2011 NBA Finals: Important Observations and Bold Predictions, Game 1

How about basketball, huh? The important games start tonight, and I’m pretty excited. You should be too. Actually, I have more exciting news, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out what that is.

To get you ready for the NBA Finals, I’m going to give you one Super Important Observation about each team, followed by three Bold Predictions for each game. I’ll be making Bold Predictions for every game in this series, so keep an eye out for how accurate I get, and maybe leave your bold predictions in the comments, I’m very interested to see how my readers think this series will shake out.

Important Observations

Miami HeatThis story won’t go reported anywhere, but Eric Spoelstra is winning games for the Heat.

"I'm Eric Spoelstra and I'm better than you give me credit for."

I know that LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Haslem and even Mike Miller have had some pretty remarkable moments in the past few games, but here’s something else to consider: In all of the Heat victories in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls were tied or leading late in the fourth quarter.

There are a couple of things you could take from that. You could think that there are players on the Heat who are just really clutch, but anyone who actually knows sports and isn’t writing about it for money will tell you that clutch isn’t real. Anyone who knows numbers as well as I do will tell you that clutch is not a real thing. Anyone who believes that clutch is real should be demanding something out of superstars who play the whole game at 90% and wait until the final minutes to step on the gas.

What I take from that is that the Heat are making the best adjustments as the game goes on, and it’s winning them games. At the end of those ECF games, we saw a Heat team that knew what Chicago was going to do and had a game plan of their own that the Bulls couldn’t deal with. Maybe it was James guarding Rose. Maybe it was running the offense into Mike Miller. Whatever it was, it worked consistently.

And who gets the credit for this? Maybe the players do. I’m not in those huddles, so I can’t say for sure who is calling the plays and making the adjustments, but I’d bet my money on coach Spo making the majority of these decisions.

NBA media and fans love to hate Spoelstra, but anyone who watched those last 4 Heat/Bulls games will say that at the end of those games, the Heat pulled away from the Bulls because they played together and they brought something that the Bulls weren’t ready to handle.

Dallas MavericksThe Mavs have three of the NBA’s all-time top 10 three-point shooters. And then they have Dirk also.

"They give me this much separation! I know it's crazy, but it takes all five of them to guard Dirk."

In case you didn’t see the Mavs/Lakers series, Dallas is a team that wins games from the three-point line. They shoot and make a bunch of deep shots, and when they aren’t draining threes, they’re getting points inside because no team has versatile-enough bigs to guard that many shooters and still cover the paint.

This team has been put together wonderfully. Sure, you might look at a roster of Jason Kidd (third all-time the three-pointers made), Peja (fourth) and Jason Terry (eighth) and see age. And that’s a reasonable thing to take from this roster. But these three aren’t the main focus of the offense, so it works. Because Dirk is such a challenging player to defend against, it leaves open shots for those three guys. Maybe they’re only contributing one thing, but that one thing is awfully important to the Mavs offense and they don’t need much more.

The problem with trying to defend against the three-ball from those guys is that there aren’t too many players in the Association that can take Dirk one-on-one. In the Mavs/Thunder series, Ibaka and Collison both played fantastic defense on him, only to watch him shoot inhumanly high percentages with two hands in his face. You have to double Dirk, and the lesser of two evils is watching Kidd, Peja and Jet kill you from deep.

I’m interested to see if Miami tries to defend this with James at the 4 to guard Dirk. Marion isn’t a viable offensive threat, so Bosh might be able to guard him, or maybe He would switch to the 5 and three Heat guards would cover the perimeter. I don’t know if Miami wants LeBron playing against the other team’s best offender all game, so maybe they’ll go to that late, like the Rose matchup. A lot could happen in this series, because there really isn’t a good way to defend the Mavs.

Bold Game 1 Predictions

Miami Heat

  • The name “LeBron James” is mentioned on the television broadcast more than three times as often as the next most talked-about player.
  • Haslem guards Dirk more possessions than anyone else.
  • Wade shoots over 50%, but takes fewer than 17 shots.

Dallas Mavericks

  • Dirk is held under 25 points.
  • Terry goes for 30+ points.
  • Chandler grabs 15 rebounds because the Heat bigs can’t recover from playing perimeter defense against Nowitzki.

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