The wait is finally over for the 2011 NBA Finals, with the Miami Heat hosting the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals at 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida (TV: ABC/TSN).
It's no surprise that the storyline for the series is LeBron James vs. Dirk Nowitzki - two NBA veteran superstars who have made it to the NBA Finals once before, but didn't have enough left in the tank to capture a ring. Both have never won an NBA championship, yet it appears that both are extremely driven the second time around.
Nowitzki's first trip to the NBA Finals came in 2006 when, ironically, he and the Mavericks faced Dwayne Wade and the very same Miami Heat. After taking a 2-0 series advantage and holding a lead late in Game 3, the Mavericks imploded, losing four straight games, resulting in an NBA title for Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, who now plays for the Boston Celtics.
In the 2011 regular season, Nowitzki led the team with 23 points per game and averaged seven rebounds per contest, but has exploded in the playoffs, averaging 28.4 points on 51.7 percent shooting from the field.
While it's clear that Nowitzki is the Mavericks star and number one option, Dallas isn't lacking secondary options on the court, benefiting from the services of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, JJ Barea and more.
For James, he and the Cavaliers appeared in the 2007 NBA Finals, but were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs. James toiled in Cleveland for three more seasons before making his decision to "take his talents to South Beach" and join Wade and the Heat.
James was Miami's leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 26.7 points, and also led the team with seven assists per game. In the 2011 postseason, James is leading the team in scoring (26.0 PPG), rebounding (8.9 RPG) and steals (1.7 SPG).
If James is Miami No. 1 option (and he is), then Dwayne Wade is clearly 1A. Wade, who is averaging 23.7 points in the playoffs, has already won a title as a No. 1 option against these very same Mavericks.
Should James and Wade both go cold, the Heat can turn to Chris Bosh. In 15 postseason games this season, Bosh is averaging 18.6 points and is tied for the team lead with 8.9 rebounds per contest.
Miami clearly has the best player on the floor in the series in James, and possibly the second best in Wade. However, Nowitzki's brand of basketball is one that is extremely tough for anyone to defend, and should cause problems for the Heat. Yet, on the other hand, it's never an easy task to defend James, Wade and Bosh.