Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heat-Mavs, who wins?

(Photo credit: http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2011-05/61998195.jpg)

Both the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks have rolled through the playoffs, losing just three games and never once facing a deciding Game 7. In fact, only one of their six series, Dallas' first-round matchup with Portland, went longer than five games.

The Heat have two of the best, if not the best, perimeter players in the league in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade while the Mavericks have a player that nobody can guard in Dirk Nowitzki. While Miami also boasts Chris Bosh down low, Dallas can counter with future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and other solid veterans like Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion.

The 2011 rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals will come down to starpower versus depth. The Heat have the Big Three and not much else, although the return of Udonis Haslem has been huge for Miami. The Mavericks have six players that could start for numerous NBA teams and that's not including the injured Caron Butler.

Despite rumors to the contrary over the past few weeks, Butler is unlikely to return for the Finals despite his best efforts. While having Butler back would have been a boon to the Mavs, they're playing so well right now that keeping him on the sidelines may be better for their chemistry.

Dallas is the one Western Conference team that can beat the Heat; the Thunder and Grizzlies were too young and the Spurs and Lakers too old. Dallas' stars may be older, but Nowitzki is still in his prime, Kidd is still a top-tier point guard and Terry is a player you cannot leave open. Add in J.J. Barea's energy off the bench and it's tough to discount Dallas in this series, as many are trying to do.

With that being said and as much as I want to pick Dallas to win, I just can't. Nowitzki will have to play the series of his life and, while he's been extremely efficient and there's no player on the Heat that can guard him, I don't see him scoring 40 points every game.

Dallas does have the advantage at three positions on the court, however, winning the point guard and center battle with Kidd and Chandler against Mike Bibby and Joel Anthony and the power forward matchup of Nowitzki and Bosh. That fact alone means this series will go at least six games, if not the distance.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the success each team has had closing games in these playoffs, especially after the struggles Miami had finishing during the regular season. Both teams stormed back from late deficits in the clinching games of the Conference Finals, albeit against young basketball teams unfamiliar with the art of fourth-quarter finishing. And both teams destroyed the past two NBA champions in the second round, representing a changing of the guard of sorts.

Both the Heat and Mavericks are peaking at the right time, play solid defense and have players that can carry the offensive load. Dallas has the experience and depth advantage, while Miami has the edge in athleticism and top-tier talent.

It should be a barn-burning series but the Heat will represent home-court and win the first of what seems likely to be many titles. Unless, of course, the Knicks get Chris Paul.

Prediction: Heat in 6

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