Tuesday, May 31, 2011
NBA Finals preview + predictions
Well the time has finally come for the NBA we have the NBA Finals. This Finals features two completely different teams and methods to winning a title. For the Miami Heat you have Lebron James and Chris Bosh leaving to join up with Dwyane Wade to win a title. The Heat are a team who won the title back in 2006 but have struggled since then. For the Dallas Mavericks you have a team who has won 50+ games for 11 straight seasons. The one consistent guy during that stretch has been Dirk Nowitzki who is trying to win his first ever championship. Both teams come in this series red hot as they are both 12-3 in the playoffs. In fact this is the first time since 1986 that both conference finals lasted five games. Both teams have proven they can make a huge fourth quarter comeback down by double digits on the road. Both teams tied in the NBA for the best record on the road during the regular season. Now both teams in the playoffs have been tough at home as the Miami Heat are 8-0 this postseason at home while the Dallas Mavericks are 7-1 at home. So as you can see this is a hard series to predict but I'm going to try my best. Like I did in the conference finals I'll list three things that need to happen for each team to win. Then after all that I'll offer up my predictions.
For the Miami Heat to be in the Finals this time last July wouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. For those who saw them jump out to a 9-8 start or in March lose five games in a row they would be surprised. The Heat are winning despite little to no production from players #4-12 these playoffs. The Heat though in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals finally settled on a rotation. Now that they had Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller back their rotation is just good enough to win. The Heat are trying to be the first NBA champion since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to go undefeated in the playoffs at home. Before those Bulls it was the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers who were unbeaten at home. The Heat have the players to pull that rare feat off. The Heat still have the two best players on the court Lebron James and Dwyane Wade while having a third player Chris Bosh who is better than most teams second best player. So now I'll list the three reasons for the Heat to win this series.
1. Lebron James needs to continue playing like the best player in the game:
You know what makes people forget all your wrong doings? Winning. Which is exactly what Lebron James is trying to do. Everyone has forgot about Kobe Bryant demanding a trade and he would rather play on Mars than for the Lakers. Then the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol and he quickly stopped that talk. Well for James he is slowly silencing his critics this postseason. Pretty hard to rag on James now as he is making clutch shots, hitting three pointers, stopping the other teams best player(Paul Pierce and Derrick Rose), and simply carrying his team. James in this postseason is averaging 26.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks a game. James is also shooting 46.3% from the field, 36.8% from threes and 78.7% from free throws. At one point in the Eastern Conference Finals James made 31 straight free throws. James and Wade scored 16 points on the Heat's 18-3 run to defeat the Bulls 83-80 in game five. Just like in game four and five of the Boston series he did again against the Bulls. Now that James is "clutch" he seems pretty tough to beat.
2. Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have to contribute:
Both Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller didn't play a factor in the first two series. In the Eastern Conference Finals though both guys were critical in wins over the Bulls. First for Haslem who was supposed to be done for the season turned the series around in game two. The Heat were destroyed on the glass in game one and were getting destroyed again in game two trailing 23-16. That is when Haslem entered the game and scored 13 points on 5-10 shooting. For the final four games Haslem averaged 5.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG plus he is finishing the game on the court for the Heat. In that same game Miller was put in for his rebounding as well. In game four was Miller big coming out party scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds. In the final four games Miller averaged 5.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG. Those stats aren't jaw dropping numbers but for the Heat they'll take what they can get from their role players.
3. Chris Bosh needs to play like he did against the Bulls:
Chris Bosh people have joked about all year how he doesn't belong in the big three. Bosh proved in the Eastern Conference Finals that he belongs in the big three. In these playoffs Bosh is averaging 18.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG while shooting 50.3% from the field and 83.2% from the free throw line. In the Bulls series Bosh was huge averaging 23.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG. Bosh also shot 42-70(60.0%) from the field and 32-35(91.4%) from the free throw line. Bosh was agressive getting to the free throw line and scored over 30 points twice in the series. It feels like years ago when he made the statement he was scared of the moment in game three against Boston. Bosh has been stepping his game up this postseason and he is now four wins away from being a champion.
The Dallas Mavericks have had a great playoff run so far. The Mavericks are 12-3 and 10-1 in their last 11 playoff games. The Mavericks have won five games in a row on the road. The Mavericks also have a chance to exact some revenge. The Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals blew a 2-0 series lead to the Heat and had a 13 point lead in game three. The Mavericks also have a roster full of guys who have been so close to a title. In fact their nine man rotation has played 103 combined playoff games and none of them have won a championship. With the way Dirk Nowitzki is playing though the Mavericks look to finally end that streak. The Mavericks role players have been huge this finals especially the bench. So now I'll give three reasons for the Mavericks to win this series.
1. Nowitzki needs to keep playing like the best power forward in the game:
This is a different Nowitzki from the guy who was scared five years ago in the finals. In these playoffs Nowitzki is averaging 28.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG while shooting 51.7% from the field, 51.6% from three pointers and 92.9% from three throws. If Nowitzki wins a title this year he will jump past Charles Barkley(I think he already has), Kevin Garnett and Karl Malone on the all-time power forward list. Those Nowitzki numbers were amazing but his Western Conference Finals numbers were incredible. He set a playoff record making all 24 free throw attempts in his 48 point effort in game one on just 15 field goal attempts. For the series he averaged 32.2 PPG and 5.8 rebounds. He also shot 49-88(55.7%) from the field, 4-11(36.4%) from three pointers and 59-61(96.7%) from the free throw line. Nowitzki has had one of the most efficient playoff series in NBA history. Nowitzki will have to keep it up because unlike James he doesn't have a Wade or even a Bosh to lean on.
2. Marion has to be able to contain Lebron James:
The Mavericks don't have many options to contain Lebron James or Dwyane Wade on this roster. One of the few options is Shawn Marion who has to stop James from taking over games in the fourth quarter. Marion is having a solid playoffs averaging 11.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG with over a block and steal a game. Marion was a multiple All-Star with the Phoenix Suns and has had plenty of heartbreak of his own with the Suns. Marion is probably the most important defender for the Mavericks this series as he draws the tough task of guarding the games best player. He won't stop James but he has to at least force James to settle for jump shots and prevent him from getting many free throw attempts. Outside of Marion the other option is DeShawn Stevenson which means the Mavericks are sacrificing a ton on offense. So Marion has to step up for the Mavericks.
3. Jason Terry has to step up on offense and not be a defensive liability:
Jason Terry was also on that 2006 Mavericks Finals team who blew the 2-0 series lead. Terry when the game is on the line will also have to cover Dwyane Wade which is a tough matchup for him. Which is why Terry has to score some points to match the total he gives up. Terry in these playoffs is averaging 17.3 PPG while shooting 47.1% from the field and 46.3% from three pointers making over two a game. If Terry can have a big series the Mavericks can stay in this series. The good news for Terry is for most of the game he can guard either Chalmers or Bibby which means he can save his energy for offense. The Bulls tried to win with just Rose being the only scorer. For the Mavericks to win someone besides Nowitzki has to step it up and Terry is the most likely guy.
Prediction: Heat win in five games
I'm picking the Heat to win this series in five games. I don't think the Mavericks have enough defenders to slow down James or Wade. Wade also had a bad series last series but the Bulls had better defenders. Wade also was the 2006 Finals MVP where he averaged 34.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 3.8 APG in that series. He shot 65-139(46.7%) from the field and 75-97(77.3%) from the free throw line. The Heat have the two best players on the court in James and Wade plus Bosh makes it so they have three of the four best players on the court. If Nowitzki doesn't go off every game the Mavericks have no chance. The Heat play better defense as well and I feel as if guys like Terry, J.J. Barrea, and Peja Stojakovic will be liabilities for the Mavericks as they can't guard anyone on the Heat. This should be a good finals as I expect every game to be close but overall I'm picking the Heat to win this series in five games.