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NBA Finals Preview
by Al McMordie - 06/07/2006
We are down to the Final two! The NBA Finals will see a first time champion, too. The interesting part about this series will be youth versus experience, and tempo. Shaquille O'Neal just turned 34 and his minutes are more limited than at any time in his career. Head coach Pat Riley brings a team into the Finals for the first time since 1994 when he was with the Knicks. He last won as coach in 1988 with the Lakers. Throw in veterans Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning, and Miami is a roster of old stars.
Fortunately they have one young star in the remarkable Dwyane Wade. Wade torched a supposedly great Pistons defense, shooting 61.7 percent. And one game he had the flu! Wade averaged 26.7 points, with 5.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.83 steals and 1.5 blocks against Detroit. Jason Terry and Josh Howard have the quickness to stay with Wade, so that defensive matchup is going to be critical.
Miami is not a good three-point shooting team, but they shot just under 48% from the field, second best in the NBA, and Shaq is still a force in the low post (just like the Pistons' Wallaces). Miami went 2-12 against division leaders during the regular season and lost twice to Dallas, but they are the healthiest they've been all season. Miami is only 25-24 SU on the road and 4-17 SU, 9-12 ATS as an underdog.
While Miami is full of old pros, Dallas is a relatively young team, with speed and quickness as an edge. The Dallas defense will be tested by Wade's quickness and Shaq's girth in the middle. Expect to see a rotation on Shaq, led by 280-pound Dallas Center DeSagana Diop. Dallas is 40-9 SU, 26-22 ATS at home, and 31-18 SU on the road. Dallas is even 9-8 SU, 12-5 ATS as an underdog.
Dallas hammered Miami twice this season. In the first meeting, Dallas won 103-90 at Miami with Shaq sitting out. Dallas shot 50% that game, while Wade shot 7-of-19 and was just 0-for-3 from long range. In the second meeting, Dallas won 112-76 at home shooting 56%! Shaq played that game, getting 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, but Wade was 6-of-13 for 16 points. DeSagana Diop played 12 minutes and picked up 4 fouls, though it didn't matter as Dallas nailed 11-of-16 three-pointers. Diop played 12 minutes in the first meeting and picked up 3 fouls and 2 rebounds.
Tempo will be huge. Miami slowed the pace down against Detroit and dominated, playing great defense and still shooting for a high percentage. Dallas is younger with great quickness, so they will look to go uptempo, as they did during the regular season against Miami, scoring 103 and 112 points. Miami will do everything possible to not go uptempo.
If this series comes down to three-point shooting, Dallas has a significant edge. Miami is not strong from long range, while Dallas ranked #8 shooting 37 percent from long range. In fact, in the two meetings this season, Dallas made 19-of-34 three pointers, while Miami made 2-of-20 treys!
Dallas is 25-0 this season when forward Josh Howard scores at least 20 points. "We're fearless, never going to back down no matter what the score is," said Howard. Hang on, this should be an entertaining series, not only on the court, but on the clipboards with Avery Johnson and Pat Riley matching chess moves. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.