Thursday, June 08, 2006

NBA Finals = a prediction that won't be right (completely)

Here is the thing: The Monk believes that the key to winning basketball is controlling tempo. Assuming that neither of the two teams shoots lights out or, conversely, couldn't hit water off a bridge, then the team that is more within its comfort zone has an advantage.

Conventional wisdom (a phrase that is almost always 1/2 right!) says the Heat will beat the Mavs: (1) Heat have Shaq, the 3-time NBA Finals MVP, a Hall of Fame player; (2) Heat have Pat Riley, the 4-time NBA champion coach; (3) the Heat beat the Pistons (and relatively easily); (4) the Heat annihilated the Nets, a well-balanced up-tempo team.

The Monk says, it's a matter of tempo. And Mavs in 6.

Here's why:

(1) The tempo factor: Avery Johnson has transformed a run-and-gun team into one that can play at any speed. The Mavs can speed up slow-pace teams, as they did to San Antonio; the Mavs can slow down fast-pace teams, as they did to Phoenix. The Heat are a slow-pace team that was more than a match for Detroit because the Pistons are similar in style.

(2) The driving factor: The Mavs have better feet -- from Jason Terry to Stackhouse, Nowitzki, Harris and Howard, the Mavs are quicker than the Heat at nearly every position. That is crucial in a half-court set and is a major reason the Mavs easily won both games against the Heat this year. The Mavs can make the Heat's older and slower players (Shaq, Walker) move around defensively and take away offensive energy. Detroit couldn't do that because it had no inside scoring threat. Dallas' quickness enables it to blow the doors off any team in the league -- it beat Miami by 36, Detroit by 37, Indiana and San Antonio by 22, the Nets by 33, Denver by 24, Sacramento and Memphis by 26, and the Clippers by 20 -- that's 9 playoff teams that the Mavs whupped badly.

(3) Ball movement: unlike the Pistons, the Mavs drive to the basket, cause defensive movements, kick the ball outside and run a relatively fluid offense for an NBA team. In other words, they're akin to the Bulls, who gave the Heat FITS in the first round, but with better players.

(4) Best player factor: The Monk is a strong believer in this -- the team with the best player on the floor always has an advantage. Shaq is 34 and has lost more than just A step. The best player on the floor is Dirk Nowitzki, no matter how much Dw(ay)ne Wade hype you hear in the next week.

(5) Underestimation: Avery Johnson must be the most underestimated coach of the year in the last 25 years. All that Dallas has done under his leadership is win at a championship rate. Don't fool yourself -- he adjusted to the Spurs' tactics in game 1 and Dallas controlled the rest of the series (the fact that it went the full seven is a testament to the Spurs' ability, and a knock on Terry for getting suspended for game 6); he adjusted to Phoenix both between games (1 and 2) and in games (2 and 6) and the Mavs won that series. He can lead, but he can also coach.

(6) Battle testing -- the Heat went 52-30 against the East and even accounting for their tepid start (10-10), their record doesn't come close to the Mavs' 60 wins in the vastly more competitive Western Conference.

(7) Depth -- the Mavs bench contributes points (Stackhouse, Harris [if he doesn't start], Van Horn), rebounds and defense. This is simply a solid team through the first 9 men.

There you have it, reasons the Mavs win. I'm hoping I'm right.

[Sent to the traffic jam]

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