Wednesday, June 07, 2006

And then there were two...

All right, 1 out of 2 predictions isn't all that bad. Who wouldn't be happy hitting 50% of their shots from the field or in Shaq's case, 50% from the free throw line.

First off, before analysis and predictions on the NBA finals, I need to get a couple things off my chest. There are the two things that I absolutely hate the most about the NBA Finals schedule.

1) The 2-3-2 format for home games. How do you go the entire playoffs doing the 2-2-1-1-1 scheduling and then all of the sudden change it around in the finals? I never liked it when the Bulls were running teams off the court in the 90s and I still don't like it today.

2) What will it take to have games back to back or atleast every other day? Playing on Thursday and then not again until Sunday with no travel time needed is flat out ludicrous.

Ok....now I feel better. On to the games at hand.

First off the matchups as I forsee them. Of course this may change throughout the series, but I will start with what best fits positionwise.

Josh Howard vs Antoine Walker
I give Walker one game to shine and actually show up to play and the rest of the time that guy will be MIA for MIA. Josh Howard is going to become the biggest x-factor of this series. His ability to mesh perfectly as second fiddle to Dirk will be a big difference maker. The lack of defensive effort by Walker may cause all kinds of headaches for the Heat if Shaq ever gets in foul trouble.
Edge: Howard

Dirk Nowizki vs Udonis Haslem
Who knows if this will really be the matchup, but if Pat Riley had any braincells left under that oiled up do' then he will need to put a big physical body on Dirk from the get go. From everything proven so far, Dirk has the all-around game that can carry the Mavs and drive the opposing coach out of his mind. He is going to get his points, but the key for Miami is to make him earn them. Atleast Haslem can body Dirk up and force him into the outside shot. If that is not falling then he will be forced to drive and that can cause problems with bigs like Shaq and Alonzo Mourning waiting in the wings as backup. Expect big games and Dirk but he is going to have to earn every bit of it. Haslem on the other hand is going to have to continue to assume his role player position. Get your points where you can and be the rebounding machine that you should be.
Edge: Nowitzki

Diop vs O'Neal
I call this section "The Education of DeSagana Diop" (I needed the help of NBA.com to even get the spelling of his name right). Diop has been nothing short of a major underacheiver in his first 3 years in the league only to finally start to blossom with a new team and system. His primary goal should be to do what he can to go toe to toe with the Diesel and use all 6 of his fouls wisely. Up to this point Shaq seems to be on autopilot for a majority of the playoffs. He will get his typical 20 and 10 plus...just what is to be expected of a big big man on the downside of his career. The Heat will still lean on him to carry them on the court from time to time, but the less they have to force it into him the better. Shaq always seems to excell when he lets the flow of the game come to him around the basket.
Edge: O'Neal

Harris vs Wade
The slightly taller and bulkier (which is not saying much) of the 2 PG starting lineup for the Mavs should get first crack and Wade. Dwyane Wade (I got that spelling right all on my own) is the all-everything player that will need to elevate his game even higher on the games biggest stage. He will ultimately be the one guy for the Heat that controls the game in every aspect. If he can shoot over Harris or take him to the rack then he will need to do that. If he gets the double team, and I assure you that he will see plenty of that, then he needs to distribute the ball to the open man. Devin Harris on the other hand will not be expected to do much on the offensive end aside from his primary ballhandling. This is not a knock on him by any means, but his main focus will have to be on the defensive side of the court.
Edge: Wade

Terry vs Williams
It only took him 6 years, but finally Jason Williams has learned to play the PG position the right way. He runs when he can and now knows when it is best to slow things down and get the team into the offense. His outside shot has improved and he may see plenty of chances when Wade gets double teamed. As long as he continues to play within the flow of the game then he will be just fine. Terry on the other hand is more of the gunner who will do what he can to create his own shots. He is settling into his spot as an undersized SG and pulling it off pretty well so far. He emerges as the best outside threat aside from Dirk and if he can put up 20 a game then that will be a major factor in the outcome of the series.
Edge: Even

Bench
Both teams have had plenty of time to setup their substitution patterns and they have worked well up to this point. With veterans galore on both benches, a couple of games will come down to who from the bench can step up when needed. Jerry Stackhouse has put aside his previous malcontent ways and has been a big spark for Dallas. James Posey has also continued his role as a sub off the bench who can come in and hit the big 3-ball when it is needed most. Gary Payton is a shell of what he once was but can still play some solid minutes to spell J-Will when he needs the rest and Zo' has been doing a solid job up to this point in atleast clogging the middle and keeping the slashers out of the lane.
Edge: Mavericks

Johnson vs. Riley
Pat Riley is the crafty veteran versus the rookie in Avery Johnson. So far in the playoffs there has not been a better coach and in-game adjustments than Johnson. It seems like every move that he has made has turned to gold for the Mavericks. The big questions is can he find a little more of that magic to carry them to the title? Much like his center, Pat Riley seems to have been coasting his way through the playoffs up to this point. That will have to end now if he hopes to add another chanpionship ring to his collection.
Edge: Even

Now for the predistion. This is just the series that ABC has dreamed about getting. No more stale matchups like the Spurs and Pistons. I don't forsee any reason to believe that this one will be a knock down and drag em out 7 game series. I say Mavericks in 7. I can't wait to see footage of Mark Cuban making out with the Larry O'Brien trophy.

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