Life as it happens. Time as it passes.

Posts tagged “Miami Heat

2011 NBA Finals Primer

The face-off between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat take on a new meaning when you begin to break down their contrast, similarities and other pertinent statistics. Of course, all these figure are only as good as they are on paper. When they take on each other on Wednesday, none of these stats would matter anymore. Nonetheless, it helps to paint for us a picture of what to expect when the Finals officially tip off in Miami.

Let’s take a look first at their intangible factors coming into the Finals, after which we will tackle their statistical factors:

Hunger

As far as tasting the championship is concerned, it has to be Dallas. They still have yet to exorcise the ghost of their epic meltdown in Game 3 of their 2006 match, which eventually opened up the door for the Heat to win the championship. Since then, the Mavs have not lost to Heat in any of their regular season match-ups in the last five years. That’s a considerable 10-0 streak for Dallas over Miami. But their square-off in the NBA’s grandest stage makes that figure insignificant, as far as their chances of winning in the series are concerned. Still, it tells a lot about Dallas’ hunger to finally win it all. Advantage: Dallas

Talent

Dallas’ system is built on a solid core of veteran starters. They’ve got one of the most serious offensive threats in Dirk Nowitzki, surrounded by a host of skilled offensive options in Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, JJ Barea and Peja Stojakovic. Jason Kidd, at 38, can still break ankles and drop dimes as if he was a decade younger. But whatever advantage they gain with experience, age takes away. This is where Miami’s younger, more athletic line-up overtakes them. Open court, Miami’s Big Three is virtually unstoppable. Their victories over Boston and Chicago in the playoffs have proven they can tackle any defensive ploy set up against them. Give them a small crack in the driving lanes and you’ll see either a slashing LeBron or a Wade crashing into the paint for an understab, lay-up or posterizing dunk. Bosh in the middle gives them a favorable option in the post. And on the defensive end, the return of Udonis Haslem provides Miami a stronger front line of stoppers. Advantage: Miami

Bench

Dallas has tried 22 starting line-ups this season. Their most potent first five was Rodrique Beaubois, Tyson Chandler, Kidd, Nowitzki and Stojakovic. With Caron Butler still out of the season, Dallas can go to Marion, Terry, Barea, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson as the first options off the bench. This second unit has proven to be one of the most potent offensive options in the league. Terry had just tied a three-point shooting record during the playoffs in their series against Dallas, while Marion helped Dirk put up scores during their series against OKC.

With Wade, LeBron and Bosh front lining for Miami, the task of subbing for their roles is a challenge indeed. The other two starters for their best first five are Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mario Chalmers. This gives Miami options like Haslem, Mike Bibby, Erick Dampier, Joel Anthony, James Jones, and Mike Miller. This bench roster features a good offense-defense balance for the Heat, but observing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation habits, only Haslem and Bibby spend a considerable amount of time on the floor. However, Miller and Anthony are more efficient in points-to-minutes played ratio, making viable first options off the bench.

Since both teams’ bench roster cancels out each other in their defensive capabilities, we turn to their offensive firepower. Advantage: Dallas

Crunchtime

Both Dallas and Miami prevailed over their opponents through their end-game playing efficiency. They’ve both managed out of big deficits coming into the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and emerged as winners. Dallas overcame a 15-point deficit against OKC during Game Four of their conference finals, while Miami caught up and overtook a 12-point lead by Chicago during their series-winning game. It will be interesting to watch the Finals right up to the very last millisecond. Advantage: Tie.

Clutch

As always, Dallas has Dirk. And that’s seems to be all there is for Dallas when the game’s stakes go higher in the last five seconds of the game. Miami, on the other hand, has three guys to go to when the clock hits zero. Advantage: Miami.

Prediction:

Miami’s athleticism and talent will be their main weapon to winning this series. Dallas, on the other hand, will have to put up a clinical display of offensive firepower, much like what they showed in their series with LA, if they wish to finally win a championship. Let me go against majority of the predictions. Dallas in 6.


Mavs and Heat Meet Again In NBA Finals

That the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat are back to face each other in the NBA Finals isn’t exactly you would call officially a “rivalry.” Not even “destiny” could be used to describe their arrival at the grandest stage of world basketball. Amidst their various similarities with, and stark contrasts against each other, hardly anyone would buy the idea of fate in bringing together these two franchises back in the last leg of their quests for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Let’s just simply call it an “interesting match-up.”

In my opinion, it will take more than just them facing each other in this season’s Finals to officially dub their match-up as a destined rivalry. They only faced twice in the regular season, and Dallas won both games. But like any other analyst, the outcome of their regular season match-ups hardly have anything to do with how they will be squaring off in the Finals. Truth is, Dallas wasn’t really the  number one bet to take it all the way to the finals. When they entered the Playoffs, the dethroned Los Angeles Lakers were still expected to emerge out of the fray for a third shot at a championship just before Phil Jackson retires. But Dallas overcame their ghosts of playoffs past, and armed with their belief in their own selves, they vanquished the defending champs with a convincing sweep. Facing a younger team in Oklahoma City, Dallas proved that they have earned enough bruises in the past to finally advance again to the Finals for a second time.

On the eastern side of things, everybody was either rooting for Boston, the fitting rival of LA, or Chicago, owner of the best record, MVP in Derrick Rose, and Coach of the Year in Tom Thibodeau. Miami, unfortunately, was nursing hate sentiments against them, thanks to the formation of their own version of a Big Three. But the focus was strong and the will was firm for Miami. Their goal wasn’t to please everyone. They suited up to win a trophy. And that’s exactly what they did. They outclassed the top seeded Bulls, and proved that their time was also now. And even after earning the Finals spot, and still carry the title of “villains”, the Heat are confident that all that will end once they earn the championship.

There’s a lot more to say about this renewed square-off from five years. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry knows more than anyone on their team what they’re playing for. So does Dwayne Wade and Udonis Haslem on the side of the Heat. LeBron James and Jason Kidd have had the same experience of being in the finals and losing (to the same team, actually, the San Antonio Spurs). This time, the chance to earn a championship ring has come for them. One will finally have it, the other will go on still hoping.

An interesting match-up indeed.


Experience Having Its Way In NBA Conference Finals

Both the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are a game away from meeting in the NBA Finals. The last time these teams met were 5 years ago. That was the only year they’ve ever been into the Finals. A rematch, as some would put it. But some prefer another angle of looking at the current conference finals of both East and the West.

Experience prevailing over youthfulness.

The teams the Mavs and Heat are playing–the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls–have the youngest roster among the up and coming teams from both sides of the NBA world. The Bulls have the second-year Derrick Rose, this year’s MVP, while the Thunder have the 22-year old Kevin Durant, the youngest ever to be hailed NBA scoring champion. They are both surrounded by the youngest line-up of starters, benchmen and other role players. They’re mentored by two of the newest coaches to break into the scene–Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks–who were also the last two recipients of the Coach of the Year Award.

All good on paper, a lot would say. But not good enough to challenge their more experienced opponents.

The disparity is most evident during crunch time, when the pressure is high and the stakes are higher. This is where the younger teams scramble for clues on how to solve the heat of the dying minutes of the game. On the other hand, the Mavs and Heat have the pains and stripes of defeats past to help them draw strength and wisdom down the line. That they have both prevailed three games to one against their youth-laden opponents have served proof for their ability to rise to the occasion.

But, in the words of Derrick Rose, the series is far from over.

Chicago and Oklahoma still has three more games to tackle straight if they want to win. Otherwise, they’re gone for the summer.

Youth vs. Experience.

Which one will it be?


The Final Leg: The Conference Finals Square-Off

As of this writing, the Chicago Bulls have drawn first blood with a 103-82 rout of the Miami Heat, while the OKC Thunder just barged into the Western Conference Finals for a duel against the Dallas Mavericks.

Interesting, to say the least.

The Mavs earned their way to the Western finals with a sweep of the defending champs LA Lakers, while the Thunder were pushed to the limit by the Grizzlies with a win-or-die Game 7. The match-up could go either way, actually. Either the long layoff hurts Dallas, or the fatigue Oklahoma. A win by Dallas can ultimately vindicate them after years of disappointment in the playoffs, or a loss will only frustrate them even more. As for Oklahoma, reaching this far is already a franchise achievement even if they eventually fall to Dallas, but nothing short of a ticket to the finals is all Kevin Durant and the rest of the gang are aiming for.

A totally different story plot has taken on a life of its own in the East. The Chicago franchise had a shot at landing Dwyane Wade before the season, but when Wade opted to stay, LeBron pulled off his decision to move to South Beach, and, with Chris Bosh joining the fray, a new big three was born. Fittingly, they dismantled the paradigm big three of the Boston Celtics in five games. The Heat are now a round away from going back to the finals after five years.

If OKC and Chicago prevails in the conference finals, we’re looking at a square-off between two teams with the youngest line-up. A Dallas-Miami rematch will also be an interesting square-off to look forward to.

Things are just beginning to heat up in the NBA.


NBA 2010-2011 Season Opener: Celtics Quench Heat…and then some sidenotes

First games aren’t ordinary games. Ask any player, any coach, or any audience in a jam-packed arena, and he will explain to you how important tip off games are.

Days, even months, before the Miami Heat tackled the Boston Celtics in yesterday’s opening game for NBA 2K11, they were the most hyped up team in the league. Nobody would dare question the reason why–they had just acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Now in possession of three powerhouse players in the league, the Heat seemed poised and prepared to make not just a run, but a slashing run, for the championship crown. Preseason games seemed to indicate all directions going that way. So it looked like a win on opening night was a given when they visited Boston to face the Celtics.

That never happened for Miami.

The Celtics doused Miami’s blazes with an 88-80 win on opening night at the TD Bankworth Garden, with Ray Allen leading the Gang Green with 20 points, while the other starters Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett contributed 19 and 10 respectively. Glen Davis added 13 more off the bench while Rajon Rondo directed the orchestra with 17 assists. Despite LeBron’s 31 points, the Heat was playing catch-up most of the time as the team’s other two marquee players, Wade and Bosh, were sputtering from their spots. Wade shared 13 points for the team, the only other double digit scorer, while Bosh was locked to merely 4 points.

Shaquille O’Neal scored 9 points as a Celtic that night, mostly as a recipient of Rondo’s dime drops.  Marquis Daniels also proved to be another reliable player for the bench with 8 points. Boston’s bench was deeper than that of Miami’s, providing 26 points compared to the Heat’s 21.

While Boston had committed more turnovers than Miami, 15 of their 17 turnovers were committed by either James, Wade or Bosh. On the other hand 15 of the 18 infractions of Boston were from all five starters. Looking at it closely, it seems that the ball rotated more with Boston than it did with Miami. Attesting to this fact are the 25 total assists of Boston, while Miami only had 15.

Miami was also outrebounded by Boston, 34-28. Outside shooting also spelled the difference as Pierce hit 3-of-6 and Allen had 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Celtics also were more efficient with shooting the ball at 46% field goal percentage, while Miami was lower by 10%.

But what twists this story even more puzzling is not this first game, but their respective second games.

Miami just won their game against a relatively undermanned Philadelphia 76’ers. This one seems more plausible and acceptable. But Boston lost their second game of the season. And the team that beat them is… the LeBron-less CLEVELAND CAVALIERS!

Pick your mind with that one!


The 2010 NBA Playoffs: The Predictions So Far…

What has unfolded over the weekend at the NBA Playoffs has pushed me to look back at our fearless forecasts and see which of them still holds.

Lakers vs. Thunder [prediction: Lakers in 5]

This one’s not anymore true, as the Thunder has pushed it so far to a six-game duel. If LA takes the next two games, then the other half of our forecast holds.

Jazz vs. Nuggets [prediction: Nuggets in 6]

Not anymore, it ain’t six games. The undermanned Jazz is in command at 3-1. Denver will have to push for the ultimate jugular by winning the last three games. And if they don’t, our prediction’s busted for this match altogether.

Suns vs. Blazers [prediction: Portland in 7]

With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the only way this prediction fails is if Phoenix aces their next two assignments–assignments that Brandon Roy could foil. His return mixes up all factors into the playoffs, and our forecast might just come through.

Spurs vs. Mavs [prediction: Mavs in 6]

This is the only prediction that I am utterly glad and delighted to be wrong. I’m a big Spurs fan, but at first I really thought the Mavs would be tougher this time around, especially if you look at how last year’s playoff match between them ended. But things have turned out entirely different than our forecasts. Definitely, it won’t be just six games anymore, as the Spurs are ahead 3-1. Dallas will have to win the next three straight games, or their off-season summer officially starts.

Cavaliers vs. Bulls [prediction: Cavaliers in 5]

One more win by the Cavs and our prediction will fully come true. Derrick Rose better pull out his best tricks up from his sleeves, or else their journey ends on the road at Cleveland.

Celtics vs. Heat [prediction: Celtics in 6]

Since they have gone 3-0 already, even before D-Wade took over earlier in their game four atrocity and winning one for the Heat, the Boston Celtics are coming back home for a chance to go for the kill. Unless Miami robs one on the road, the series will end at five games in Boston, for Boston.

Hawks vs. Bucks [prediction: Hawks in 4]

Well, there’ll be no sweep victory for the Hawks in this first round obstacle, as the Bucks bounce back to stay alive in the series. The Hawks are still favored to win this round, but not without facing the fear of the deer.

Magic vs. Bobcats [prediction: Magic in 5]

Definitely, after going up 3-0, Magic will win this series, as no team has bounced back from a 0-3 deficit to win the series. But they will have to fight some more to prove that they did not just fluked their way to the playoffs. One game will at least give them a playoff win, and prove our prediction true.

SO FAR…

Since our predictions are two-part (who wins, and in how many games), we’re quite sure that Orlando and Boston are going into the next round. One more set of duels and we’ll get to see how our forecasts went for the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs.