At long last, Mavs-Heat

Jun 6, 2006 7:56 AM

The NBA Finals are set and after nearly a week of inactivity the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks will meet in a best of seven series to determine this season’s Championship team.

Dallas opened -160 to win the NBA Finals over the Heat. The price seems reasonable considering Dallas enjoys the home court advantage by virtue of the better regular season record and their history against the Heat.

Both franchises are making their initial appearances in the NBA Finals but that does not necessarily mean that previous experience won’t be a factor. Miami has a strong Los Angeles connection with both head coach Pat Riley winning four titles and star center Shaquille O’Neal winning three, each with the Lakers, albeit separately and more than a decade apart.

Known as much for their outspoken owner Mark Cuban as their on court abilities, Dallas was the second best team all season in the much stronger Western Conference and was neck and neck with division rival San Antonio. In coach Avery Johnson’s first full season behind the bench the Mavericks developed a strong defensive presence to complement their offensive prowess of seasons past.

In effect, this edition of the Mavericks is a pretty complete team, with a solid starting five and a good, solid bench. Concern about Miami is legitimate. Against the top three teams in the West (Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio) Miami was 0-6 both straight up and against the point spread. All losses were by at least 7.

Dallas also swept the two games played against Miami last season and is 7-1 in the last eight matchups. That includes both the -Dwyane Wade/Shaq era and the pre dynamic duo.

Ultimately it comes down to an assessment of the talent on both rosters and the overall chemistry exhibited throughout the regular season and playoffs.

Though overshadowed by Miami’s top two performers, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry combined to average nearly 44 points per game. Josh Howard has emerged as an All Star in his own right, displaying a solid all around game. In all, five players averaged double digit points per game and a sixth, Devin Harris, averaged 9.9 per game despite playing less than 23 minutes per game. Miami only had four double digit scorers, led by Wade’s 27.2.

Their regular season road record of 26-15 is significantly better than Miami’s 21-20 and the Mavericks did wrap up Playoff series wins on the road in all three previous series, at Memphis, San Antonio and Phoenix.

Next week we’ll reassess the series after the first two games are in the books. Here’s how we see the early games now.

Game 1: Dallas -5. If the Mavs win the first game, we like Miami +5 in Game 2. If Miami pulls the upset in Game 1, then Dallas -6 in Game 2. Dallas in Game 3 at Miami if not trailing 0-2. UNDER 190 throughout series. The two regular season meetings fell 193 and 188, in sharp contrast to both meetings last season that topped 200. It’s a clear testament to the impact Avery Johnson has had on his Mavs.

Prediction: Dallas in 6.