After the Chicago Bulls blew out the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the prospects looked very bleak for the Heat. Their effort was underwhelming and their team was offensively stifled by Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme, as well as beaten thoroughly on the boards. NBA 2011 MVP Derrick Rose did what he wanted, whether driving or shooting. I once heard that there are “seven seasons” in an NBA, and it looks like the Heat have entered their final stretch — in command of their series against the Bulls.
But can the Miami Heat bring home the championship? After Chris Bosh’s Game 3 performance, it looks like a distinct possibility. Bosh dropped 34 points on the Bulls, proving deadly with his midrange jumpshot. With the reemergence of role player Udonis Haslem, who missed the majority of the regular season with a foot injury, the Heat suddenly look like the championship team they boasted they would be after the free agent summer that brought LeBron James’ talents to South Beach. In fact, in Game 3, LeBron only had to score 22 points for the Heat to win handily, although he did have ten assists.
In sum, yes, the Heat look to be solid, but for my money the Dallas Mavericks are still the team of destiny. However, I may be foolish to predict that the Mavs will bring the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy to the streets of Dallas. Why? The Heat are simply so skilled and athletic, and by the looks of it, only the Bulls may stand in the way of the Heat. The Bulls have the athleticism and defensive prowess to match up with the Heat, and they’re getting beat. The traits that brought the Mavs a two-games-to-one lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder, not to mention a sweep of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, will be disadvantages in a likely Miami/Dallas NBA Finals.
The Heat are young, but their best players (LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh) are all in the prime of their careers, and won’t be played like pushovers like the very-very young Thunder. The Mavs, in a possible Finals matchup, may prove to be simply too old and slow. But as in all NBA games, it will be the team that controls the pace of the game which will have the advantage.
In sum, I declare the Miami Heat to be the favorites to win the 2011 NBA Finals. It will be a great disappointment to this critic for that to happen, but if Bosh and Haslem are hitting open shots for the Heat, it just gives the real stars — LeBron and D-Wade — too much room to operate. But there is a lot of basketball yet to be played!