2011 NBA Finals: Mavericks and Heat, Part Deux

May 30 11:26pm

The Mavericks and Heat tip off tonight in the final leg of the NBA playoffs. Like last year’s Lakers-Celtics championship bout, this year’s NBA Finals feature a rematch of a recent championship series, in this case the 2006 NBA Finals. Five years ago the Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Miami won the next four games to take home the title. Three of Miami’s four wins were by three points or less, including a thrilling OT one-point victory in Game 5. Will this series offer the same amount of excitement?

That matchup pitted Dirk Nowitzki vs. Dwayne Wade, and the two team leaders square off again this time around. Nowitzki has been nearly unstoppable, at one point going 12-for-15 from the field and 24-for-24 from the line in a single game. He’s the main reason Dallas has only lost one game in the 2010-11 playoffs. Meanwhile, the speculation is that Wade may be playing hurt, though he’s averaging over 40 minutes per game in the playoffs, up from his season average of 37 minutes.

In 2006, Dirk relied on Jason Terry to complement his game, while Wade paired with Shaquille O’Neal. This time around, Nowitzki gets Jason Kidd, also looking for his first ring. Wade is joined by LeBron “The Decision” James, who appears on the verge of taking an NBA Finals MVP to South Beach. Only Terry on the Mavericks side and Udonis Haslem on the Heat side remain with Nowitzki and Wade from the 2006 Finals teams.

These two teams have met twice in the regular season, with the Mavericks taking both games. The first win came in Dallas in November in the middle of the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak, and nobody was able to break out for a monster performance; James’ and Caron Butler’s 23-point performances led their respective teams. In their second meeting a month later, the Mavericks snapped the Heat’s own 12-game winning streak with a two-point victory that featured 26 points from Nowitzki and 19 points off the bench from Terry, while Wade led the Heat with 22.

Unlike in 2006, this series starts in Miami, where the Heat have won their last 10 games (including playoffs). Can Terry have as big an impact as he had in the previous Game 1 or in the two teams’ last meeting? Will the Heat be able to do what no other team has done and slow Dirk Nowitzki?

Las Vegas pegs the Heat as the favorite; I’m going to go with the team that has the best player. Casual basketball fans may assume that’s LeBron James, but Dirk Nowitzki has been playing a game of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition in May. The Mavericks find a way to take one in Miami, win Games 3 and 4 at home, then finish the Heat off in Miami in Game 6.

R.J. White is the head writer at the Fantasy Baseball Cafe and Fantasy Football Cafe has also written for FanHouse. You can follow R.J. on Twitter here.

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