Tuesday, June 6, 2006

nba finals predictions

The first of many that I'll be posting...

Six reasons I'm picking the Mavs - Chris Sheridan, ESPN NBA Insider
posted: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

On this sixth day of the sixth month in the sixth year of the millennium, here are six reasons I am picking the Dallas Mavericks to defeat the Miami Heat in seven games (sorry, not six) in the NBA Finals:

1.The uberstar
There are three players in this series who are unqualified superstars, and the one who is going to be the toughest to defend is Dirk Nowitzki. The Heat will try using Udonis Haslem on him and might switch to James Posey and/or Alonzo Mourning, but Haslem and Mourning are not mobile enough on the perimeter and in isolation situations, and Posey is too short to be effective against the 7-footer. Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade will be tough to guard, too, but Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop have the size to pound with Shaq, and Josh Howard is quick enough on his feet to keep Wade in front of him.

2. The defense
It used to be a clever little joke to refer to Dallas as "Allas" and Dirk as "Irk" (get it? No D). But that moniker no longer fits since Avery Johnson took over, and the lockdown job the Mavericks pulled against the Suns in the second half of Game 6 in the Western Conference finals (holding Phoenix to 42 points) was as stifling as any defense played by any team in the playoffs thus far. The Heat's defensive success against the Pistons was more about Detroit's missing open shots.

3. The speed factor
It'll be interesting to see whether coach Johnson will be able to use the guard tandem of Devin Harris and Jason Terry together -- because it will cause matchup difficulties on the other end -- but when Terry and Harris are out there together, it adds a dimension of quickness Dallas can use to break down Miami's set defenses and create open shots. Look for the Mavs to hold a big edge in fast-break points when all is said and done.

4. The X factor
For the Mavs, that would be Howard, a player seemingly on the verge of a breakout performance in the national spotlight just as Manu Ginobili was a year ago. Dallas is 25-0 when he scores at least 20 points, and he's averaging nearly as many points (17.4) in the playoffs as Terry (17.8). His athleticism should give him the matchup edge over Antoine Walker, and he has been a more accurate shooter from 3-point range than 'Toine.

5. The benches
Dallas' is deeper, with Jerry Stackhouse able to provide scoring, Adrian Griffin and Marquis Daniels able to add defense, Keith Van Horn able to sink 3-point shots, and Dampier and DJ Mbenga (after he returns late in this series from a six-game suspension) able to at least foul Shaq, if not stop him. Miami's reserves are more experienced, but age has reduced the effectiveness of Mourning and Gary Payton. Neither can be counted on to contribute consistently.

6. The home court
I picked this one to go the full seven games, and the support and energy the Mavs receive from their crowd should carry them over the top in the final game. That's what happened in San Antonio last year when the Spurs finished off the Pistons, and I'd expect Dallas to play from ahead in the deciding game and clinch it by pulling away in the fourth quarter behind Nowitzki and Howard. But I also expect the Mavs to have to win both Games 6 and 7 at home because I believe they're going back there trailing 3-2 after Game 5.

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