NBA Finals Preview: LeBron's Heat Vs. Dirk's Dallas Mavericks

Matt ParkerContributor IIIMay 31, 2011

A spot amongst the greats could be up for grabs.
A spot amongst the greats could be up for grabs.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Both the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are 12-3. Each has dispatched a team with a better regular season record.

Each team has come back from significant late-game deficits.

Each team just pulled out a series of close games against younger, less-experienced foes in the conference finals.

Each team has clinched on the road and each team is led by a former MVP seemingly at the top of his game. 

So what happens when they face each other beginning Tuesday night?

Dallas was able to avoid the top-seeded Spurs as well as a dangerous Memphis team while Miami side-stepped Orlando and Dwight Howard.

Dallas has won 10 of its last 11 while Miami has won nine of its last 11 games, including three out of its last four road games in arenas they went 0-for in the regular season. Likewise, Dallas has won five in a row on the road dating back to Game 6 against Portland.

In fact, each team has played so well and won so often that the NBA Finals won't begin in June for the first time in 25 years.

The only thing regular about this postseason is the regularity in which Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have elevated their performances.

Bench play, outside shooting/zone defense and rebounding will determine this series.

2006 game 5: Wrong official, wrong player, right call.
2006 game 5: Wrong official, wrong player, right call.Doug Benc/Getty Images

Yes, Miami boasts the Big Three but Dallas' leader is surrounded by former stars, many with Finals experience.

This Dallas team actually reminds me a lot of the 2006 Heat. You have the unquestionable leader in Dirk (Wade), the ageless veteran Kidd (Shaq) and former All-Stars like Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic (Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning) still capable of making major contributions.

Then you have the unsung heroes like Tyson Chandler (Haslem) who could play a huge roll if he can stay on the floor and play within himself.

A key for Dirk has been his ability to pass out of the double team. This was key against the Lakers and it will again test the balance between Dallas' successes and failures in this series.

Dallas will win bench scoring with guys like Terry, Peja and J.J. Barea spelling the Mavericks starters.

Miami will most likely win the foul line and points in the paint.

The officiating will be under a microscope even more so than usual because of how the 2006 Finals played out. However, instant replay in the final two minutes and overtime should help erase most human error and thereby, conspiracy theories.

Many people are throwing Dirk into the Top Ten conversation. This is a testament to his performance in these playoffs, his consistent greatness over the better part of a decade and finally, his unique talent as the best big-man marksman the game has ever seen.

Dirk has some personal demons to exorcise.
Dirk has some personal demons to exorcise.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That is all well and good, but no matter who is in your top ten, chances are it is made up of two-way players. At no point in his 13 year career has Dirk Nowitzki been heralded, recognized or otherwise known as a defensive presence.

He doesn't even average 10 rebounds a game. To his credit, he has historically upped his rebounding number in the playoffs, but is averaging just 7.5 rebounds per game during the 2011 postseason.

Charles Barkley has Mavs in six. Since the Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, only four teams have clinched Game 6 on the road: The 1985 Lakers, Jordan's 1993 and 1998 Bulls and the 2006 Heat.

Translation: you need a transcendent player(s) having a transcendent series to pull this off.

In other words, Dirk has his work cut out for him.