This season, the playoffs were thought to be very balanced among the 16 teams, but especially with the top 4 seeds in both conferences. The Lakers were primed and ready for another championship run and the Celtics were the veterans and favorites to take out the Bulls and Heat. While most analysts predicted the Mavericks to get the boot in the first round against the Trail Blazers – including myself – Dallas overcame the adversity and cruised into their second Finals appearance in franchise history. In the East, most people believed the Celtics were just too experienced to lose, especially to the Heat, who lost 3 of their 4 games against Boston during the regular season. But LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade had other plans.
The Mavericks took out Portland in 6 games and met the Lakers in round 2. Although they were considered the underdogs, once again, Dirk Nowitzki led his team to a 4 game sweep of the defending champions. This was Phil Jacksons first time being swept and stopped on his quest for a 4th three-peat! The Mavericks then took on Oklahoma City, who gave it their all but were unable to close out any close games. The Thunder were up by 15 points with 5 minutes to go in game 4, until Dirk went off and Dallas won in OT. The Mavericks are now headed to the finals for the second time and looking for redemption.
The Heat went through an entire season of adversity. Ever since last year’s decision by LeBron to come to Miami and join forces with Wade and Bosh, the Heat have been the most hated team in the league. Everyone was concerned that the new Big 3 would be unable to figure it out in their first season together and bashed them all year long for every single loss. The Heat struggled to beat teams with winning records, including losing 3 of 4 to Boston and all 3 to Chicago. They were unable to close out games late in the 4th quarter, raising questions as to who their “batman” was. But after finishing second in the conference, Miami was learning to play as a team and getting stronger. Winning each series, 4-1, against the Sixers, Celtics and Bulls including an incredible comeback in game 5 on the eastern conference finals against the Bulls, being down 12 points with 3 minutes in the 4th and winning the game by 3. The Heat have proven they are the real deal and improved tremendously in each round of the playoffs.
Now I realize I’m a huge Heat fan, so it’s difficult for me to make a prediction without being somewhat biased, but I believe my arguments are very true. This Finals rematch of 2006, is far from a rematch. The only 2 players on the Mavs from that 06′ team are Dirk and Jason Terry, and the only 2 on the Heat are Wade and Haslem. The Mavericks are the hottest team right now, the Heat the better defensive team. The Mavericks have the deepest bench, but the Heat have the better starting 5. As Bruce Bowen said on ESPN the other day, offense wins games but defense wins championships. I believe Miami’s defense will be shut down against the Mavericks, forcing them to take quick shots. Miami is also a much quicker team and will be able to score of the fast breaks. I refuse to take anything away from the Mavericks and what they’ve done in the playoffs, but Miami is just too good. They have too many weapons to defend. Miami is beatable for a game or two, but to beat them in a seven game series… near impossible in my eyes. The Heat have home court advantage – they are undefeated at home this postseason – and will be able to get at least one on the road. The 2-3-2 format will be in favor of the Heat as well, considering Dallas would have to win 3 straight against a very talentaed team. LeBron James is ready for his first title and will stop at nothing to get it done. My pick for the 2011 NBA Finals is of course the Miami Heat in 6 games and LBJ wins the MVP award.
Glad to hear your takes and who you believe will win the title this year…