On Tuesday night the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks face off in the 2011 NBA Finals.
The Heat last won a title in 2006, while the Mavericks have never won one. This promises to be an epic match-up, with the pressure on the Miami Heat to win from the media and the numerous celebrities who occupy South Beach as their happy hunting ground.
Alex Ferguson has some questions about what promises to be a thrilling best-of-seven-games match-up....
Who have the finalists beaten to get there?
Although we've been constantly picking the Miami Heat to get through to the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks have certainly surprised. To get to the 'Greatest Show On Basketball Earth', the Mavs beat away the charging Portland Trail Blazers in six games, thrashed the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0, and overcame the threat of Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder by winning in five. On the other hand, the Miami Heat came by all of its three series victories in five games, which included series wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, the 2011 NBA Finalists Boston Celtics, and the Chicago Bulls and the NBA's Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose.
Lebron James doesn't particularly mind how hated the Heat now are - because that's what comes with success. And he's got the chance to show it.
Quotes of the week
Who's got home field advantage?
If the series goes to a seventh game, the Miami Heat will be playing the decider at home. And that's going to be some advantage, considering that the Heat are yet to be beaten at home in front of their 19,000-or-so white-clad fans at American Airlines Arena. Dallas aren't horrible on the road though - remember they've slaughtered Kobe and Kevin in successive series.
Who are the key players for the Heat?
It's fairly obvious that all the press is going to be about the Heat, who have three of the NBA's best players in Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. In the series against the Bulls, Bosh came alive, racking up 116 points (he was second-top scorer behind James, who had 129). For James, it'll be the chance for him to make good on his wish to go to South Beach to win Championships, after his televised decision to leave Cleveland for Florida created so many fans all over the basketball world. He doesn't particularly mind how hated the Heat now are - because that's what comes with success. And he's got the chance to show it. And there has been some worry about Dwayne Wade's health, but he's insisted he's fine. Oh, and watch out for Udonis Haslem, who set a fire under the Heat in Game One of the Bulls series after coming off the bench and providing some much-needed energy. He'll be needed to do much of the same if the engine of 'Big Three' doesn't function in Game One.
Who should we be watching for the Mavericks?
The guy in blue and black you'll be hearing a lot about is Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks' key player who is dangerous wherever you try and stop him. In Western Conference Finals, he was a one-man Oklahoma City Thunder killing machine, dropping 161 points on them. The next highest scorer was Jason Terry with 77. Saying that, Tyson Chandler owns the boards defensively for the Mavs and will be well up for the challenge of James & Co. The Mavs hope so - or this could get ugly.
What are going to be the 'stories' of these NBA Finals?
Every final or finals series (as they seem to love to do in the United States), loves to have a story behind them. And this one is no different. The LeBron James story is an obvious one, as are the worries about Dwayne Wade's health. But in Dallas, it's all about owner Mark Cuban, who built this team from virtually nothing out of his extremely wealthy dotcom billionaire pocket. Cuban, who's still awaiting his first title, has made sure that he's ignored the flash boxes for a floor seat at home games, and some of his remarks about refs have got him into hot water with the NBA and seen him receive over $1.7m in fines. The good news for charities? Every fine Cuban receives is matched by a charitable donation. We can't wait until the first dodgy decision that doesn't go Dallas' way, and to see what Cuban will do. Anyone got a 'Cuban Cam'?
But above all that, here's the particularly heart-warming story about another Heat player that's not called LeBron, Dwayne or Chris. It's about Matt Miller, who was allowed to bring his daughter back home recently after his child was born two weeks ago with holes in the heart. The prayers of a NBA Nation are with you, Matt.
So who's going to win?
After making a successful Champions League Final Prediction in both team and score, it would be rude not to make one in the NBA Finals. So here it is: Miami to win 4-2.
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