A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
NBA Finals Preview
PHILADELPHIA — Well, this is the day all hoops fans have been waiting for – the start of the NBA finals. I think this matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, two first-time participants, could go down as one of the most competitive finals in NBA history.
Of course, that remains to be seen, but with the high level of excitement that this season’s playoffs have provided, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see one of the best final series of all-time.
Enough with my excitement about this series let’s take a look at the matchups – and ultimately – get on to my prediction on who will win the ’05-06 NBAChampionship.
Point Guard: Jason Terry/Devin Harris vs. Jason Williams/Gary Payton
With the emergence of Harrris, Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson has been able to play Terry at the “two” for major stretches in Dallas’ previous two series. Terry is an excellent outside shooter and Harris is a speed demon that is quickly fulfilling his potential before our very eyes.
Williams had a great game-six in the eastern conference finals against the Detroit Pistons and seems to be learning how to co-exist on a team where he is being asked to less offensively than he ever has. Payton has been a solid backup whose experience has been invaluable for the Heat at times.
However, I think the edge here clearly goes to the younger, quicker Mavs, who could actually play Terry and Harris alongside each other occasionally in this series.
Shooting Guard: Dwayne Wade vs. Adrian Griffin
Of course Wade easily wins this category. He is playing at a spectacular level and is absolutely unstoppable on occasions – as the Detroit Pistons will tell you. I do like the Mavs ability to change looks at the “two” by going with the defensive talents of the bigger Griffin or switching to a more offensive mindset by playing Jerry Stackhouse or even Jason Terry here at times.
If you’re looking at the starting shooting guards, Wade wins this category hands down. However, when you look at the overall picture at this position, the Mavs may actually be better off with three players who can play the shooting guard position.
Advantage: Miami (narrowly)
Small Forward: Josh Howard vs. Antoine Walker
Howard is another player that is blossoming before our very eyes. He is a multi-talented hybrid player who can play several positions when asked to and will probably spend plenty of time on Wade defensively because of his length.
Everyone knows by now that the Mavs are 25-0 this season when he scores 20 or more points – which is definitely not a good sign foe the Heat. I’ve never been a huge fan of Walker because of his inexplicable penchant for launching ill-advised “threes” but like Williams, he seems to have finally learned how to rein in his game a little to compliment Wade and center Shaquille O’Neal, the centerpieces on Miami’s team.
Advantage: Dallas, without a doubt
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Udonis Haslem.
Nowitzki, always a great scorer, has taken his entire game to new heights and seems to have no limit on how far he can take his talents – and his team. Simply put, there is no player in the league who can match up with the new and improved Nowitzki, who is no longer just a jump shooter.
While I certainly think Udonis Haslem is a fine power forward, he definitely can’t match up with Nowitzki. If Dirk takes Haslem outside, which he will, then that also takes Haslem away from the basket. Nowitzki also should be able to drive to the basket and create opportunities for himself and others.
Advantage: It’s a no-brainer – Dallas, by about seven-feet
Center: Shaquille O’Neal vs. Erik Dampier and DeSagana Diop
Let’s be realistic here. There is absolutely no player on the earth who can stop Shaq. If he plays anywhere close to the level he did against the Pistons, Dallas could be in trouble.
On the other hand, I think the Mavs have as much of a chance of slowing Shaq down with their duo of centers as any team in the league. No, Diop and Dampier won’t score much on Shaq, but both are big bodies who can make O’Neal work a little harder than he may have to against some teams.
Advantage: Miami – by one seven-foot police officer
Coaching: Avery Johnson vs. Pat Riley
Nearly every column I have read on the finals gives Riley the nod here, howevere, I am unequivocally going with Johnson, who has undeniably proven himself as one of the best coaches in the league this season.
I know Riley has the experience edged, but I think Johnson’s ability to communicate with his players – and get them to buy into what he wants from this team has been nothing short of astounding.
Advantage: Dallas – barely.
Bench: Stackhouse, Dampier, Harris, Keith Van Horn and an underrated Marquis Daniels vs. Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and James Posey.
Let’s keep it real here. No way does the Heat’s bench compare with Dallas – who can literally bring waves of players off the bench to fill various roles.
Advantage: Dallas, by about four players.
Okay, the moment you’ve all waited for. Once again, I think this series will be very exciting at the very least. Miami’s two superstars will be tough to stop, but the Mavericks’ versatility and depth will win out in the end.
I like the fact the Dallas can play the games at different tempos whereas Miami is basically a half court team that relies on Wade and O’Neal to get the bulk of the offensive production accomplished. No team in the league has an answer for Nowitzki either, which will also cause matchup problem for the Heat. Dallas also has home court advantage, so I am picking the Mavs to win their first-ever NBA title in six games.
Whichever team wins, I fully expect a thrilling series that we may be talking about for years to come.