Heat guard Dwyane Wade tries to split the defense of Mavericks center Tyson… (Matthew Emmons / US Presswire )
MIAMI VS. DALLAS
2. MIAMI 58-24
First round: def. Philadelphia, 4-1
Second round: def. Boston, 4-1
Third round: def. Chicago, 4-1
3. DALLAS 57-25
First round: def. Portland, 4-2
Second round: def. Lakers, 4-0
Third round: def. Oklahoma City, 4-1
Season series: Dallas, 2-0.
Key stat: Mike Bibby, Mike Miller and James Jones, who averaged a combined 3.9 three-point baskets in March, averaged 1.6 in the Eastern Conference finals.
Outlook: The Heat may be better at full strength but hasn't been there lately with its shooters iced over.
The Mavericks may have looked lame in April when 38-year-old Jason Kidd shot 27%, but with the extra rest in the playoffs, he's at 40% in the postseason, with five days off before this series.
As matchups go, this is unexpected but interesting.
Miami is thin, Dallas as deep as it gets.
However, Miami has an unstoppable superduperstar (LeBron James) and one who's close when healthy, though he looked as if he was hiding an injury, staggering around in the East finals (Dwyane Wade).
If this is the best Dirk Nowitzki we've even seen, a West coach says there's a way to play him:
Put a smaller player on him, crowd him to the max and make him drive.
Once that could turn Nowitzki off like a light switch, as in 2007 when he won the most-valuable-player award, then shot 38% in the first-round loss to Golden State.
Now he takes smaller guys to the foul line and shoots over them ... so after making him drive — almost invariably left — you run a second man at him, at which point he will usually throw the ball to someone you'd rather see shoot it (the difference between Nowitzki and James or Kobe Bryant, who make plays off the dribble.)
Whatever Miami lacks, as it showed against Derrick Rose, it's great at executing a defensive game plan.
Prediction: If Bibby, Miller and Jones combine to average 2.5 threes, Miami.
Since my guess is they won't, Dallas.