The NBA Finals have finally arrived, and you couldn’t ask for a much better matchup. Two superstars at the height of their game, Hall-of-Famers all over the court, veterans chasing their first rings, incredible storylines everywhere… it really doesn’t get much better than this.
So which team is better equipped for the match-up? For tonight’s free pick column, let’s first take a look at the series as a whole – then give you tonight’s winner against the spread.
Let’s move on to the Finals breakdown and tonight’s free pick…
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Dallas Mavericks @ Miami Heat -4.5 (Total: 179)
Let’s start the breakdown by looking at the individual players, then the coaches, benches and intangibles.
BACKCOURT: This is actually a more difficult decision than it would seem, assuming of course that you lump LeBron with the forwards. Consider him a guard, and then obviously, edge Miami.
Dallas presents some unique challenges for Miami in that they can put more shooters on the floor than either Boston or Chicago (especially the Bulls). Jason Terry is not only a good shooter, but he is a good “scorer” as well; his ability to make tough shots with a hand in his face is as good as anyone in the league. In fact, watch Jason Terry for the first time and you will likely be yelling “no!” at the TV several times after he releases shots that eventually settle safely in the bottom of the net.
Jason Kidd may have lost a step, but his vision is as good as ever, and his shot has significantly improved. Gone are the days of giving him the “Rondo treatment.” Now? You have to respect “Ason Kidd’s” J.
Miami, regardless of who plays the point, doesn’t have anyone to exploit the fact that Kidd may be a few steps slow on the defensive side of the floor. Neither Bibby nor Chalmers strike much fear into the collective Dallas heart.
Dwayne Wade is the X-factor; if he is scoring he can dominate a game (or a series, remember 2006 Mavs fans?), but he has struggled with his offense and a high number of turnovers lately.
EDGE: Dallas (slightly)
FRONTCOURT: This is both team’s real strength, so the question is, do you prefer Dirk’s unguardable offense, or the all-around imposing force of LeBron James? Even if you call that one a toss-up (and for the sake of this series, I will concede that it is), the scale tips Miami’s way with Chris Bosh.
Yes, the center position is abysmal for the Heat, but lumping in Udonis Haslem, and calling him a “small center” makes them a little more formidable. For Dallas, the group of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood is a very, very good group. But we’re comparing them to LeBron… so…. Yeah.
COACHING: For all the consternation over Coach “Spo”, one has to concede he has done a masterful job this postseason. His ability to juggle matchups and step on the gas in the final five minutes of games is the primary reason (aside from, you know, LeBron) that the Heat made short series of the Celtics and Bulls, respectively.
I’m not sure he will be able to out-game Rick Carlisle in the same fashion, but he sure does have some intriguing chess pieces to play with.
On the Dallas bench, Carlise has coached in one NBA Finals, and might have coached in a second had Ron Artest not started the Malice and the Palace. He has been through plenty of big, tense playoff series, though this one is obviously the most intense.
Both have a good command of their team, but at the end of the day, give me the savvy and tactics of Carlisle.
BENCH: Miami’s bench is much maligned, but if Haslem stays healthy, and they get anything out of Mike Miller, they are certainly average at worst. Dallas’s bench, on the other hand, is a considerable strength of theirs. When the explosive JJ Barrea comes into the game, he is going to make match-up fits for the Heat’s point guards (especially Bibby. They cannot be in the game at the same time if you are the Miami Heat).
INTANGIBLES: This is where we pick with our gut rather than our brains; the place where intuition trumps stats. In that place of my being, I feel like the Heat are on a clear mission that hasn’t quite reached it’s conclusion. Breakdown matchups however you like, but Miami has the best player in the world playing the best basketball of his career, with an “MJ” like intensity and competitiveness.
I love Dirk, and respect the veteran poise and hunger the Mavs brings. But at the end of the day, the Heat have three true stars, the Mavs have one. Defensively, no team in the NBA can even come close to doing what the Heat can do when they are at full throttle – ask the Celtics and Bulls.
I like Miami in six games, and wouldn’t be stunned if they do it in five. They will be good games, but no one on Earth is beating this heat team four times.
FINALS PICK: Heat in 6