Yes, I am aware that Game 1 was played last night, but in my defense, I had these opinions last week and I pulled this same type of BS before the Conference Finals, so if you're still reading, it's on you now. Or we are related, so you have to keep on reading. Either way.
I'm not going to delve into the consequences of us living in a world where LeBron wins a title and universal karma is rendered into a joke, nor what another loss to the Heat will do to the collective (and already damanged) minds of Dallas basketball fans. I'm just going to stick to the analysis of the two teams (for now) and make my prediction.
When I look at this Heat team and I examine how they beat the Bulls, I see three reasons:
1) Stifling defense: LeBron has awakened his inner Mamba and is channeling Redeem Team Summer '08 Kobe. He is an absolute wolverine on the defensive end, sparing no man, woman or Deng and destroying every person in his path. During the end of games in the Bulls series, it felt like Rose was trying to take LeBron one-on-one in the last couple minutes. It only felt that way because LeBron was playing such efficient suffocating defense that Rose couldn't get a passing lane to do anything but take a ridiculously contested shot.
This is not to preclude the rest of the Heat defenders - Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and of course Dywane Wade are holding up their ends of the bargain as well. LeBron is playing great one-on-one perimeter D, but every other member of the Heat is staying incredibly disciplined on their man and controlling the passing lanes to perfection. It seems so strangely appropriate to say, but if I didn't hate this team so much, I'd love them.
2) Too many weapons: Having to deal with LeBron at the end of games is enough. Having to deal with Dywane Wade at the end of games is also enough. But to have to deal with both of them and ALSO still be conscious of Bosh finishing around the rim is just too much. The looked much maligned at the end of games during the regular season, but during these playoffs, they have ZERO fear in their eyes in crunch time.
3) They just had to beat one guy: Derrick Rose was the engine that made the Bulls go. No one else on the team was even close to being a Pau Gasol-level sidekick. Rose scored 30 points a night, set-up everyone else's shot with either his passing or penetration and got to the rim anytime he needed to break up momentum. The Heat knew this and did exactly what they needed to - they kept him from setting up his other guys (by denying his penetration and passing lanes) and making him beat them by himself.
Now I ask you - what is going to be different about this series with the Mavericks? The Heat have to beat just one guy in Dirk. The Heat still have too many weapons for the Mavs to deal with and the defense is of course still there.
The main problem I see is that the Mavs rely on aggressive ball movement, spacing and excellent three point shooting and all of their role-players doing whatever they do to perfection. The Heat just beat a very similar team that had the very same game plan in the Chicago Bulls - one very good player and then a bunch of specialists (a problem made even more apparent with Bosh's surreal emasculization of Carlos Boozer). I just don't see how the Mavs can overcome the same traps that the Bulls just fell face-first into. Their role-players are more plentiful and better shooters than the Bulls, but the Heat just beat Chicago in 5 games. Is the value of the Mavs role players 3 victories better than the value of the role players on the Bulls? I think that question is very contingent on how well the Mavs shoot the 3-ball, which is not something you want to be relying on in the NBA Finals.
Not that I should be writing about Game 1 in a Finals prediction post, but that happened in the last 3 minutes last night. Dirk had to try to win it by himself because everyone else was left to their own devices without that great ball movement of theirs. Did you feel like the ball was just stopped during those last 3 minutes? And that every possession seemed like it was in slow motion culminating in yet another bad shot? I felt like I was watching a replay of the Bulls last week, except substitute a kid from Chicago with a 7-foot German and a bunch of shooters with slightly better shooters that still didn't make any baskets. I will lay off the jokes here. I don't want the government taking away my blog.
To the Maverick's credit, they beat 3 great Western Conference offensive squads. They demolished a apathetic, but undeniably great Lakers offense and made the Thunder look like an AAU team, scrambling in the last 3 minutes of every game. Dirk has been an more unbelievable offensive talent this playoffs than even Derrick Rose was, and with his skill set and size, is a more difficult cover. The Mavericks have much better perimeter shooting, and with Marion, Haywood and Chandler, have better size to throw at the Heat. Their guards are craftier and more multi-dimensional in Barea, Terry, Stevenson and Kidd, rather than Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver. But again, are all these small advantages enough to create a 3 victory disparity between the Bulls and the Mavs?
I don't think it is. God help us all. We're about to live in a world where LeBron James is a champion. Goodbye Justice.
HEAT in 6