Happy Finals Day!
Today, Saving the Skyhook kicks off our Finals coverage with some very exciting news. We have three new writers joining the team today: Alex McNamee, Neil Noonan and Scott Campsall. Blake and I have been reading their stuff, and we’re pumped to have these guys join the team. You’re going to enjoy what they can do. In the coming days, we’ll be updating the site’s About Us page with their information, but for now, we have a Finals Roundtable for you to pursue while you wait for tonight’s game (9pm ET, ABC).
Give this a read, and please welcome the team to the site!
(By the way, Neil will post a more detailed Finals preview later today. I grabbed bits and bits out of it for this roundtable, but be sure to read the whole thing. Some really good stuff there)
1) Would it be more meaningful for LeBron or Dirk to win this Championship?
LeBron James. Dirk does not have as much at stake than LeBron does. It would be nice to see Dirk win one, and people thinks he needs to in order to be in the Top 50 players of all time in the NBA. Then again, others disagree – say he’s already there. LeBron, on the other hand, is compared to Michael Jordan in anything he does. LeBron has a chance to win his first title in his 7th season. MJ won his first in his 7th season. LeBron needs it more than Dirk.
One of the things I love about this series is that both these guys are going to be desperate to win this series. For Dirk, you have to assume he feels this may be his last shot at a ring. He’s had an amazing career, but this series could forever decide if he sits with Magic, Bird and MJ at the Hall of Fame table, or with Barkley, Stockton and Reggie Miller.
But, the thing to keep in mind is that is while Dirk wants (and probably needs) one ring, LeBron has his sights on getting six. Like it or not, if he’s going to get to that level, he needs to start now. Not only that, but you have to assume that he believes that winning this series will silence the critics who have still never forgiven him for the move to Miami.
It’s a showdown folks.
To Dirk and the Mavs it’s more meaningful, it’s the last straw. With their age, all the up in coming talent, the Lakers possibly retooling (cough*Dwight*cough) and the Thunder breathing down their backs, it’s hard to see the Mavericks getting back to the Finals ever again while Dirk is there. Him and Terry had their chance with Dallas, Kidd had two in New Jersey, and how can we forget how well the Suns were with Marion running the lanes. It just feels like this group of guys deserve their due and I hope they finally accomplish it this year.
There is no question that winning the title would mean a great deal to both of these players, But I think the key factor that comes into play in this scenario is longevity. For the Heat, LeBron and the other members of the big three have already proven that they are a good team, certainly much better than anyone would have expected back in December or January, but this team is built for the long run and LeBron will more than likely have multiple shots at another title.
Dirk Nowitzki on the other hand, may not get that chance again. It has been well documented that this is an old team; Kidd doesn’t have many good years left, and frankly either does Dirk. Winning the title this year, with the way he has played, is more important for Dirk at this stage in his career.
2) Both the Heat and Mavericks defenses have been strong in the Playoffs. Which team’s defense has the edge?
The Heat have the better defense. Miami proved it against the Bulls, who were the team most people thought had THE best defense in the league. The Mavericks have their length going for them at every position, but the Heat have the ultimate trump card. LeBron James can guard any player on the court. Look for him to guard Dirk, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and anyone else he needs to.
It’s a tough call for me. On one side, I feel like the Mavs have been very skilled at playing tough defense without getting into foul trouble. That I think is going to be key in this series. On the other side of the coin, however, there has been a point in every Heat game I’ve watched this post-season when I’ve said ‘Wow, LeBron is a beast on defense.’ He’s playing the kind of defense that rubs off of his teammates (see Wade late in Games 4 and 5 of the ECF).
It helps when you have two freak athletes guarding the opposing teams wing players, and a shot blocker in the lane. I give the edge to Miami’s defense mostly because of how great team defense is able to shut down both penetration and shooters. They’ll most likely throw a double at Dirk with Bosh guarding him, finding a way to run the shooters off the line is going to be the tough part.
I think given the lack of firepower that the Heat has on offense the Mavs defense have the edge in this one. The Heat have been strong defensively, not just in the Playoffs, but all season long; however their opponents thus far in the playoffs have not been great offensive teams. Of the three teams they faced, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, Philadelphia might have been the best offensive team. Guarding a Mavericks team that has shot the lights out in the Playoffs, should prove to be a true test of their defensive abilities.
The Mavs on the other hand, defensively, have been solid; they gave up over a hundred points only twice during regulation to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a very talented offensive team. The Mavericks also swept the Lakers in the previous round, holding them under a hundred points in every single game.
3) What’s the bigger offensive liability right now, the fact that the Heat are so dependent on Bosh, Wade and James (and no one else), or the fact that that the average age of the Mavs starting five is 32.2?
Age can never be an offensive liability. That means the Heat’s big three is more of a liability. Everything turned around when Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem exploded as bench players for the Heat against the Bulls. Also, nothing was more positive than seeing Mike Bibby start to make some threes. However, there might not be a player on the Mavericks roster who can’t score. From top to bottom, tall to short, the Mavericks have an all around championship offense. Now, the Heat’s big three might be more of a liability than the age of the Mavericks, but neither age or a Big Three is going to be a huge burden. The Big Three will score 60-70 points a game, maybe more, but I only give the nod to the Mavericks because they have a more balanced attack.
Normally I hold to the maxim that age benefits a team in the final 3 minutes of a game, provided that said team hadn’t already been run off the floor in the previous 45 minutes. The Heat have shown a real skill for closing out games in the Playoffs (yes people, I did just say that), so I don’t think I can just give the Mavs the edge in the ‘down the stretch’ column. I think the Mavs are going to have to play out of their minds to overcome the Big Three, but the exciting news is that the Mavs have in fact been playing out of their minds.
Thus far in the playoffs the Big Three have been massive; when one of the three has struggled, the other two have stepped it up, not to mention that they have gotten some big games out of the rest of the supporting cast. At this point, it’s tough to say, but it looks like the Mavs’ age may be a bigger liability. They are going to struggle to stay in front of both Wade and LeBron on defense and offensively, players like Terry and Kidd have been playing extremely well, which begs the question: how much longer can they keep up this level of play?
I’d hang my hat on my three superstars I can count on routinely, rather than hope for a good shooting night off my bench. Dallas has multiple weapons that can go off, a bunch of grenades per say. I’d feel much safer bringing three tanks into war, wouldn’t you?
4) Who has an easier match up; Dirk vs Bosh or LeBron vs. Marion?
LeBron vs. Marion. There’s no question about this. Marion does not compare to the physical specimen that is LeBron James. Marion could be compared to Luol Deng of the Bulls. Deng couldn’t shut down LeBron. At this point, I am under the impression that LeBron can’t be stopped by anybody. He’s going to score whenever he wants to. He’s going to get to the basket at will. Dirk has a slight advantage in his match up with Bosh, but it’s nowhere near the advantage LeBron has.
The more I think about this one, the more I feel like Dirk has a big advantage on Bosh, which is why I think the Heat are likely to minimize Dirk’s time on Bosh as much as possible. I’d expect to see the Heat giving Dirk a lot of different looks, including LeBron.
Chris Bosh and Shawn Marion are both coming off of Conference Final series in which they performed quite well defensively, but in the Finals I think Dirk has the easier match up. Chris Bosh is quick and has length, but just isn’t a great defender; With Dirk playing out of his mind I am not sure anybody could stop him right now, let alone Chris Bosh. Having said that, I would also look for LeBron to guard Dirk in late game situations, much the same way he did against Rose in the Eastern Finals.
Marion was terrific against Durant and is generally well renowned for his defensive abilities. Marion should be able to stick with LeBron and bother his shot, however if LeBron decides to post up—which he does not do as much as he should—he has an advantage over the slender framed Marion.
No slight against Bosh, even though he’s a subpar on-ball defender, but Dirk cannot be stopped. I’m thinking they’ll throw a few different guys at him during the course of the game, Haslem I’m sure will get a lot of burn, maybe 5 minutes of Joel, but you got to have LeBron D him up the last 6-8 minutes of each game. His length, speed and strength are something Dirk is not use to, and I’m sure he’ll be knocked out of his groove pretty quick.
5) Which team wins and in how many games?
- Alex McNamee: Heat in 6 games, 4-2. They clinch the title at home. The fact that the Heat have the home court over the Mavericks is a huge difference. LeBron is your MVP. Dwayne Wade gets his game back in the finals.
- Dan Jepperson: Dallas in 7 (Boy oh boy do I want to see this go seven)
- Scott Campsall: Dallas in 6
- Neil Noonan: Heat in 6