Quantcast 2011 NBA Finals: Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat


2011 NBA Finals Preview – Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas perspective on the upcoming series for the NBA championship


It is a moment of reckoning for the Dallas Mavericks, an occasion marked with an urgency and poignancy that are rarely found anymore in professional sports. When the Western Conference champions take the floor on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals, they know just how much is on the line. Yes, this team has overachieved in the process of reaching professional basketball’s ultimate stage, but the Mavericks will be sorely disappointed if they can’t take down the Miami Heat ove the next two weeks.

You see, when Dallas stares down the Eastern Conference champions from South Florida, it won’t just be taking on the team everyone in the NBA loves to hate. The Mavs won’t just be pitting their skills against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They will be playing for a championship, and for most teams that’s enough of a goal. However, it’s the sidebar stories and the ghosts of the recent past that cast a long and interesting shadow over this best-of-seven showdown, set to commence in Miami on the final night of May.

The first and most central subtext of this series is that it is a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, a series that stomach-punched Dallas and – one could argue – sent the Mavs into a five-year funk. Really, that’s a credible argument. Dallas overcame the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the 2006 Western Conference playoffs, winning Game 7 of the West semifinals in San Antonio to cross the threshold that many doubted they’d ever be able to. Dallas promptly advanced to the finals by erasing the Phoenix Suns in six games and then stomped all over the Miami Heat in the first two games of basketball’s showcase series. Dallas then attained an 89-76 lead over the wobbly and hesitant Heat with just under seven minutes left in Game 3 in Miami. The Mavs and their bombastic owner, Mark Cuban, were just about to drive the dagger into then-coach Pat Riley’s Miami championship project with Wade and sidekick Shaquille O’Neal.

Then, however, everything unraveled, and the Mavs haven’t been the same since.

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Wade scored 10 points in the final six minutes of regulation while Dallas’s offense stagnated. Miami caught Dallas and then took a 97-95 lead with just under 10 seconds left in regulation when Gary Payton, starving in the championship desert throughout his storied career, nailed an 18-foot jumper to send the Miami crowd into a frenzy. On the ensuing possession, Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki drew a foul with 3.4 seconds left and earned two foul shots to tie the game, but after making the first, his second try missed, and Miami held on for a 98-96 victory to avoid the guillotine. Roused by that escape job, the Heat cruised in Game 4 and then won an overtime epic in Game 5, 101-100, as Wade hit two foul shots with 1.9 seconds in the extra period. Dallas had its chances to take a 3-2 series lead back to Texas for Game 6 and almost certainly win the title, but the Mavs missed three foul shots in the final minute of regulation, thereby allowing the Heat to continue into overtime and then prevail. In Game 6, the Heat surged down the stretch to score a 95-92 win for the title. Miami became just the third team in NBA history to win the finals after losing the first two games of the series. Only the 1969 Boston Celtics and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers were also able to pull off the feat.

Dallas, it goes without saying, was devastated, and the memory of that collapse dwelt in the minds of the Mavs the next few postseasons. Dallas, as the top seed in the 2007 playoffs, lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors. The Mavs then failed to get out of the second round the next three seasons. Revenge won’t win this series for Dallas – only two Mavs, Nowitzki and Jason Terry, were on the 2006 club – but everyone who cares about the organization knows just how much it would mean to get even with the Heat and settle a score that’s now five years old. A championship is its own reward, but the fact that the Mavs’ second NBA Finals appearance is coming against the very same Miami Heat makes this title tilt bigger than it otherwise would have been.



The other unique aspect of this series for Dallas is that the Mavericks aren’t getting any younger at key positions. Nowitzki will be around for awhile as a top-tier superstar, but point guard Jason Kidd can’t bank on another trip to the finals. Neither can wing shooter Peja Stojakovic or Terry, a guard who is still a capable shooter but lacks the devastating quickness he demonstrated in the 2006 finals. Shawn Marion, who opposed the Mavs in the 2006 West finals as a member of the Phoenix Suns, is much more of a role player these days after being a core option for Phoenix five postseasons ago. Long story short, the Mavs’ window for winning a title is getting smaller, not larger. Having vanquished the king of the West, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavs know that this is their best shot at a ring… ever. It only raises the stakes for this series, lifting the matchup with Miami beyond your “normal” world championship showdown.

In terms of the Xs and Os, the key for Dallas will be its wing shooters, Stojakovic and Terry. Miami shut down the offense of the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals because Chicago lacked a consistently devastating shooter who could play off Rose and regularly hit shots to spread out Miami’s defense. Dallas owns the shooters who can complement Nowitzki and work in concert with Kidd, the playmaker at the point. Dallas will have a very tough time holding down LeBron, Wade and Bosh, but if the Mavs can score at a high rate – and they have the weapons to do so – they can win this series at the offensive end of the floor.

Now, it’s all about the doing. A team that isn’t getting younger is tasked with taking down the most star-studded team in pro basketball… in a revenge-flavored situation… in its second-ever finals appearance. The Dallas Mavericks already have much to be proud of, but now comes the confrontation that will carry an immeasurable amount of psychic force – positive or negative - into future seasons for one professional basketball organization.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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