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NBA Finals 2011: 5 Reasons Why Dallas Mavericks Are Now Favored to Beat the Heat

John ValentovicAnalyst IJune 4, 2011

NBA Finals 2011: 5 Reasons Why Dallas Mavericks Are Now Favored to Beat the Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks pushes the ball up court against the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Entering the 2011 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat seemed to be the overwhelming favorite by both the "experts," Vegas, as well as the general public, and they looked well on their way to a championship after an impressive victory in Game 1 of the series.

    Not so fast.

    After erasing a 15-point deficit in just over seven minutes, Dallas was able to hold off Miami in Game 2 and even the series at one game apiece.

    Not only was Game 2 a historic comeback by the Mavericks, but it was also a disheartening and embarrassing loss by the Heat.

    So, have things changed?

    Here are five reasons why the Mavericks should now be favored to beat the Heat.

Momentum

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks celebrates after he made a 3-point shot in the final minute of the fourth quarter to put the Mavericks up 93-90 against the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    It's not that the Heat lost Game 2, it's the way they lost it.

    The Heat were up 15 points midway through the fourth quarter, and seemed to put themselves on cruise control from that point on.  Instead of being up 2-0 heading to Dallas, they are headed there tied 1-1, hoping to at least earn a trip back to Miami for Game 6.

    If you want to know just how much a crushing defeat like the one Miami suffered can affect a team, just ask Dirk Nowtzki and Jason Terry.

    Terry and Nowitzki both played for Dallas when the team lost to Miami in the 2006 Finals.  In that series, Dallas held a 2-0 series lead, as well as a commanding lead in Game 3. 

    However, they had a meltdown late in the game, lost Game 3, and never won another game in the series, ultimately losing the series 4-2 to Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal and the rest of the Heat.

    Game 2 is the type of game that could stay with Miami for a while.  It only will add to the pressure that they have already been feeling, and it has also provided Dallas with even more confidence that they can indeed win this series.

Shawn Marion

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on against the Miami Heat in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Remind me again which team was supposed to feature a "Big 3" at the beginning of this series?

    While Wade has been spectacular, LeBron James hasn't looked as dominant as we have been accustomed to seeing him and Chris Bosh has been rather mediocre.

    Bosh is averaging 15.5 points through the first two games, but is shooting just a combined 9-34 and also has played some suspect defense at times.

    While Nowitzki has been great, Shawn Marion has been the real hero for the Mavericks in the first two games.

    It's hard to remember that Marion, who has been forgotten by many, was once a four-time All-Star and one of the best players in the league.

    While he has had his fair share of struggles over the past few seasons, Marion has been absolutely brilliant thus far in the Finals.

    Not only has he played excellent defense on both James and Wade, has also stepped up and helped Nowitzki carry the scoring load.  In the first games, Marion has shot an efficient 15-25, scored 36 points and grabbed 18 boards.

    Not a lot of people expected these types of performances by Marion, and if they continue, Dallas will be that much more difficult to defeat.

Interior Defense

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts in the third quarter while taking on the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Through the first two games of this series, Miami has attempted an eye-popping 54 three-pointers as a team, and although they have hit 20 of them, that's way too many attempts for such an athletic and strong team as the Heat.

    Yes, part of it has been poor shot selection by the Heat, but another reason has been the interior defense of the Mavericks.  They have really collapsed the paint and have made it difficult for the Heat, James and Wade in particular, to get to the basket.

    Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and even Nowitzki have done a nice job inside limiting the Heat's opportunities at the rim.. They have also done a very good job of disrupting Bosh and forcing him to become a glorified jump shooter.

    Here is one of the most telling statistics through the first two games of the series: James has only attempted six free throws so far. 

    Dallas has forced Miami to settle from the perimeter, and it has worked out for them so far.

Home-Court Advantage

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks puts his finger in his mouth as he runs back down court in the second quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playo
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    The Heat and the Mavericks had the two best road records during the regular season, and both have won crucial road games during the postseason as well, so it may not be as big of an advantage as some people may think.

    Still, it doesn't hurt the Mavericks that they now have three straight games at home.  By winning Game 2, they have given  themselves an opportunity to avoid a return trip to South Beach.

    In order to do that, they must win the next three games starting Sunday night.

DIrk Nowitzki's Health

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks makes the game-winning shot to put the Mavericks up 95-93 with 3.6 seconds left in the game against Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Nowitzki came up big again in Game 2, finishing with 24 points on 10-22 shooting while also grabbing 11 rebounds.

    He also hit a number of clutch shots late in the game to help the Mavericks pull off the remarkable comeback win, including the game-winner with a little over three seconds remaining.

    Yeah, I would say the middle finger on his left hand is just fine, wouldn't you?

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