While all of the hype surrounds Dirk Nowitzki — and for good reason — many forget about Chris Bosh‘s monster postseason. He’s fresh off carving up a Bulls defense widely regarded as the best in the league to the tune of 23.2 points and 7.6 boards on 60 percent shooting from the field and 91 percent from the line.
If I’m Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, I make Bosh the focal point offensively. Getting him going early on in this series will be important because his confidence drives his game. He doesn’t have a short memory when he’s not playing well. While Dirk is dominant on the offensive end, he doesn’t possess the lateral quickness to stay with Bosh and I sense the Dirk-Bosh matchup will be a mismatch on both sides.
Tyson Chandler is one of the league’s elite defensive centers and will likely match up with Joel Anthony to start. The 7’1″ Chandler has averaged 9.4 rebounds in just over 30 minutes a night in this playoffs. He can be a terror on the glass and it’s imperative Anthony bodies him up. He’s also a force in help defense situations at the rim.
Expect Udonis Haslem to match up with both Nowitzki and Chandler during spurts. Although Dirk is a much more complete player since the ’06 Finals, Haslem played a big role in limiting him to just 39 percent shooting from the floor. His physical style gives Dirk a much different look than that of Bosh or Anthony.
The Mavericks boast one of the best defenders in the league in Shawn Marion, who will presumably be matching up with LeBron James. Getting LeBron plenty of touches from the post will go a long way as Marion’s 230-pound frame can’t handle his strength inside.
Jason Kidd will likely be on Dwyane Wade for the crucial stretches of the game. He’s one of the league’s better on-ball defenders and his ability to be physical without fouling from the perimeter is a big reason for that. Look for Wade to attack him away from the ball, off quick curls and back cuts to force the elderly, much slower Kidd to play chase.
DeShawn Stevenson is a quality defender at shooting guard, but he’s so atrocious offensively (27% FG) he won’t see many minutes in crunch time.
A vastly underrated facilitator off the Mavericks bench is guard J.J. Barea. The fact they list him at 6 feet is a joke, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with sensational quickness and energy. Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby will have to show some discipline defending him or he will light them up at the point of attack.
Jason Terry has been shooting the lights out at 46 percent a clip from downtown in the playoffs and is easily Dallas’ second most dangerous player on the offensive end. However, he is not without shortcomings. His defense is iffy and Miami will look to exploit him off the dribble. Terry’s rebounding is downright embarrassing. Despite averaging over 33 minutes in the Thunder series, he pulled down more than one rebound in just one of five games.
Dallas likes to mix up their defense with zone which could mean some playing time for James Jones (46% from three in ’11 playoffs), who played just two minutes over the Heat’s last four games. He has been limited with a toe injury but will be available.
- According to Hoop Data, in matchups against the Blazers and Thunder there was an interesting trend regarding the Mavericks’ long range shooting. Against Portland, they shot 45 percent from three in the first three games but shot just 31 percent in the following three games. Against Oklahoma City, they 39 percent in game one, but just 28 percent the rest of the way. This trend wasn’t present against the Lakers and their cement-footed perimeter players. This could directly correlate to the age of their shooters with Nowitzki, Stojakovic, Terry, and Kidd taking a combined 74 percent of their shots from three. All are 32 or older, so keep an eye on this as the series progresses.
Is it possible?
- I’ve been thinking for some time about how to slow down an offensive machine like Dirk. All thoughts end up leading towards LeBron defending him, especially when the game is on the line. It will be fascinating to see whether he gets doubled or they simply throw LeBron on an island in flat out denial in a face-guard situation. LeBron may be the only player in the league with the quickness, length, and strength to deny Dirk from touching the ball altogether. If he can dominate Dirk defensively as he did Derrick Rose, he is hands down the most versatile defender in NBA history, if he hasn’t already taken that title.
- Heat: Chris Bosh. Bosh has an advantageous matchup offensively on Dirk.
- Mavs: J.J Barea. While he doesn’t get much credit, Barea is a difference maker with the ball in his hands.
- Who defends Dirk in crunch time? All signs point to LeBron and his freakish ability to defend anyone on the court.
- Can Dallas keep Miami’s Big Three out of the lane and off the line? Can anyone?
- Will Wade’s shooting woes continue? Wade’s 41 percent shooting against Chicago was very uncharacteristic of his career playoff numbers. Was it an anomaly or is there something physically wrong there?
Did You Know?
- Dallas guard Jason Terry boasts a tattoo of the Larry O’Brien Trophy on his right bicep. He says he will get it removed if they don’t win the championship this year. As if losing to the Heat in the Finals for the second time won’t be agonizing enough, I hear getting tattoos removed is more painful then getting them.
Teams win rings with two-way players — guys who can positively impact a game on both ends of the floor — and Miami has plenty of them. Dallas has too many specialists to hang with them for an entire series. Miami’s defensive versatility will slow Dirk’s efficiency down and keep him in that low 40th percentile range. Dirk has to go “06 D-Wade” on the Heat for the Mavs to have a prayer. That said, for the second time in five years the Mavs will come up short against the Heat in the big one.
Heat in 5