NBA Finals Editorial: So here we stand
The 2006 NBA Playoffs have been absolutely spectacular to say the least, and we havenít even witnessed the Finals yet.
Thereís a new flavor in the NBA, which in my opinion, is much more appealing and exciting to watch. No more 162 point over/under bets for the Finals will be on the boards at the sportsbooks in Vegas.
This time around, we have the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat both going at it as virgins on the NBAís ultimate stage. Both of these teams provide great entertainment which is conveyed through sick athletic ability, tremendous overall talent, a 7-footer that has the sweetest shot in the league, and the 8th wonder of the world, Shaquille OíNeal.
This is exactly what America wants to see and exactly what David Stern was hoping for back in November when the season began while we all had Detroit and San Antonio battling it out.
Itís not news to anyone that the ratings for the NBA Finals have drastically dipped since the end of the Bullsí and MJís dynasty from the 90s. The lowest rating ever, which was 6.5, came in 2003 when the Spurs defeated the Nets. So you have something to compare that to, the Bulls/Jazz series in 1998 had a rating of 18.7. Last yearís Finals between San Antonio and Detroit came in at 8.2.
The Mavs and Heat will get ratings back into double digits. Shaquille OíNeal is gunning for his first title without Kobe. Dwyane Wade wants to flash his bling at Lebron before their first meeting next season. Pat Riley, who has coached as many Finals games as Avery Johnson has coached regular season games, is seeking credit on the GM and coaching level. Dirk Nowitzki has proven to be among the NBAís elite.
The bottom line is that you have Shaq, D Wade, Dirk, and oh yeah, Mark Cuban. Ok, enough of what America wants to see, letís break this thing down.
Nobody on the Heat, let alone anyone in the NBA, can stop Nowitzki. Heís had Bruce Bowen and Shawn Marion try to stop him already and that obviously didnít work. Look for Udonis Haslem and James Posey (plus help) attempt to contain Dirk. The flipside to this is Shaq. Avery Johnson will rotate DeSagana Diop, Erick Dampier and Keith Van Horn on Shaq.
If Dallas can manage to force OíNeal into foul trouble as well as Chicago did in the 1st round, this series will be over quick. With the way Avery Johnson has Dallas playing, it wouldnít be a surprise if that happened. Even if they cannot stop the Diesel, does it really matter? Did the Mavs stop Tim Duncan? No! Dirk, Howard, and Terry are going to the basket much more in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. Devin Harris also has the habit of darting to the hole.
For Dallas, Dwyane Wade poses a major threat, but isnít at the level where Dirk and Shaq are in terms of not being able to be stopped. Josh Howard will have his work cut out on D-Wade. The X-factor is the series is going to be Jason Terry. Heís hit so many clutch shots throughout the playoffs and has been Dirkís right hand man. Terry has definitely earned the confidence from his teammates and from Avery Johnson. His capability of the long range jumper and getting to the basket will break down Miami, and again, quite possibly attribute to Shaquille getting into foul trouble.
With all the experience Pat Riley has, you would think he would quite easily out coach the young Avery Johnson. This isnít true. Avery won the Coach of the Year Award for many reasons. He turned an offensive minded NBA basketball team into a team that works on both sides of the floor in less than one season. Sometimes not simultaneously, but Averyís tactics have proven to be successful. Reference game 6 vs. Phoenix when Dallas froze the Suns with their defense in the 2nd half. Avery Johnson has a better combination of weapons to throw at the Heat, realizes that, and will use them when needed.
Iím taking Dallas in 6 and Dirkís the MVP. Sure, it doesnít sound like a bold prediction, but is there such thing as one in this series? A sweep would be bold, but not realistic.
Enjoy this series, itís just about guaranteed to be a great one and will entertain all that watch.
Ok, timeís up, I have to translate this whole thing to German now.
For comments or questions, please e-mail me at markNBAgundersen@yahoo.com