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NBA Finals: Rebounding Is The Key

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/02/2011

It’s still a big man’s game in the NBA. The Pistons won the NBA title in 2004 with a commitment to defense, rebounding and team play. Boston did it in 2008 with the same formula, adding Kevin Garnett, and the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Bulls had great postseason runs this year with the same attack the glass strategy.
Having a dominant low post player is a rare commodity, much like having an ace pitcher in baseball. The 2011 NBA Finals will be interesting as Miami has 6-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 Udonis Haslem. Bosh is more finesse, a bit on the skinny side at 235-pounds, while Haslem is hard working but undersized. They got the job done against the Bulls, after getting killed on the glass in Game 1, but the Dallas Mavericks present a very different challenge.
The Mavs have three 7-footers in Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Haywood to throw at the Miami frontcourt. That’s going to put more pressure on LeBron and Dwyane Wade to score, which they’ve been able to do well this far.
It’s also a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, a series Dallas was up 2-0 and should have won, but Miami won four close games in a row. Jason Terry and Nowitzki are the only holdovers from the 2006 Mavericks; Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are the only guys remaining on the Heat. Both teams have changed coaches and playing styles, too. The Mavericks are 19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 games as a road underdog and 41-20-2 ATS in their last 63 road games.
The Heat is not nearly as deep as the Mavericks, and the depth that the Mavericks have is a bit better to the Heat's. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers haven't been very productive, Mike Bibby has been marginal. Mike Miller is a nice three-point threat, but is only playing 10 minutes a game in the postseason and averaging 2.2 points. It’s clear Miami intends to ride the Big 3. The Heat is 10-22 ATS in their last 32 games playing on 3 or more days rest, which will be the case for Game 1, while the road team is 19-7-1 ATS in the last 27 meetings between these teams.
So many bettors look strictly at stats for everything. While stats can indeed tell us a lot, there is far more to the wagering puzzle. Stats can tells us how many points an NBA team allows during the regular season, but can that accurately project how many they will then give up in the playoffs? Many teams clamp down much harder in the playoffs with so much at stake. Matchups, too, make a difference, which will be fascinating for the Finals. Who will guard Dirk? Who will guard LeBron. Whoever it is, good luck!
Experience is another intangible that is difficult to quantify statistically. The Celtics and Lakers have been loaded with experience the last four years, winning three titles between them and having two other teams that got to the Finals and lost.
For 2011, both the Heat and Mavericks have a lot of experienced players. The Heat won the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday at United Center with an 83-80 victory against the Bulls, a fierce defensive effort. The Heat shot just 33.3 percent in the third quarter but managed to outscore Chicago 19-17, then won it with a late charge. The same kind of late charge Dallas has had several times in the playoffs. Dallas can play defense, 10th in the NBA in points allowed during the regular season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them push the pace with their depth and offensive ability. That would be a change, too, after Miami just played two slow-down series against Boston and Chicago. And they have gone 8-3 over the total in the last 11 meetings in Miami. Enjoy the Finals (and it’s about time!)

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