Wait – haven’t we been here before?
Five years since the Miami Heat pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history against the Dallas Mavericks, the two teams will once again play off for the NBA Championship.
THE STORY SO FAR…
The road to the finals has not been easy for either side.
Miami created a media frenzy in the off-season by signing the ‘big three’ – Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. At the ceremony the Heat held to unveil the ‘big three’, they promised to deliver championships.
However the Heat started the season poorly, registering nine wins and eight losses from their first 17 games. They looked disjointed and, at times, frustrated with one another. Their ball movement resembled lost letters in the mail.
But they quickly turned things around and won 13 consecutive games – including a victory over reigning champions Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas day – to show they were a force to be reckoned with.
Dallas hasn’t had it easy this season either.
Small forward Caron Butler went down with a severe knee injury in January, ruling him out for the remainder of the season. Power forward and 10-time NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki also struggled with injury throughout the early part of the season.
The Mavericks were then criticised for being too old, with eight players on their roster aged over 30, including 34-year-old Nowitzki and 38-year-old Jason Kidd.
But age has been no issue for the Mavs. Their 4-0 victory over the Lakers in conference semi-finals was supremely impressive and proved they can stand up to the best when the time comes.
Both teams are very different in the way they play the game, both offensively and defensively.
Dallas runs most of its offense through Nowitzki, who is almost impossible to stop with his 7-foot frame, quick footwork and shooting ability.
The Mavericks are also a very deep team and have a number of impact players who can come off the bench and turn a game on its head. These include former Sixth Man of the Year and sharpshooter Jason Terry, quick point guard Rodrigue Beaubois and Peja Stojakovic, who is the fourth-ranked player for three-point shots made in NBA history.
Conversely, Miami doesn’t have the same depth on its roster. Therefore it prefers to run a more free flowing offensive game style.
The Heat’s ‘big three’ will provide a big defensive challenge for Dallas. Wade, with his speed and agility, can cut to and finish around the rim with ease, while Bosh is great underneath the basket as well as from mid-range. However James, a two-time MVP, is the most critical element to the Heat offense because he is amazingly quick and powerful for his size. He can play as either a high-scoring forward or an unselfish guard, dishing the ball off to his teammates.
Both teams are also very strong defensively. Miami conceded an average of 94.6 points per game during the regular season, ranked sixth in the league. Dallas averaged 96.0 points, ranked 10th in the league.
The focal point for the Heat defense will be Nowitzki. Bosh has the height to defend him but isn’t quick enough to get around the screens set for and by the power forward. James gives away some height, but has the speed and defensive ability to slow him down. He would be a fantastic one-on-one match up for Nowitzki.
Miami’s ability to block shots will also be crucial. Centre Joel Anthony’s primary role is to block shots and he, along with Wade and James, will make it difficult for Dallas to put up any easy shots. However the Mavs have a similar player to Anthony in Tyson Chandler. A fantastic communicator, Chandler has improved dramatically this season, especially on the defensive end of the court.
On average, Dallas is a slightly bigger team than Miami with Nowitzki, Chandler and Brendan Haywood all standing at or over 7-feet tall. This will make it difficult for Bosh to put up any efficient shots when posting up, while Wade and James will have to work hard when driving to the hoop.
Both teams have had fantastic seasons. The Heat have generated a lot of hate where ever they’ve gone, whereas the Mavs have generated a lot of love.
Defending Dirk will be Miami’s biggest challenge. Leave him alone and he’ll score, double team him and his team mates will knock down a three-ball.
Defending three superstars, however, may be a little too much for Dallas. James has proven he is a big-time player in recent games, including closing out two series victories against Boston and Chicago.
After all the hype and fanfare, all the promises and all the doubters, the Heat should come through with the goods, meaning LeBron will win the ring he brought his talents to South Beach in search of.