NBA Finals 2011: Will Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks Get Revenge?
One such headline is that this is a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, during which the Heat won an impressive four straight over the Mavs en route to a 4-2 series victory, thus earning the team the honored title of World Champion.
Five years later, these two teams have completely new makeovers, yet will be fiercely competing for the same trophy.
Will Dirk Nowitzki avenge the Heat and finally add "NBA Champion" to his decorated résumé? Possibly, but it certainly won't be easy.
Here's my take on what the Mavericks must do in order to win this year's NBA Finals.
Note: This article was written from a pre-series perspective and so does not include any analysis from Game 1, which the Miami Heat won 92-84 to give them a 1-0 lead.
When the Miami Heat made a history-changing splash in free agency last summer by bringing the talents of Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and, Chris Bosh to South Beach, the rest of the NBA knew they were in for a rude awakening.
The players have not disappointed, fueling the team on its current run to the Finals. The three players are now motivated to prove their doubters wrong after shredding through the 76ers, Celtics and Bulls. Now, only the Dallas Mavericks stand between them and championship glory. I'm sure they'll come ready to play.
That said, it's up to the Mavericks to do what they can to contain, if not stop the Heat.
The Heat are at their best when they play as a cohesive unit, so the Mavs have to do what they can to force them to play as individuals. That means putting pressure on the ball and limiting their passing.
Moreover, they must prevent any dribble penetration because with any driving room, Wade and James won't be shy to capitalize with emphatic plays at the rim.
A difficult task is at hand; a task at which not many teams have succeeded. But if the Mavericks hope to fulfill their championship aspirations, it must be done.
While the Miami Heat have the better starting five, the Dallas Mavericks arguably have the best bench in basketball.
Led by Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Jason Terry and role players Peja Stojakovic, Jose Juan Barea and Brendan Haywood, the Mavs' bench has the depth to take on anything the Heat throw at them.
With fresh bodies always ready to enter and contribute, the Mavericks will have enough stamina to last the length of the grueling seven-game series.
On both sides of the floor, the Mavs' bench can make big plays, thus allowing the coaching staff to mix it up with various rotations to keep the opposition on its heels for all 48 minutes.
Did you know that the Dallas Mavericks have three of the top eight three-point shooters of all-time? Yes, that's correct. Jason Kidd (No. 3), Peja Stojakovic (No. 4) and Jason Terry (No. 8) are some of the best ever to shoot for three. The Miami Heat have a handful to deal with—and I haven't even mentioned Dirk Nowitzki, Deshawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea.
Interestingly enough, the Miami Heat have displayed their vulnerability to the long ball in their two postseason losses in 2011. They allowed 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc to the Celtics in Game 3 and 42 percent to the Bulls in Game 1 of their respective series.
If you recall, one of the primary reasons that the Mavs swept the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals was due to their sharp three-point shooting. A whopping 49 three-point attempts were made over that four-game span, and as a result, we witnessed the biggest debacles of the playoffs.
If the Mavs can even come close to replicating those staggering numbers, they'll be in an excellent position to win the series.
Best Player on the Court
The NBA is a superstar-driven league; there's no denying it. The Heat are getting all the attention with their glamorous Miami Thrice, but the crazy thing is they may not even have the best player this postseason.
That title goes to Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who's been shooting absolutely lights out at an astounding 52 percent, 52 percent and 93 percent from the field, three's and free-throw line respectively.
He will demand double teams, which will set up his other teammates for open looks on three's, open up lanes for cutting to the basket and even lob passes to big man Tyson Chandler.
And when he's not helping in that respect, he can simply take over a game himself.
Standing tall at 7 feet and with the unique ability to shoot over anyone, particularly with his signature fadeaway jumpshot, he presents a matchup threat for any opponent.
The Heat will probably experiment with a variety of defenders, but I don't think anyone on their roster has what it takes to stop him.
Dirk is on a mission and wants to strengthen his legacy in NBA history by winning a ring. Given that this may be his last shot, he won't go down without a fight.
Ever since three of the NBA's elite players came together to form the core of the Miami Heat franchise just under a year ago, they've been the most talked-about team in the league. On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks have been the hottest team in the postseason and enter this NBA Finals matchup with momentum swinging in their favor.
At this level, every team has a skilled roster. What really puts you over the top is confidence, and right now, the Mavs are oozing with it.
Fresh off commanding victories over the Lakers and Thunder, the Mavericks believe in themselves and truly think they can get through the Heat and win a championship.
Sometimes, that sense of belief is all it takes.
Jason Kidd Factor
Often times we get so caught up in the big stories surrounding a series that we tend to overlook some key components. This time around, Jason Kidd has been somewhat under the radar, but that shouldn't undermine the tremendous impact he should have on the outcome of this series.
His leadership, his consistency, and his ability to make plays—even at 38 years of age—are remarkable traits for the 10-time All Star.
He's clutch, he's a significant presence defensively, and he's also an integral reason that the Mavericks are one of the best teams in the league at moving the ball.
His maturity and the fact that he has experience in the NBA Finals and other big-time situations gives the Mavs an added dimension not only to their on-floor production but in their locker room as well.
If you look at Kidd from a total package perspective, he's a fantastic all-around player.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the last two NBA titles due in part to their imposing size over other teams. They were simply too big and had too much length for other teams to handle, thus leading to a huge rebounding advantage.
The Dallas Mavericks have a similar edge over other teams, and especially against the Miami Heat, whose lack of big men have been their Achilles' heel all season long.
Chris Bosh has found his game as of late, but he's no match for Nowitzki, and Joel Anthony could struggle defending against Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. All in all, the Mavs' bigs could come in and really set the tempo early in this series.
If that's the case, it'll make matters increasingly tough for the Heat.
Note that this situation is unlike that of the 2006 Finals, in which the Mavericks' lack of a true center cost them big-time and ultimately led to their demise. Tyson Chandler could be the x-factor in this series. Expect him to make his mark from the get-go.
Sometimes it takes more than sheer talent to win an NBA title. In addition, a team must be experienced in order to succeed in various scenarios, be able to face adversity and overcome obstacles, and be extremely well-coached.
This is where I give the Dallas Mavericks an advantage over the Miami Heat. Their team has been together for longer and have really bonded and played well together over the past weeks.
They've battled through being on the losing end of a comeback against the Blazers, demonstrated that they can play with the best of them in their sweep over the defending champion Lakers, and displayed their strategic preparation by beating a much more athletic team in the Thunder.
Tack on the fact that Rick Carlisle is a significantly better head coach than Erik Spoelstra, and the Mavs have the makings of a true champion.
Come the conclusion of this series, we may find that these qualities are just what a team needs to push them over the top.