The NBA Finals finally (no pun intended) get under way tonight (May 31st) in Miami. In a rematch of the 2006 championship Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks look to avenge a disheartening loss to Dwyane Wade and the Heat five years ago where they blew a 2-0 series lead and a 13-point 4th quarter lead in Game 3.
Besides Nowitzki and super sixth man Jason Terry for Dallas and Wade and Udonis Haslem for Miami, all the players are different, many new to the NBA Finals stage. 38 year-old Jason Kidd has been to the Finals twice as a member of the New Jersey Nets and LeBron James put his former team on his back en route to the 2007 Finals before getting swept by San Antonio.
I will admit I was the main person saying the Heat would not win a title this year. Since that statement in late October, the Boston Celtics traded away one of the key pieces of their defense in Kendrick Perkins (a major factor in how easily Miami handled the Celtics) the Atlanta Hawks beat Orlando and the only real center in the Eastern Conference in Dwight Howard, the Memphis Grizzlies upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and the Lakers got swept out of the postseason by the Dallas Mavericks without a fight in the Western Conference Semifinals.
I can easily say that the road to the Finals was laid out without any major obstacles for Miami, but that would be a major disservice to how dominant they have been. None of Miami’s playoff series have gone more than five games, something I expected in the first round, but not after that. The way the Heat are playing is something I expected in year two. They have been surprisingly cohesive in dismantling the best defense in the NBA in the Eastern Conference Finals. It seems all the criticism and inability to close games during the regular season has been their training ground. They have gone through the playoff level adversity of Jordan versus the Pistons, and Isiah versus the Celtics in the course of one regular season and are ready to reach their goal way ahead of schedule.
That being said, I am through picking against the Heat. Chris Bosh has found his superstar swagger and Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have finally arrived after injuries robbed them of precious game time.
Prediction: The Heat will roll out the Derrick Rose defensive strategy on Dirk. They will live with Nowitzki making those unguardable one-legged fadeaway jumpers and run Terry, Kidd and Peja Stojakovich off the three point line. While they have not faced a center like Tyson Chandler so far, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony should be able to neutralize him. The Mavs will miss Caron Butler, though Butler is not ruling himself out for the series attempting to come back from a snapped patella tendon in his knee that sidelined him since January 1st. Shawn Marion has turned back the clock to his “Matrix” heyday which will help. However, like the Bulls series it will be 3 superstars on 1 which equals too much for Dallas. Heat win one for LeBron in six games, 4-2.