Five things to watch in the NBA Finals
The moment we've all been waiting for is finally here. The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks will meet in a clash of NBA titans as the NBA Finals tip off Tuesday.
1. Blast from the past
The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks met in the Finals for the first and only time in 2006. The series was a meltdown of epic proportions for the Mavericks, who lost a 2-0 lead. Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki are the only Mavericks left from that squad and will look to erase the bitter taste of defeat from their palate. The Mavericks seem to be out for revenge as they have gone 10-0 against the Heat since that ugly Finals loss. Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade are also the only Heat players left from the 2006 championship squad and they are chasing the sweet memory of lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy.
2. Supporting casts
Nowitzki is undoubtedly the leader of the Mavericks, scoring 28.4 points per game in the playoffs. However, more important than the 7-foot German with a fadeaway jumper is his supporting cast who step up when needed. The versatile crew, which includes J.J. Barea, Peja Stojakovic and Shawn Marion, will create matchup problems. In contrast, the Heat is composed of Chris Bosh, Wade, LeBron James and a gaggle of other guys who don't know their roles as well as Dallas' players. If Miami's role players focus on scoring while all the defensive attention is on the Big Three it would stretch the court and wreak havoc on the Mavericks' defensive scheme.
3. Silent treatment
The NBA's most outspoken owner, Dallas' Mark Cuban, has gone mute. No, he doesn't have a sore throat. He has decided not speak to the media during the series, taking attention off his mouth and focusing it on his team. In the 2006 NBA Finals, Cuban was fined $250,000 for an on-court rant and irate postgame comments, which included shots at referees. Following the incident, Nowitzki suggested Cuban tone down his antics, which sometimes work against the team. Now that the Mavericks have a second chance at the title, Cuban is taking Nowitzki's advice. The fun part about Cuban's self-imposed silent treatment will be watching his face turn Miami Heat red on the sideline and guessing when he will break.
4. Mixed emotions
James' exodus from Cleveland was all about seizing the opportunity to advance to the Finals and win. His controversial "Decision" from last summer created as many James haters as followers. Look for the blogosphere to explode with talk of how James, 26, deserves to win a title after taking his destiny into his own hands and escaping the grasp of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Others will call for James' downfall, because he displayed no loyalty to a city that loved him. The battle of opinions about James potentially winning a title should be just as heated as the on-court play.
5. Cocky or confident
According to USA Today, Terry got a tattoo of the Larry O'Brien trophy on his right biceps last October. The intent of the ink was to send the message to his teammates that they had a real chance of getting to the Finals and winning the title. Terry even left space on the tattoo to fill in the date of the championship. If the Mavericks don't win, Terry said he will have it removed. To some Heat players, the tattoo could be viewed as a bit of cockiness and, they could be thinking about sending Terry to a tattoo removal specialist very soon.