Sunday, 29 May 2011
THE FINALS COUNTDOWN
The Last Chapters About To Be Wrote.
By Tim David Harvey
So we're here already. The greatest stage of the worlds greatest basketball league and there's no sign of purple and gold, or even green. The Lakers and the Celtics historical legacy has been put on ice. Right now-despite strong cases from Oklahoma and Chicago-the deserved NBA finalists are the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. Two teams ready to answer the critics and the doubts that they've already addressed. Two teams about to go head-to-head. Lets take a closer look.
Despite the cooling down all the Miami haters gave this team the Heat got white hot in these playoffs, from the T-shirts handed out to the fans to the losses dealt to the opposition. The 58-24 Miami team had little at stake in Philly, eliminating the battling Sixers in five. Then a big test came in the Eastern semis as Miami faced the reigning champions of the East; Boston. Despite the Celtics resilience in games 4 and 5, Miami took the series in less then 6 or 7 games. Miami also took Chicago in five despite being Bull-ridden and blown out in Game 1.
Out West the Mavericks blazed an impressive Portland side in round one looking hotter then ever but then they faced the defending NBA Champion and their bogey team; the Los Angeles Lakers. Still the unexpected happened and Dallas didn't just give the Lakers a series they swept them 4 games to nil. Talk about 'Beat L.A.' Then facing a rising Oklahoma Thunder side and their rain man Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and his Maverick Dallas team weathered the storm and cloaked the Thunder in five. Now reaching the finals when no one thought they could the Mavs have exorcised those first round demons of 2006. Even though the Heat have efficiently dealt with all comers in five (and look to do the same to Dallas) the Mavs have arguably had the better run thanks to the incredible blow-out of the Lakers three-peat celebration candles. Sorry Phil.
POINT GUARD: Miami's Mike Bibby comes with a lot of playoff experience and pedigree (see Sacramento and big shots) but so does Maverick and legend Jason Kidd. He quarterbacked the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals at the beginning of the last decade. This will be a great match-up between the two veteran, old-school, traditional points, passing and popping their way through consistency and hey at least there's no Lakers team for either guys to lose to this time. Still thanks to form and reputation this Kidd still has the edge.
SHOOTING GUARD: LeBron will almost want to guard this guy for personal reasons (they've had playoff drama before, just ask Jay-Z) and DeShawn Stevenson definitely matches his strength. With a tough game to boot Stevenson is a great find lost among Dallas big names. Still he has to deal with one of Miami's three-headed monster Dwyane Wade and with his offensive and defensive ability to take over games and series' Flash owns this match-up. DeShawn's going to need some help, it's a good job Dallas bench can answer the call.
SMALL FORWARD: If only the Mavericks had Caron Butler back, you might be looking at the winner of this series for certain in Dallas. Caron's strength has been able to contain LeBron in the past but still Shawn Marion does have the height, weight, along with the offensive and defensive prowess to keep up with James for at least a few quarters. Still James strength, dominance and star power will strong arm this match-up on both ends of the court. Dallas should touch wood though, Butler's been on the practice floor. X-Factor anyone?
POWER FORWARD: In the one head-to-head match-up between two true stars Bosh may have this forward positions power and passion edge but Dirk has the finesse and determination, which may well be the determining edge. Bosh better play at his best and bring the thunderous slams and stormy energy because Dirk could take Chris out his zone and kill him from the perimeter. Sure Miami's third option has range, but nobodies shot is like Dirks, no...body! Chris Bosh may be the true definition of a power forward but because Dirk isn't-going figuratively and literally out the box-he has the edge.
CENTRE: Miami may bring 'Big Z' back in because right now the size, strength and sheer energy of Tyson Chandler edges out the Heats young, 6, 9 big Joe Anthony. Sure Anthony has hops and helps his Miami teams impressive running game but Chandlers got sprints and lifts too. Both teams are capable of keeping up with each other, but in the middle the Heat will have to find some way to cool down Dallas' core.
BENCH: The Heats Mario Chalmers, Eddie House, Mike Miller and James Jones can start hot streaks with their ability to take more shots then Lil' Jon and guys like Dampier, Howard and Ilgauskas have experience in abundance. Now if Udonis Haslem returns strong this surviving '06 champion could be just as much as an X-Factor as Butler would be. With that being said however the Mavericks Barea and Terry are tone and series changers with their sensational speed and shot and how about Stojakovic's resurgence, bringing a three ball renaissance with Terry and Dirk? The lights won't know what hit them. Plus with Cardinal's all-round toughness, Haywood's ability to match the Heats bench and starting centres, Dallas has it all. Miami's mob looks better on paper, but in the playoffs Dallas' goodfellas have been the real gang of warriors. Miami's subs better come out and play.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: Now this is the head-to-head that determines this match-up and series. LeBron's super strength versus Dirk's sublime shot. Both are defensive match-up nightmares for the other from Nowitzki's height to James' weight. Is Dirk gets hot the German gunner will shoot down the King, but with 'Bron, 'Brons ability to get to the basket he can get easy baskets and draw fouls. Who has the edge? It's going to be determined by the night, game, quarter and minute. Whoever has the final edge however will tip the other team off the championship scale. Beware the franchise form however, we haven't even mentioned the fact that the Heat have Wade. Two against one is no contest, until you realise Dirk regularly draws triple teams.
THE COACH: Rick Carlisle is the coaches coach, he's not old-school, he's old-testament. One of the greatest and most under-rated of this generation he took the generals men (still an outstanding job Avery) and turned them into soldiers. Still Erik Spoelstra is still an incredible young coach. Taking this new Miami team in it's rookie year to the promised land where critics guaranteed they wouldn't reach. Erik's given Pat Riley a reason to stay upstairs. Still the edge on the floor goes to Carlisle.
THE FANS (The Real Sixth-Man): Both American Airline Arenas are some of the best places to watch Basketball and the fans some of the best company. Getting behind their team with an electricity and excitement that spark plus their sides on there's little between Dallas' and Miami's base of fans. Miami's white collar hot fan base ignite their team to the 'tee' but there's just something about these Dallas Maverick fans. As these Texan titans wish for more, dominant success in this sport these fans get in all sorts of states to get behind their team. From body paint to never taking the expensive seats they brought these fans are like no other. It's almost like your watching another sport in support in Dallas and that's why the Mavs have the edge. Game 1 in Miami could prove a crucial, tone-setting factor.
THE FINAL EDGE
Miami or Dallas? This one is a tough call. Maybe it's because few people expected these two to make it here. Or maybe it's because these sides have both greatly exceeded their expectations. Or maybe it's because Dallas has the edge in most, important categories but that Miami have the best player in the league today in LeBron James. Maybe it's because the Heat's strength is too hot for any team to handle beyond 5 games. Or maybe it's because when it comes to late in the game or a series no one can out shoot the Mavericks guns. Or maybe it's because NBA basketball today is more like college basketball. With all these talented, dynamic, differently evenly matched teams the playoffs has been determined and conquered by the team that sets the tone. Just like Dallas did on L.A. or Miami did on Boston. There was no way back for those former East and West champs and with these ones it's who starts that will finish. Put it this way if Miami can take Game 1 and homecourt advantage then this series probably won't go past the Heats realm of 5 games. Still if this goes the full seven, which looks likely no player with Heat can close out the game like Dirk and the Mavericks. All bets are off. Just watch.