron was not only the best offensive player on the court, but he took on the challenge of defending—and shutting down—Derrick Rose.

    LeBron hasn’t played in the Finals since he and his Cavaliers were swept by the Spurs in 2007. LeBron has waited four long years to get back to the big stage and now stands only four victories away from winning his first NBA title.

    Can he silence his doubters and prove to the world he truly is a champion?

    If he outplays Dirk, the Heat will go home with the ring, and LeBron will start being mentioned among the greatest to ever play the game.

    If he doesn’t, LeBron will continue to be known as a very good player who couldn’t win when it really mattered.

    Either way, the ball is in his court. How will he respond?