Although this is a blog dedicated primarily to hockey, and secondarily to tennis, pretty ladies and failed attempts at humor, I do enjoy the game of basketball and follow enough to be aware of the playoffs. I have an opinion based on a couple of facts, and I also hope that my ignorance serves as a jinx, because I’m picking the squad I would never root for to win the NBA title.
To me, the question isn’t so much whether the Miami Heat will win the championship over the Dallas Mavericks, again, but rather whether the series will need to come back to Miami for a Game 6. The Heat open the series with two home games on Tuesday and Thursday at 9 p.m. each night. If I could just take a dig here, which I can, the NHL would never start a game at 9 p.m. local time. Hell, once the playoffs get deep enough the NHL won’t even let Vancouver and co. start after 6:15 local time. It’s a joke. But anyway, there are a few things that lead me to wonder why anyone would pick Dallas to win this series.
First, LeBron James has proven himself to unquestionably be the best basketball player in the league. The Derrick Rose MVP thing was nice, but nobody of sound mind can legitimately argue that Rose is a more valuable player than James. Having the best player is usually a pretty big deal in basketball, but it doesn’t always add up to titles (see: James’ Cavaliers). Dirk Nowitski is probably the second best player in the series, although he and Dwyane Wade seem to be pretty close. But since we think Wade is hurt to some degree, and Dirk has been setting the world on fire, we’ll lean Dirk over Wade. So Miami has two of the best three players in the series, and home court advantage. Miami is 8-0 at home in these playoffs, albeit against lesser opposition (bad Philly, banged up Boston, offensively-challenged Bulls). One would have to see some specific reasons to pick Dallas to overturn the home court and the 2 of the best 3 players advantages that Miami holds.
|Dwyane Wade at the 2008 Olympic Games, signaling the number of guys sitting to his left he was planning on bringing with him to the Miami Heat.|
The second reason I like Miami is a dismissal of the Mavs’ backers obvious counterargument: that Dirk Nowitski is indefensible. This has been true during their run through the western conference, but that’s mainly because these teams they have been beating all boast strong interior defenders who want to push Dirk around in the post. The problem is, Dirk hasn’t had to post up because he is so good that he can score from anywhere. This versatility renders these tough big men like Andrew Bynum, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins rather useless against Dirk, and it forced the Lakers and Thunder to throw other, smaller options at Dirk, which of course he ate alive. But Miami has some options defensively. First, they can start out with Chris Bosh on Nowitski, which might actually fall into Bosh’s comfort zone, since he doesn’t really like to bang bodies down low. If Dirk destroys Bosh down low, the Heat will almost assuredly move tough man Udonis Haslem over, and put the kibosh on easy buckets. I can already hear you saying, “yeah, but then Dirk will step outside and score from there.” Yes, maybe he will. But then there’s that wild card — the man who seems to be able to guard anybody, the best player in the league, LeBron James. The king without a crown shut down the league MVP in crunch time of the last series, and has the height and strength to do the same to big men. Frankly, if the Mavs are to have any shot of pushing this series six games, they need to find lots of scoring from everyone on the team besides Nowitski.
The third reason it’s hard to pick Dallas is that we all saw what happened the last time owner Mark Cuban got close to winning the championship. If you don’t remember, what happened was, the officials made sure the Heat won Game 3 to get back in the series and avoid an 0-3 hole. The result was a 4-2 series win for the Heat, and a lot of conspiracy theories based on NBA commissioner David Stern’s unadulterated disapproval of Cuban’s “antics.” Since then, Cuban seems to have slowed his roll, and has even avoided speaking to the media about this run by the Mavericks. But it would be hard to see the league not preferring league stars like James and Wade to drive the league’s ratings moving forward as opposed to letting Cuban hang a banner and have a spectacle of a ring ceremony on opening night 2011. Wounds heal, but general distaste for another person usually never goes away.
The arguments for Dallas rest on the fact that they played in a tougher conference, but then the reasons get pretty emotional. There’s the “Jason Terry got a tattoo of the trophy on his arm, so they’re destined to win it.” Yeah they’re not. There’s, “Dirk has transformed his game and is now unstoppable.” No, he’s improved his game like anyone who works hard should, but he’s still largely the same player that he has always been. I love Dirk, but let’s not forget he’s won zero championships with his unstoppable game. Then there’s my favorite, which is, “Miami only has two and a half players.” This is a joke. Sure, people have acknowledged that Haslem gives the Heat three solid players now, to add to Chris Bosh, who is that half-player. But all I would say is, if Miami has 3.5 players, how many does Dallas have? And remember, Chris Bosh is half a player. Dallas might have more than 8 of the top 15 players in the series, but that’s probably not what it will come down to. It will come down to who can score the ball on important possessions, and who can stop the opponent from doing so. I think the team that’s better equipped to do both is Miami.
|Chris Bosh read all of these books whilst at Georgia Tech. Doing so transformed him into half a basketball player, and also the alien from the movie “Alien.”|
Because I don’t see Dallas winning all three games at home in the middle of the series, I think the only way they can win it is if they grab Game 1 or 2. Dallas would then have to win two of three at home to head to Miami with a 3-2 lead and a realistic shot at exorcising 2006’s demons. The truth is, I’m not sure they can and/or will be allowed to win one of the first two, and I’m confident in Miami’s ability to win at least one on the road, so I’ll go with what I have to think is the most logical pick: Miami Heat in six games.
I’ll be rooting for Dallas every step of the way, just like most of the country. Game 1 is Tuesday night at 9 p.m., live from America’s tip.