Tag:Mike Bibby
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: May 31, 2011 9:59 am

Analyzing NBA Finals Headlines 5.31.11

Posted by Matt Moore

Here are your NBA Finals Headlines for Tuesday morning before Game 1. 

Ken Berger likes the Mavs in seven, but we here on EOB think the Heat take it. Most experts are leaning Heat, predictably. The most logical answer is that this will be a long series and it's going to come down to heart/a few bounces. Of course, after the season it has been, logic and reason can be tossed aside. 

KB also chimes in to let you know that even if Dirk doesn't get that jewelry, his legacy is secure. Nowitzki holds an extremely niche title: "Greatest 7-foot pure shooter in NBA history." But that just makes his standing that much more unique. There will be other players like LeBron James, just not as good. There will be other players like Dwyane Wade, just not as good. There will be other players like Chris Bosh... and probably better. But there will never be a player like Dirk Nowitzki again. A 7-footer with that kind of range, that kind of touch, and that kind of longevity? He's in a classification all his own.  We get to see him on the biggest stage for at least four more games (if not more). Enjoy it.

The Palm Beach Post goes over the Heat's drama-filled year through a review of the different "gates" they've gone through. A personal favorite is Bump-gate. Remember that one? A half-second moment of contact with a player coming off the floor is supposed to be  indicative of a lack of respect for a coach who Dwyane Wade has supported for three years. Got it. The Heat have certainly caused themselves the majority of their drama. But everything has also been overly analyzed not just by the media, but by fans. And they still managed to get to this point. Spoelstra told reporters that "Bump Gate" was influential in creating a bond between James and Spoesltra. 
Gregg Doyel takes a look at who's supposed to guard Dirk Nowitzki.  I've got a hint for you. Udonis Haslem did a much better job in 2006 than anyone is remembering and has the perfect size and skillset for it. Is Dirk going to get his? Absolutely. But Haslem will make him work for it, and that's all you can do. 

Dywane Wade opened up media availability yesterday by saying "I'm not hurt. Get that out of the way, move on."  There were a lot of questions about Wade's health due to his struggles in the last two games against Chicago, even with his late-game bursts. The reality is he probably is hurt, but just not with anything significant or at least significant enough to keep him out. Cameras caught Wade icing down his shoulder and being massaged on the sideline. That's nothing out of the ordinary for NBA guys, but it was the timing, urgency, and manner it was done that drew raised eyebrows. Something to keep an eye on, because the Heat need Wade to not only be healthy enough to score, but be able to draw contact. 

The Heat shot just 13-45 against Dallas' zone this year, according to ESPN. That's an interesting set of digits right there. The Heat aren't a great cross-court passing team, the best way to beat the zone, primarily because they get too flashy and try to do too much with the ball. They need shooters to knock down shots to get Dallas out of that. 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel takes a look at some of the things that were said about the Heat, in a negative context, leading up to the NBA Finals, all the way since preseason.  

Zach Lowe of SI brings up an interesting point. If Barea is on the floor with Miller, he lacks the size to guard the Heat shooter. Will the Heat post Miller? It's an unorthodox concept but anything the Heat can do to get Barea off the floor will help and anything they can do to force a double off someone other than the Triad will create juicy opportunities for them. 

Jason Terry will have his trophy tattoo removed if the Mavs don't win the title this year.  That's just sad to hear. 

Ben Golliver notes in the Playoff Fix that the Mavericks struggled with LaMarcus Aldridge this year.  When you consider the damage that David West has done to them in the past, you start to notice the Mavericks have some issues with stretch fours. How's that going to jive with Chris Bosh doing damage from mid-range. Once again, as it has been all year, the pressure resides with Bosh to make some things happen for Miami.

We'll have coverage from shootaround this morning before Game 1 and our LiveChat kicks off at 8:30 p.m. EST. Join us! 
Posted on: May 31, 2011 9:09 am

LiveChat: NBA Finals Mavericks-Heat Game 1

Join us at 8:30 p.m. EST for our NBA Finals Game 1 LiveChat. Matt Moore and Royce Young are live in Miami and will bring you pre-game and post-game info here on Eye on Basketball. During the game, we'll be discussing topics like: 

Fun starts at 8:30 p.m. EST. 

Posted on: May 30, 2011 10:57 pm
Edited on: May 30, 2011 11:18 pm

NBA Finals Fix: Heat host Mavericks for Game 1

The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat will play Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals in Florida on Tuesday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.

One Big Thing: Following Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said that the Miami Heat were "Hollywood as hell." The entire world immediately agreed with him. Whether that's a positive or negative attribute, one thing is clear: The NBA Finals are basketball's biggest stage and the Heat give off the air of a team that is poised to seize that stage. Game 1 will be decided by whether the Dallas Mavericks can withstand the initial surge of momentum the home team possesses in such a long awaited game. The Mavericks have already won in tough environments during the playoffs, beating the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder in arguably the two loudest, craziest NBA arenas. They also walked into the original basketball Hollywood -- the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- and stole both Games 1 and 2 from the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. If there's a team in the NBA that figures to be ready from jump amid hostile mayhem, it's these Mavericks.  

The X-Factor: If Dallas hopes to beat Miami four times out of seven games, they'll need to win the three-point shooting battle, and win it big. The X-factor to watch in Game 1 isn't necessarily what percentage Dallas shoots or how often they chuck it up from long distance, but how Miami is able to defend the three-point line. Conventional wisdom dictates that the Heat have the athleticsm, quickness, basketball IQ and discipline to provide help to Dirk Nowitzki or on pick-and-roll situations and still close out hard to weakside shooters to consistently contest shots. The Mavericks' passing picked apart the Lakers and left the Thunder confused at times. Will there be a learning curve for Miami? Will they be able to effectively force spot-up shooters to create off the dribble? Will that be enough to throw a wrench into Dallas' fine-tuned offensive machine?

The Adjustment: Both teams face the same basic, huge adjustment: Defending a superstar caliber player who is producing at the top of his game. The Mavericks overcame teams led by LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. All three had flashes offensively, but none was able to sustain consistent, volume production over the course of their series against the Mavericks. Aldridge was the victim of swarming defense; Bryant settled far too often from the perimeter; and Durant was regularly muscled off the ball and away from his spots. The Heat, meanwhile, arguably had it even easier on this point. First, they faced the Sixers, who lack an elite No. 1 scorer. Then, they defeated the Boston Celtics, who lost their best offensive weapon when Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow, limiting his effectiveness and ability to create offensive opportunities for the Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Finally, they faced an elite scorer in Derrick Rose who was overburdened by the lack of a consistent No. 2 and No. 3 scoring option. They were able to overload on Rose and then sic LeBron James on him, daring anyone else to make them pay. The rest of the Bulls came up very small.

The Mavericks must now deal with not one, but two, superstar high-end scorers in James and Dwyane Wade, both of whom are aggressive with the ball in their hands and have recently shown that they are focused on create high-percentage opportunities. The Heat will have to deal with Nowitzi, an elite, multi-dimensional scorer, but also keep track of secondary scoring options like Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea. Which team will handle their new defensive challenge more effectively?

The Sticking Point: 2006 lingers. There can't be a Mavericks-Heat Finals without some discussion of the officiating. While the Mavericks have gotten excellent contributions from their bench throughout the playoffs, guys like Stojakovic, Barea and even Brendan Haywood are going to wind up being major defensive liabilities if they see extended court time, especially simultaneously. Marion and center Tyson Chandler, in particular, will need to play defense very intelligently to avoid getting dinged for quick fouls. The Mavericks starters match up fairly well with the Heat's. Take out a piece or two unexpectedly for a six minute stretch, though, and Miami is more than capable of going on a quick double-digit run to wrest control of the game. Everyone expects James and Wade to get free points at the free throw line. The question is whether those trips take a second toll by throwing off Dallas' rotations. For the sake of this series, hopefully both teams are allowed to play.
Posted on: May 30, 2011 4:39 pm

Jason Terry to remove trophy tattoo if Mavs lose

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry says he will remove his tattoo of the Larry O'Brien trophy if the Miami Heat win the 2011 NBA Finals.jason-terry-tat  Posted by Ben Golliver.

In case you hadn't heard, Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry got a tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy -- the gold orb trophy thing that goes to the team who wins the NBA title -- on the inside of his right bicep. (Pictured to the right.) Terry got inked prior to the season as a way to motivate himself reports Star-Telegram.com.

"Everybody laughed and thought it was a joke at the time, but then when they saw me actually get it they were like, 'This boy's serious,'" Terry said. "And our whole conversation was about right now, about us getting to this point and winning it all.

With the Mavericks now poised to face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, reality and regret regarding the tattoo is starting to set in for Terry. The obvious question: What happens if the Heat beat the Mavericks? It's going to be pretty awkard to have a tattoo of something you didn't win on your arm forever, right?

Indeed, Sun-Sentinel.com reported on Sunday that Terry said he will remove the tattoo should the Mavericks up come short. 
"It symbolized the fact we had a realistic shot of getting there." Terry said Sunday before the team departed for Miami. "If I didn't think we had a chance, I definitely wouldn't have put that on there. ... For me, it's something I have to sleep with, something I wake up with. I definitely know it's going to hurt worse if I have to take this thing off."

Yep, if Dallas doesn't win the trophy, look for Terry to get it removed.

"It means it was bad luck." Terry said. "I'm very superstitious."
That would be the single most depressing tattoo removal of all time. Maybe there's a way the artist could just alter it rather than remove it. Maybe a tweak to make it look like the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or maybe the Space Needle -- an homage to Terry's hometown of Seattle?

It's a little disappointing Terry is already considering the possibility of removing the tattoo before the Finals has even started. What a perfect opportunity to guarantee a Dallas victory: "This ink isn't going anywhere!" Now that would have been awesome. 
Posted on: May 30, 2011 2:05 pm

Cuban or LeBron: A champion will be crowned

Posted by Royce Young

Think about this for a second: In two weeks or so, David Stern will be handing an NBA championship trophy to either LeBron James or Mark Cuban. My mind? Blown.

Someone's life and career is going to change. Someone will now have the tag "NBA champion" to hang around their neck for the rest of time. Either Dirk, Mark Cuban and Jason Kidd or LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (for a second time) will be hoisting that shiny ball. That's an obvious thing at this point, I realize, but I can't get over it.

Cuban's Mavs had their shot in 2006, of course losing to the Heat in six games. That series is widely known more for the way the officials rewarded Wade free throws than it is for great basketball. Which naturally fits the Cuban narrative. Cuban has always been a bit of a nemesis to Stern and the league office with his crazy over-the-top antics and criticism of officials. For example: Cuban has been fined 16 times in his 12 years as the Mavs owner for a total of more than $1.5 million.

And now that guy is four wins away from the greatest bragging rights of all?

Then there's LeBron. He became the NBA's enemy No. 1 after his decision to play in Miami with Wade and Bosh. The preseason victory parade then set people off more. Then all the arrogance leaking out of South Beach took things to a new level.

Most saw LeBron's move as a total copout, as a guy running from the chance to become a legend in his hometown. Critics said, "Michael Jordan wouldn't want to join them, he'd want to beat them." Larry Bird actually did say that. So did Magic Johnson. There was the best player in basketball, painted as a coward for leaving his Cavs high and dry to try and chase a title with a couple friends.

Instead of battling through and leading Cleveland to the title he promised years before, LeBron ran away. It was always obvious that he lacked proper help with the Cavs. I mean look at what the roster did when you took him away from it. They flirted with the worst record in history for about three-fourths of the season and set a record for most losses in a row. And really, the only thing that would've been different about that team is LeBron would've been on it. They likely would've won 55 games, probably would've gotten to the Eastern semifinals or deeper and almost certainly would've come up short.

Now? It's almost like LeBron's decision could be entirely validated. He could be vindicated. He could win that elusive ring at the age of 26 and possibly start a run to multiple championship, which is again, a promise he made to his new fans in South Beach.

And now that guy is only four wins away from some career validation?

David Stern will be presenting a trophy to either the Mavericks or Heat in roughly two weeks. The fact that on one could be LeBron or Mark Cuban just makes this NBA Finals even more intriguing. And probably, for the fans of 28 other teams, kind of a lose-lose. But to me, it's win-win. I love when a legacy takes a turn. I love when it changes and we have to start re-thinking and re-writing how we feel about people. And after this series wraps up, that's exactly what we'll be forced to do with one of these sides.

Crazy to think about.
Posted on: May 29, 2011 11:36 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 11:48 pm

Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

What would a nightmare scenario look like for the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.

Earlier, we took a look at the Miami Heat's blueprint for beating the Dallas Mavericks and winning the 2011 NBA Finals. This is the flipside: What's the nightmare scenario for the heavily-favored Heat? How does their dream run at the title in the first year since the triad was formed fall apart?

The Chicago Bulls hit upon the formula for taking down this Heat group in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals: dominate the glass, knock down tons of outside shots, win the bench scoring battle, get efficient scoring from your No. 1 option and keep LeBron James in check. The only problem? The Bulls were only able to put all of those pieces together once, in Game 1, and got run out of the playoffs in five games.

The good news for the Dallas Mavericks is that they are well-equipped to accomplish most of the things on that list. 

For starters, Dallas boasts the best overall offensive efficiency, the highest effective field goal percentage and the highest true shooting percentage. Put in simpler terms: The Mavericks have gotten to the free throw line and knocked down their three-pointers, two critical factors if you need to keep pace with the Heat during a halfcourt game. 

Leading the way is Dirk Nowitzki, who is a significantly more efficient offensive player than Derrick Rose. Without question, Nowitzki is the key cog in this machine. If he can regularly command double teams, even if James is matched up on him, all of Dallas' fringe offensive players become much, much more effective threats. Shawn Marion can cut hard to the basket with less interference, Tyson Chandler is more open for lob plays, Peja Stojakovic can set up in the corner, and Jason Kidd can have enough to set his feet and stroke the long ball.

Nowitzki being unguardable one-on-one, therefore, is absolutely the first chapter in Miami's nightmare scenario.

Deriving from that is multiple Mavericks getting hot from deep. Stojakovic and Kidd have already been mentioned, but neither of those guys, as good as they have been, boast the high-end scoring capability of Jason Terry. While Dwyane Wade figures to be a good individual defensive match-up on Terry, the Mavericks are able to get him loose in the pick-and-roll and as a release spot-up shooter too. The Heat will undoubtedly be very aggressive in defending Dallas' pick-and-roll plays. By this point, though, Terry and Nowitzki have seen just about every defense in the book. If Terry is effective enough to command blitz attention from Miami, the Mavericks have the ability to both swing the ball to the open shooters and have those shooters knock down the shots. Chicago, obviously, didn't have that capability past Game 1.

On top of that Dallas has a more potent bench: Stojakovic, Terry and Barea should easily offer more offensive punch than Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. Miami has won by being top-heavy; The Mavericks need to prove, like the Bulls did in Game 1, that a balanced approach can counteract that skill level.

If Nowitzki is rolling, the Mavericks' shots are falling and the Dallas bench is showing up big, Miami's nightmare would deepen if James and Wade get frustrated, reverting to forcing shots in isolation, over-relying on their outside shooting, or settling too often for fadeaways. To their immense credit, Miami hasn't displayed these bad habits very often in the playoffs, but they were an issue at times during the regular season. With Heat coach Erik Spoelstra playing his superstars so many minutes and the Mavericks comfortable turning up the pace a bit, the creeping bad habits are certainly something to keep an eye on. For high-volume shooters like James and Wade, it only takes roughly five extra non-ideal shots over the course of a game to send the efficiency numbers plummeting. It might look like a lot in the boxscore, but one additional bad shot every eight or nine minutes of playing time from your primary ball-handlers and offense initiators isn't that much.

Whether those bad shots come from Marion and DeShawn Stevenson being physical, from a tough-to-crack zone defense or from Miami falling in a hole early and looking to score in bunches to get back into a game, dropping efficiency from James and Wade is not inconceivable. It doesn't feel likely, given how well they've played over the last two series, but again we're talking about a nightmare scenario.

To this point, the Heat have displayed an almost otherworldly focus and ability to execute. A nightmare scenario would also see that focus replaced by jitters, indecision or panic. Dallas has demonstrated in each of its three playoff series that it has a knack for striking at the moment its opponent is most vulnerable, launching monster comebacks and winning games on the road with ease. 

Always a tipping point issue: Foul trouble, and here it cuts both ways. The Heat, with their aggressive and athletic style, are used to getting to the free throw line regularly and often rely on those points to be difference-makers in low scoring games. So far in the playoffs, they've been able to play James, Wade and forward Chris Bosh extensive minutes -- even in overtime games -- without encountering too much foul trouble. A nightmare scenario here could go two ways. First, it could see one or more of those star players rotting away on the bench due to careless early fouls. Second, it could see Chandler playing heavy minutes in every game in this series, able to avoid fouling on Miami's paint attacks and during rebounding scrums. Surely Miami would much rather play smallball against the Mavericks given their talent advantage and the fact that they don't have anyone that can truly match Chandler's length and at-rim ability. 

Last but not least, there's the matter of homecourt advantage. Miami has yet to lose at home in the playoffs, but doing so in one of the first two games of the Finals could prove particularly costly. Why? Because the Finals switches to a 2-3-2 format, and the Mavericks would then have the ability to close things out by winning three consecutive games at home. Losing in five games is an unlikely scenario but it is a plausible nightmare for Heat fans given Dallas' own home dominance (the Mavericks are 7-1 at home during the playoffs).

To pull this all together, the Heat's worst case scenario sees Nowitzki getting loose and the Mavericks (including their bench) bombing away from deep while their offense degenerates to isolation, contested outside shots and unfocused play. It also sees the Mavericks bigs staying out of foul trouble while Miami's skill players made early mistakes or get called for charges that sideline them for stretches at a time. It would then see them drop a game early in the series and be unable to recover homecourt and momentum. Is it unlikely that all of these things happen at once? Sure. But that's why they call it a nightmare scenario.
Posted on: May 29, 2011 10:31 pm

The Blueprint: Dallas Mavericks

Posted by Matt Moore

How the Mavericks' ideal strategic approach looks against the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals

So you want to beat the Heat. : The Mavericks overall strategic design starts on offense. The Mavericks' defense knows that the elements of the Heat are pretty simple. All you have to do is stop LeBron James, Dywane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Easy! If the Mavericks are going to hang they're going to have to do it the way they have all postseason. By scoring, consistently, efficiently, and with guile and accuity as opposed to brute force.

Now, It's Nowitzki: It starts with Dirk, naturally. You know what the best part of having a seven-footer with superb range is? You can post him over and over and over again at the elbow and let him decide what he wants to do. You don't have to get him close to the basket. You don't have to get him space on the perimeter to drive. You just have to get him the ball and let him work. And the best part about Nowitzki is that he does most of his damage from the place hardest to guard, and the place that it's hardest to hit from. Mid-range. Or as it has come to be known in the playoffs, The Dirk Zone.

Being able to post Dirk this high allows him to drive and then spot-up if the defender overplays to the baseline. Nowitzki has gone to his right out of the left block 53 percent of the time in these playoffs, and shot 47 percent from the field while scoring 55 percent of the time. Nowitzki's handle and ability to attack the rim with quickness and size forces the defender to jump to the baseline, which means that when Nowitzki pulls up? It's game over.

Nick Collison played Nowitzki exceptionally well in the Western Conference Finals. Particularly, he attacked Nowitzki's face-up game. This works better on the left block than the right. On the right, Nowitzki can bring the ball up off his left pivot foot while keeping space between the ball and the defender. On the left, he's bringing it up through the defender. Which is problematic, and not just because defenders take as many whacks as they can. Nowitzki has gone face-up out of the left block just five times in the postseason, versus 24 times in the right.

Nowitzki's fadeaway ability from the right elbow has another effect. Defenders are forced to play up to try and defend that shot, which results in Nowitzki being able to dribble with his dominant hand (right) across the lane. From there Nowitzki can pull-up, fadeaway, or, as he often does, stops, pump-fakes, then pivots and either shoots or pump-fakes again to draw the foul.

Perimeter Assault:
Keeping spacing and knocking down 3-pointers is going to be key for the Mavericks. The more they do that, the less the Heat can justify sending help to Nowitzki's right shoulder where he's less comfortably. Sadly, he's just as deadly, scoring 1.09 points per possessions. The Heat will challenge Nowitzki to pass out of the double. From there, it'll be up to the shooters Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, J.J. Barea, and DeShawn Stevenson to punish the Heat and keep Dirk one-on-one.

Outside of Dirk, the key is transition opportunities. Jason Kidd is particularly effective despite his age due to his ability to victimize the defense when the transition defense sets in. Kidd is king of finding scorers in-between the fast break and settling into the half-court set. Barea provides an excellent change of pace. Barea's greatest strength is the dribble probe, where he loops under the basket. The Mavericks want Barea's suprising speed and touch to frustrate the Heat defenders who attack most often at the rim.

Bread and Butter:
The final component is the pick and roll. Nowitzki will often set and reset off the pick, exhausting defenders. But the sneak attack for the Mavericks is from Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. Marion and Chandler are more athletic than the big defenders the Heat will bring. The Heat are likely to hedge significantly on the ball-handler, which will leave Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Udonis Haslem trying to cover the more athletic Marion and Chandler. Both of those two have significant experience in the alley-oop (Marion working with Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler with Chris Paul). Those kinds of easy scores demoralize the interior defense and will force the Heat to collapse into the paint even more. Against the Bulls this was an advantage, but the Mavericks' perimeter shooters are good enough to make good on that threat, creating an impossible counter for the Heat.

Cooling Down the Heat:
Okay, I'm going to level with you. The Mavericks' model for stopping the Heat looks an awful lot like what the Bulls did, forcing the Heat into long-range 2-pointer field goals, fading away, contested. Unfortunately, the Heat can hit a boatload of those. The Mavericks will send help defense, but in reality, they've got liabilities in personnel on the perimeter and in the post. The Mavericks are likely to double aggressively to dare the Heat's 3-point shooters to keep pace with Dallas, who is a superior shooting team. The Mavericks want to try and turn the game into a shootout, not a slugfest. If they can just manage to contain Dwyane Wade or LeBron James from going ballistic from mid to long-range, that's the game they want to play.

Discourage and Contain:
The Mavericks are going to need all six fouls from both Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, because the Heat will attack relentlessly to try and a. get to the line and b. get the bigs in foul trouble or c. you know, lay the ball in. The Mavericks are going to have to accept those fouls to a degree. It'll help if other defenders can step in to draw charges and distribute the fouls while the Dallas bigs can make an impact strong enough to lower the Heat's FT percentage. Missed free throws lower their points per possession and make the Heat an ugly duckling in a swan race, offensively.

Speed Kills:
Dallas wants to create fast-break opportunities. The Heat are a superior offense in transition, but Dallas can create easy opportunities by playing the passing lanes. The Heat still try and make flashy and cross-court passes. The Mavericks' ideal results in converting those into buckets which allows their defense to reset at the other end. The Heat run off of misses, not makes. Dallas can keep pace by capitalizing on the Heat's sloppy handling.

Posted on: May 29, 2011 9:41 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 11:03 pm

Miami Heat: Blueprint for a 2011 NBA Finals win

Here's a look at the blueprint for the Miami Heat to win the 2011 NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver.


One more series, four more wins. The Miami Heat are on the verge of proving their many, loud naysayers wrong in the very first season since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to team up during the summer of 2010. The team's strategy for completing their journey to the 2011 NBA title will feature the same philosophies that have produced a 12-3 postseason record, perhaps with a few tweaks to account for specific aspects of their opponent: the Dallas Mavericks. Let's break it down.

When Miami is on offense:

The foundational element of Miami's offense is pure talent and athleticism. With James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat boast three players who are capable of scoring in multiple ways and from many, many different locations. They'll enter the NBA Finals presenting the Mavericks with match-up problems at all three positions. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has played all three increasingly heavy minutes during the Finals push. Look for that to continue on the grand stage, obviously.

The biggest disparity in talent comes at the two spot, where Wade is too quick, crafty and multi-dimensional for DeShawn Stevenson, and too big and athletic for Jason Terry. Wade was a bit limited against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals and there's speculation that he might be suffering the effects of an injury. Regardless, he can get to the basket with an array of moves, is an expert at drawing fouls and has a good sense for when to take over a game. He's developed a nearly seamless one-two punch with James in the playoffs, and pretty much everyone has been left reeling.

Speaking of James, he will own a major match-up advantage as well, even though Mavericks forward Shawn Marion has played very well in the playoffs. James' strength will be a major asset here, as Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant struggled against Marion because he was often not able to establish position or get himself open. James, who handles the ball regularly and has one of the best physiques in the league, will not have those problems. Marion and Stevenson will settle for making James work and limiting his efficiency. He's going to produce in a big way no matter what.

Dallas will surely look to counter these perimeter deficiencies by switching to zone defenses and hoping that Miami settles for contested three-pointers. It's a pick your poison approach that likely will not be sustainable for major stretches. Shifting quickly between different looks and using center Tyson Chandler as a rim protector will help. With both James and Wade playing such heavy minutes, Dallas likely won't be able to use its bench as much as it might want to, as Peja Stojakovich and J.J. Barea are defensive liabilities. Barea can probably be hidden, but finding minutes for Stojakovic will be difficult. There's no zone in the world that can help him stay with James or Wade.

In other words, this series belongs to James and Wade if they show up determined to steal it. They're an overpowering, talented duo that doesn't have a match. 

On top of that, Bosh's range will present problems for Dallas, just as Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge did in the beginning of their first round series. The Mavericks will look to muscle Bosh, but he just stood up nicely against the Bulls and Boston Celtics, perhaps the two hardest-nosed teams in the league. Attending to Bosh at all times will leave Dallas that much more vulnerable to penetrating attacks from James and Wade, and certainly all three players are capable of getting Chandler into foul trouble. 

With Mike Miller coming on a bit to help space the floor, Udonis Haslem adding some energy and occasional offense, and the point guard pair of Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers showing up just often enough to not completely stand out as weak links, the Heat have proven why they are the No. 1 ranked Eastern Conference team when it comes to offensive efficiency. There's balance and a nice array of scoring options in the halfcourt.

Dallas has survived on defense in the playoffs by forcing and capitalizing on the mental breakdowns, especially late in games, of their opponents. The Heat have passed every test in that regard, showcasing huge spurts against both the Celtics and the Bulls when they needed it most. This series will be decided by who executes better late in games; It's hard to bet against the Heat, especially coming off of their spectacular Game 5 comeback against the Bulls in which James and Wade were both timely and unstoppable.

When Dallas is on offense:

While Dallas has the No. 1 overall offense in this year's playoffs, the Heat just might be breathing a sigh of relief entering this series. Why? Because the Mavericks do not have an elite athlete at the point guard position, an asset that has forced the Heat to switch their positional match-ups regularly because of Bibby's deficiencies as a defender. Now that Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose are in the rearview, the Heat can get back to more conventional match-ups.

That is, of course, unless Spoelstra wants to turn his best defender, James, loose on Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas' All-Star forward has been pretty much unstoppable in the postseason, scoring in as many ways as you can think of and getting to the foul line whenever his shot hasn't been falling. In James, Nowitzki might be meeting his match: He's strong enough to force him away from the hoop, quick enough to get up and contest any shot, and savvy enough to play solid ball denial defense without exposing himself to backdoor plays or other counters. In other words, if James sets his mind to make Nowitzki's life miserable he is fully capable of doing it. 

The Heat will likely turn to that smaller defensive lineup, but they also have the option of using Bosh, Haslem or center Joel Anthony on Nowitzki as well. In that trio, the Heat have good quickness, size and strength options, as well as three intelligent players who understand time/score situations and will do their best to limit Nowitzki's cheap points. 

Aside from Nowitzki, the key to stopping Dallas is to maintain total commitment to your perimeter defensive rotations. With Jason Kidd at the helm, the Mavericks move the ball very, very unselfishly, finding the open man and taking high-percentage shots. The Heat have the athletes on the perimeter to close down space very quickly and have shown the defensive commitment that the Lakers, for example, were unable to maintain. The Heat's stars also have an uncanny ability to remember tendencies: James, Wade and Bosh are all well above average in their ability to size up their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. They'll force players like Stevenson to beat them.

Barea might very well be the role player who poses the most difficult match-up for the Heat, who lack an undersized, quick guard to stay with him. However, there will be plenty of athletes looking to help from the weakside should he attempt his patented forays into the paint. One-on-one, players like Marion and Chandler are not capable of hurting the Heat. They'll have much more success when the ball is moving, so you can expect the Heat to do everything they can to disrupt that rhythm and movement. 

Finally, the Heat will look to continue their solid team work on the glass. The Heat have been top five in defensive rebound rate in the playoffs, getting big contributions from both James and Wade, as well as the big men. That will need to continue given the presence of Chandler and Nowitzki, who have been a fearsome rebounding combination as well. 


To sum this up: The Heat will look to win the 2011 NBA Finals by exploiting their clear offensive match-up advantages: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. That duo will be encouraged to be in full attack mode from the opening tip, looking to get to the foul line and scramble Dallas' defense off the dribble, opening up shooting and passing lanes for Chris Bosh and the rest of Miami's role players. 

While the Mavericks only have one player that can be expected to stay with James, the Heat have four quality options to throw at Dirk Nowitzki. Constant pressure and extra attention on Nowitzki will be a major defensive goal, but just as important will be Miami's ability to keep its shape and limit uncontested shots.

On paper, crafting a blueprint for victory in this series for the Heat is much easier than it is for the Mavericks. The element of luck or chance is not really at play here. It's about exerting clear advantages -- perimeter athleticism, top-end talent, high basketball intelligence -- rather than hoping, praying or getting unusually hot from outside.

Miami isn't in the NBA Finals by accident. And it won't be a surprise if they execute this plan with ruthless efficiency.
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