Here in part 2 of the CHEAP SEATS look at the NBA Finals, which tips off in a few hours, this time breaking down the Miami Heat and last stop on their coming of age in the Playoffs.
It didn’t quite go down like everyone thought it could in Miami this season, as a non-stop slaughter of likes we haven’t seen since the ’96 Bulls, but nonetheless the Heat are in the NBA’s final act. They have gotten back to full availability on their roster and are clicking and imposing their will for the full 48 minutes now. However, now that they are facing the deepest team they’ve played all Playoffs, with another great in Dirk Nowitzki that is playing unstoppable basketball more often than not, will they be able to impose their will in the same undeniable fashion they did on their Eastern Conference competition? Here are the keys to keeping the wheels moving towards their unparalleled expectations or falling just short and back into the media scrutiny hell they know awaits any failure:
3 UP: How the Heat Take the Ring
1. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH: They have the two best open court players in basketball in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, so backing off the gas shouldn’t be an option at any point. This requires them to make quick starts to each half and establish that as the flow of the game, a flow that the Mavs can’t keep up with. With the multiple shooters that they be responsible for guarding on Dallas, they will be spread out all over the floor and guarding plenty of passing lanes, so capitalizing on any lazy passes (as they do so well) and turning them into points should be an emphasis.
2. LEAD IN SHIFTS: They’re greatest advantage is the ability to feature two of the top 3 players in the NBA at the same time, so why play that down now? They have a greater matchup advantage in this series with LeBron and Wade, as the Mavs have no one capable of sticking with either in even a pure athletic sense. Shawn Marion is the only one that can really do so and he’s only one man. So take the ball away from him and kill the severely over matched part of the equation on the Dallas defense. The end goal could even lead a frustrated Mavs defense to shade Dirk on LeBron, which is the ultimate match up advantage to him, as it will wear down their best offensive option trying to stop LeBron from brutalizing him on the way to the rim. So let each take their time with the ball and insert themselves as a featured guy for a while, then come back and let the other one dominate the same match up later on. They’ll wear down Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and maybe even Jason Kidd if they let him take a turn with Wade for a while (which would be a very bad decision).
3. WIN IN BETWEEN THE LINES: The Heat’s main advantage is the clear one I just outlined; however as was seen on and off all season, teams have to win because two players cannot alone. Despite the fact they are less deep than the Mavs overall, they do have some areas they can take an advantage in outside of Bron/Wade. Most notably on the glass, where they have more size and more bodies to throw at the Mavs under the rim. Basically, they have to out tough the Mavs with their second team and make them earn everything inside the arc.
3 DOWN: How the Heat Would Meet their End
1. KEEPING IT TOO CLOSE: This may seem like a bit of an obvious point in the spirit of competition, but there’s more to it than just face value: they would be much better suited ending these games before it comes down to the last-minute. The Mavs have shooters everywhere and the hottest player on the planet right now (who also doubles as the biggest match up problem in the NBA since Shaq in his prime) in Nowitzki. While LeBron has put to rest many of the questions about his ability to close out games recently, there still is the outright bad closing execution the Heat displayed most of the season that still lingers in the background. Letting these games come down to a final shot scenario should be avoided, because it doesn’t favor them.
2. GETTING BEAT TO THE POINT: Kidd gives the Mavs an experienced floor general that’s not only been to the Finals before, but has led a team there on his back. That gives them one decisive disadvantage, as the Heat has had problems shifting between Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the position all year. Whoever gets this assignment has to play tough nosed ball against Kidd and keep him from getting in to the key too often to find the many options that will surround him at all times too often. Also, the job of stopping the explosive JJ Barea can’t be under sold either. If he sees too many openings, he can make the difference between a close game and serious problem.
3. TIT FOR TAT: Nobody expects them to be able to shoot with Dallas; however somebody has to be a dependable outside option for them besides James Jones. That was to be Mike Miller’s role, but he’s offered them next to nothing in any role given to him. With that problem, the attention goes back to either PG to step up and hit the needed open shot. If this can’t happen, the Heat will lose games (plural) in this series due to not having enough answer back firepower to keep up with the three-point barrages that the Mavs will go on at some point.
With both teams +/- done, it’s time to pick a winner from me…..and that’ll will go on Twitter and Facebook in an hour. Follow me over there, see how I’m going and let’s talk this one out. Follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and on Facebook at Matt Whitener (send me a note on why you’re requesting me if we’re not linked up already. Not just everybody gets in over there).