2011 NBA FINALS -- Mavericks vs. Heat: The Preview

2011 NBA FINALS -- Mavericks vs. Heat: The Preview

Charles Barkley is 3-0 picking the Mavericks in playoff series this spring. ESPN's Bruce Bowen is 0-3 picking against them.

Me? 2-1. I picked Mavs over Blazers and Thunder but had them losing to the Lakers.

In Miami for tonight's Game 1 of the NBA Finals, I'm having difficulty viewing this series with my heart instead of my head. Can't stand Dwyane Wade and his dramatic faking. Didn't like LeBron's "The Decision" and I'll never forget what happened here in 2006.

Different year. Different teams.

Same result?

POINT GUARD -- At tip-off tonight Jason Kidd (38) will be the oldest guard to ever play in the NBA Finals. If Mike Bibby were the same player who gave Dallas fits as a Sacramento King, this might be a toss-up. Edge: Mavericks.

SHOOTING GUARD -- Much as I despise him, Wade is an amazing player. He can change and win games with jump-shooting, acrobatic drives to the hoop or with his defense. DeShawn Stevenson gets the chore of guarding Wade and probably also James in this series. Good luck. Edge: Heat.

SMALL FORWARD -- Shawn Marion is versatile. LeBron James is the best player in this series. Edge: Heat.

POWER FORWARD -- Chris Bosh can give Dirk trouble with his size -- 6-10 -- long arms and athleticism. And he can shoot out to 18 feet. But Dirk scored 26 and 23 on him in the regular-season meetings and he's been better than ever in the playoffs. Edge: Mavericks.

CENTER -- Tyson Chandler will be important as usual because Wade and James will get to the rim. If he can stay out of foul trouble he can help out defensively because Miami's Joel Anthony is an offensive afterthought. Edge: Mavericks.

BENCH -- Forget about it. Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea give the Mavs production and variety off the bench. Miami has been bolstered by the return of Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller arrived with one good game in the East Finals. But this is a mismatch. Edge: Mavericks.

COACHING -- Erik Spoelstra's main move is standing waaay out on the court during the game. A ref will bump into him at some point in this series. Book it. Rick Carlisle, meanwhile, has had a fantastic postseason. During this series expect a heavy dose of Carlisle's zone defense to limit Miami's athletic drives to the hoop. Edge: Mavericks.

INTANGIBLES -- Since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 Finals format in 1985 the home team has won 77 percent of the series. That said, the Mavs have been the league's best road team the last two seasons. This year in the playoffs they are 5-1 away from AAC. I also cherish redemption over pride and ego. The Mavs are playing for revenge; the Heat for personal agendas. Edge: Mavericks.

PREDICTION -- I've loved how the Mavs have handled success in these playoffs. Calm and cool, like a veteran, mature team carrying a briefcase instead of waving pom poms. Of the Mavs' nine-man rotation, seven players are 30 or older and Dirk and Peja and Kidd and Terry and Carlisle are all fueled by playoff failures. Dallas is the best 3-point shooting team in the playoffs and Miami's 3-point defense is the worst in the postseason. If the Mavs can play transition defense like they did against OKC and hit their open treys, they'll win this thing. Mavs in 6.

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