The Heat is Rising - Dallas vs. Miami in NBA Championship

       The final path to an NBA Championship lies just ahead in this 2006 Finals rematch; this time it's not Dwyane Wade and Shaq leading the charge for Miami, but instead a much-publicized LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh, who have a combined 20 All-Star game appearances for the three. And for Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki was still king, but teamed up with ten other guys who are no longer on the team- the only remaining standout is Jason Terry. His 2011 supporting cast is a veteran crew, but a talented one at that.

What lies ahead for these teams? We have our preview below.

        The matchup is an interesting one- two teams, one with considerably more hype than the other all season long with a talented trio, while the other is still riding the same horse that got them to the Finals five year ago. Dallas' strengths are Miami's weaknesses and Miami's strengths are the Mavericks' gray areas. Let me explain:

        Dallas has tremendous options in the backcourt with Jason Kidd, who, although 38 years old, can still pick defenses a part with his precision passing and knocking down open jumpers, along with super-quick J.J. Barea and Jason "The Jet" Terry coming off the bench. DeShawn Stevenson, the starter at shooting guard, isn't the caliber athlete or offensive threat that he was a few years ago, but he will be in the lineup again to mix it up defensively on Wade. For Miami, their starting point guard, Mike Bibby is in the steady decline of his 12 year career and may be one of the worst defensive point guards in the league. He'll struggle to contain Kidd's size and passing, while he should not even be asked to compete with the quickness of Barea and Terry. Backup Mario Chalmers should see significantly more minutes in this series (although, we must note that Chalmers has played more minutes per game than Bibby in the 2011 postseason).

        At the center position, Dallas has two quality centers in Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood, who are limited offensively, but Chandler especially has the ability to bother Miami forward Chris Bosh with his length and athleticism. He rebounds well and is quick enough to get the ball to the guards on the perimeter and get out in transition. Chandler and Haywood combine for nearly six offensive rebounds and additional possessions per game. Look for them to establish themselves early.

        And then there is Dirk who is a matchup nightmare. We've seen the damage he can do with his deadly mid-range shot. He is a 7-footer with the ability to put the ball on the floor and take it strong to the rim (he is shooting 93 percent from the charity stripe with over 9 attempts per game), but is more apt to post up around the foul line or low blocks and knock down a jumper over his defender. Whether it's LeBron or Bosh or even Joel Anthony, Miami will struggle, as so many have before them, to contain him.

        For Miami, we can characterize their two biggest strengths into one with Wade and LeBron- the most dynamic tandem in all of sports today. Their talent will be magnified against the aging Maverick perimeter defenders. Dallas held their own against Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, but now they draw two of the most complete offensive players in the league at once. Without its top perimeter defender in Caron Butler, Shawn Marion will be asked to take on a much larger task.

        Perimeter shooting will be the team x-factor in this series- Dallas can't win if their stars are knocking down shots. Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and even Jason Kidd thrive off of the open looks they'll get when the defense doubles down on Dirk. He is so big and so talented that he can see right over the defense and swing the ball around to the open man. The Heat have stepped up their perimeter defense big time in the playoffs and for a Dallas team that slumped to 32.8 percent shooting in the Thunder series, this could spell trouble for the Mavs. For Miami, the Heat can't win if their complementary players like Mike Bibby, Mike Miller and James Jones don't knock down their open looks. Dallas will look to make these players beat them by knocking down open shots.

By President Corey Ruff - 5-31-11