Sometimes, the Bad Guys Win

Get used to the image of James driving past the Mavericks: the Heat will win in five games. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Miami Heat will beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games to win the NBA Championship. I know I usually write some kind of introduction before making such assertions. A joke in which I call Chris Bosh a turdasaurus rex, a veiled WWII reference regarding Dirk Nowitzki, a discussion of how LeBron James’s “Decision” showed a degree of ego so large that no amount of talent can forgive it. You know, something to show that while I’m a Heat believer, I’m not a Heat fan.

Sorry, friends. Not happening. Because while I agree Bosh is a B+ (at best) player riding better players’ coattails, and I also agree that Nowitzki looks like he should be fighting Grendel, and I even agree that James isn’t doing much social good with the opportunities presented to him, I won’t sugar coat my unwavering belief that the Heat will win the Finals convincingly.

No matter which team had home-court advantage, I’d still pick Miami in six. The Heat are unbeaten at the American Airlines Arena. Dallas has shown some resiliency in these playoffs, having won their last five road games, including one in overtime. But that ends in Miami. Meanwhile, the Mavericks lost a home game to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It may be a difference of just one game, but that one game showed a crack that the Heat can break through. Miami sweeps the first two games, goes 1-2 on the road, then wraps it up on the home court.

Miami, simply put, has more weapons than Dallas has. Nowitzki may be averaging 28.4 points per game, no. 2 in the playoffs and higher than any one Heat player. The key words being “any one.” Because the Big Three are combining for 68.3 points per games. That’s 40 more points per game. Forty! Where will that extra offense comes from? Jason Terry might give you something, but not much. And he’ll have to keep up with Dwyane Wade and the suddenly explosive Mike Miller, who’s given the Heat a deep scoring threat off the bench.

The Heat’s only vulnerabilities have been at point guard and in the post. Before he dislocated an elbow (and after to a lesser extent), Rajon Rondo had his way with the Heat. Before he choked, Chicago’s Derrick Rose was doing the same. In the post, Kevin Garnett abused Bosh at times, and Luol Deng also enjoyed some success.

Nowitzki will destroy Bosh at power forward. It will be comical how incompetent Bosh will look trying to shut down Nowitzki 1-on-1. So the Heat will double-team him. James is dangerous in front of his mark, but he’s equally dangerous from behind. He sneaks up behind shooters, reads their shooting techniques, then times his jump perfectly to swat the pass away. Expect James to knock the ball out of Nowitzki’s hands at least a half-dozen times across the series.

The 2-on-1 won’t cancel the Mavericks’ advantage at power forward, but it will keep Dallas from sustaining long scoring runs. Miami is the far superior rebounding team, especially on defense, and it will hold Dallas to single-shot possessions. At point guard, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea will give Dallas poise and not much else. Barea will get eaten alive by the bigger and stronger Heat players. Kidd is 38. ‘Nuff said.

Aside from the Mavericks simply not having enough to beat the Heat, Miami’s players possess two traits that make them impossible to beat four times:

1) Physical strength.

2) Cold-blooded focus.

The Heat are a fantastic late-game team. All they have to do is stay close (not necessarily ahead) and then they win in the final five minutes (or, as last night showed, the final two minutes). Against the Celtics, James and Wade simply ran their opponents into the ground. Boston ran out of legs trying to cover the Heat, and the Celtics were dominated in the last few minutes of every game but Game 3. It takes so much energy to contain players like Wade and James, and the Celtics ran out of it. James, Wade and Bosh all average close to (or in James’s case over) 40 minutes a game, and they’re as strong in the final four as they are in the first four. Very few players (especially older ones) can sustain their intensity the way the Heat’s Big Three do, and that gives Miami an advantage.

“But Matt,” you’re asking, “the Bulls weren’t an old team. How did they lose in five games?” Focus. No, the Bulls didn’t lose because they were exhausted. They lost because they tightened up. Rose and especially Joakim Noah lost their rhythm in the late minutes of their games. Instead of trying to win, they tried not to lose. You could see the skittishness in their play. Balls would hit Noah in the hands and bounce away. Rose would take even more unnecessarily difficult paths to the basket than he usually does. Bulls would get trapped in double-teams along the sidelines. The Heat, meanwhile, remained calm and loose. They scored on offense because they have fantastic clutch shooters. Then they waited for the Bulls to mess themselves up on the other end. It worked every time after Game 1.

To win this series, the Mavericks would need 48 uninterrupted minutes of high-intensity, high-focus basketball. They can’t do it. They’ll win once, but that’s it.

The Heat’s Big Three will reign supreme. Bad guys win.

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