3-on-3 preview: Heat at Mavs, 9:30 ET
December, 20, 2012
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
A lot has changed for the Heat and Mavericks since their showdown in the 2011 NBA Finals.
1. Was the 2011 NBA Finals the most memorable ever?
Tom Haberstroh: Not quite. Most memorable for me was the 1998 Finals with Michael Jordan's final shot against Bryon Russell. Perhaps I was just more impressionable in middle school, but it was such a poetic ending to Jordan's illustrious career. Wait, he played for the Wizards?
Israel Gutierrez: Ever? Like, ever ever? Umm, no. You're not going to remember too many actual in-game moments from that series the way you do John Paxson's game winner against Phoenix or Michael Jordan's push-off jumper against the Jazz or Jordan's barrage against the Trail Blazers. This is remembered more for the off-the-court rumblings created by LeBron James' inexplicably poor play and Chris Bosh's postseries emotions.
Michael Wallace: No. Not even close. For me, nothing would top the '91 Finals when the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers met for a transaction in which Magic Johnson personally passed the torch to Michael Jordan. It was also a transition from the most dominant team of the 1980s to the most dominant one of the '90s.
2. What was the biggest lesson for the Heat?
Haberstroh: That LeBron wasn't a small forward. That changed everything, not just for the Heat but for the rest of the NBA as well. The ripple effect can be seen now with Carmelo Anthony thriving at the 4 in New York and others (hello, Kevin Durant) looking more comfortable playing a bigger position. LeBron had the size of Karl Malone, but the 2011 Finals showed why he needed to use it to his full advantage.
Gutierrez: That LeBron has to be at the center of what the Heat do. Miami tried to lift LeBron past his slump and win anyway. Succeeding at that would've been the worst scenario for both sides. The Heat wouldn't deem it necessary to rely on LeBron's talents, and LeBron would've probably had a hard time taking ownership of this team the way he has since. As LeBron has said, losing that series is possibly the best thing to happen to this group.
Wallace: That even the best player in the game ironically needed both a severe humbling as well as a major confidence boost to break through on the NBA's grand stage. LeBron James learned many valuable lessons from that defeat to the Mavericks that prepared him for championship triumph the next year against the Thunder.
3. What was the biggest lesson for the Mavs?
Haberstroh: Not that the Mavericks needed confirmation, but that Dirk Nowitzki is a pretty transcendent player. What Nowitzki did in 2011 and James later did in 2012 was reiterate that the "can't win the big one" label is maybe the silliest in sports. With Tyson Chandler anchoring the defense and shooters aplenty, Nowitzki finally had the functional parts to get him over the hump. Yes, Nowitzki evolved as a player, too, but he wasn't "soft" like many so wanted to believe.
Gutierrez: Just the knowledge that they can indeed be great. For years, that team, with Nowitzki as the main man, was considered too soft and too jump shot dependent to be champions. After winning that series with stellar execution and ridiculous outside shooting -- not to mention some decent defense from current Knicks Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd -- Nowitzki and Co. know they can win at the highest level with that formula.
Wallace: That revenge can be one of the sweetest joys in sports. Mavs owner Mark Cuban always felt he had the better team in 2006 when Dallas blew a 2-0 series lead and lost four straight to Miami. Five years later, Nowitzki was as unstoppable in the Finals as Dwyane Wade was in 2006, as Dallas avenged that meltdown against Miami.