Starting tonight at 9:00 EST, is the culmination of a wild season for the Big 3 of the Miami Heat, and a quietly productive season for Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks. In the offseason, LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade to create a super team, and the hype hasn’t died since. Dirk Nowitzki has been his usual gawky, ferocious self, manhandling teams throughout the playoffs. Tonight in Miami is Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the journey for Dirk or Bron’s first ring.
Mark Cuban’s Mavericks fought their way over the hump, into the NBA Finals after finishing the regular season 57-25, 2nd in the Southwest Division, and 3rd in the Western Conference. The Portland Trailblazers were the first round match for the Mavericks, and so far, gave them the most trouble. Portland continued to cut away at late leads, but Dirk, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were able to hit shots when it mattered. Jason Terry scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games of the series. Dallas moved on 4-2 behind Nowitzki’s 27.3 PPG.
The Conference Semi’s was a shock when the Mavericks Swept the Los Angeles Lakers in 4 games, putting them away easily. The Mavericks were unforgiving, constantly one-upping LA, building frustration in one of the better teams in the league:
Yet again, Dallas had little trouble putting away its Western Conference foe in the Conference Finals, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 4 games to 1. Dallas had lost more games in the first round than it had in the Semi’s and Conference Finals. Dallas had taken what it had learned in the first round against Portland and used it to crush the hopes of the Thunder, constantly making 4th quarter comebacks on the shoulders of Dirk, and even the likes of Shawn Marion. “The Mavs made a historic comeback in Game 4, finishing regulation with a 17-2 run to force overtime en route to becoming the only team in the past 15 years to win a playoff game after trailing by 15 or more points with five minutes remaining.” (from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon)
“They’re a helluva a team, they’re Hollywood as hell, but they’re still very good.” From the brilliant mind of Joakim Noah, this one is actual true of the Miami Heat. A roller coaster season ended at 58-24, Southeastern Division champs, and 2nd in the Eastern Conference behind the Bulls. Round 1 the Heat tested the playoff waters with the Philadelphia 76ers, and came out relatively unscathed in a 4-1 series win.
The Conference Semifinals was a battle of two big 3’s, Miami versus Boston. Wade, James and Bosh against Allen, Pierce and Garnett. Many believed Miami would falter here and get the boot, but LeBron and Wade stepped up, alternating each game as the leading scorer, and playing excellent defense. Boston was certainly limited, never gaining a strong foothold, and Miami took advantage winning the series in, surprise, 4 games to 1.
Chicago was the regular season conference champions, and had little trouble in the playoffs, then the Miami Heat came to town. The Bulls had been dominant in 4th quarters during the regular season with a +187 point differential, but Miami outscored Chicago by 24 in the final quarter and overtime in the series. Finally someone for the Heat was stepping up and hitting clutch shots at the end of games. This series LeBron and Bosh took the position of leading scorer every-other-game, while Wade had big contributions late in games. After losing game one, Miami never looked back and took the series from Chicago, you guessed it, 4-1.
Of the two teams, Miami has the only NBA Finals Championship, from 2006, when they beat the Dallas Mavericks.
NBA Finals Appearances (*won)
Dallas- 2 (2006, 2011) Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry on the team for both appearances
Miami- 2 (2006*, 2011) Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem on the team for both appearances
Dallas- Lost in Western Conference first round
Miami- Lost in Eastern Conference first round
Regular Season Leaders
Points: Dallas- D. Nowitzki, 23.0 PPG
Miami- L. James, 26.7 PPG
Assists: Dallas- J. Kidd, 8.2 APG
Miami- L. James, 7.0 APG
Rebounds: Dallas- T. Chandler, 9.4 RPG
Miami- C. Bosh, 8.3 RPG
Points: Dallas- D. Nowitzki, 28.4 PPG
Miami- L. James, 26.0 PPG
Assists: Dallas- J. Kidd, 7.7 APG
Miami- L. James, 5.5 APG
Rebounds: Dallas- T. Chandler, 9.3 RPG
Miami- C. Bosh & L. James, 8.9 RPG
Game One Starting Lineups
PG: Jason Kidd
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Shawn Marion
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Tyson Chandler
PG: Mike Bibby
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Joel Anthony
Regular Season Match Results
November 27th, Dallas 106 Miami 95 (Caron Butler and LeBron James leading scorers with 23 apiece)
December 20th, Dallas 98 Miami 96 (Dirk with 26, and Wade with 22 to lead scoring for their respective teams, Dallas win ended 12 game regular season win streak for Miami)
From Elias: Dallas has won its last 14 regular-season games against Miami, the 2nd-longest winning streak teams to meet in the NBA Finals. The other 4 teams to enter the Finals with at least a 5-game winning streak against their opponent have gone on to win the title.
The Heat, as their name suggests have begun to heat up in the playoffs, winning fairly easily against good teams. Dallas has also shown that they can cruise through the playoffs. The Mavericks have the regular season head-to-head advantage, but this is a whole different situation, the past should not have a factor on either team. This will be a hard fought battle, two extremely good, well-rounded team, one brash and flashy, the other with substance and hard work. This Finals will be very Dirk vs. LeBron, with a lot help from all of the regulars in defense and scoring, with a lot of close games.
Game 1: Tues, May 31, 9:00 p.m. EST in Miami
Game 2: Thurs, June 2, 9:00 p.m. EST in Miami
Game 3: Sun, June 5, 8:00 p.m EST in Dallas
Game 4: Tues, June 7, 9:00 p.m. EST in Dallas
Game 5*: Thurs, June 9, 9:00 p.m. EST in Dallas
Game 6*: Sun, June 12, 8:00 p.m. EST in Miami
Game 7*: Tues, June 14, 9:00 p.m. EST in Miami
*if necessary, All games on ABC
My Prediction: Miami Heat in 7
Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage