Express-News NBA writer Mike Monroe profiles the key players and matchups in the NBA Finals between the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks and the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat:
Mavericks: (9) Jason Kidd 6-4, 17th yr — He negated Russell Westbrook’s athleticism with guile and experience, but Bibby has been around nearly as long as he has. … His assists have increased in each series, to a high of 8.6 in Western finals.
Heat: (0) Mike Bibby 6-2, 13th yr — Bibby hasn’t scored much in the playoffs (3.6 PPG), but his scoring has increased, series to series to series. … He remains the worst defender among the 10 Finals starters.
Mavericks: (92) D. Stevenson 6-5, 11th yr — A starter in name only, and only because he’s a disciplined, physical defender. So he’s well-suited to get first crack at putting clamps on Wade. … Rarely on floor in crunch time.
Heat: (3) Dwyane Wade 6-4, 8th yr — After dominant Eastern semis vs. Celtics (30.2 ppg, 52.6 percent shooting), output dropped vs. Bulls in Eastern finals (18.8, 40.5) and there are concerns about a sore left shoulder.
Mavericks: (0) Shawn Marion 6-7, 12th yr — Defensive work on Kevin Durant in Western finals enhanced his value and made him defensive key in these Finals. … He’ll harass James but has to stay out of foul trouble. … Quick rebounder.
Heat: (6) LeBron James 6-8, 8th yr — No question he has become crunch option No. 1. … His legacy at stake, he prepared for pressure of Finals with clutch performances in Eastern finals. … Expect him to help a lot on Nowitzki.
Mavericks: (41) Dirk Nowitzki 7-0, 13th yr — Leading scorer in first three rounds of playoffs (28.2 PPG) and coming off 32.2 PPG in Western finals. … Hitting 51.6 from 3-point range. … Best foul shooter in the series and gets to line in crunch time.
Heat: (1) Chris Bosh 6-11, 8th yr — After breakout in Eastern finals, when he averaged 23.2 points, there should be no more references to Heat’s “Big 2 1/2.” … Will energy required to defend Nowitzki affect his offense?
Mavericks: (6) Tyson Chandler 7-0, 10th yr — Offensive rebounding and defense at the rim make him a key player in series. … Goal No. 1: Stay out of foul trouble so he can stay on the floor. … Always looking to cut to rim for lobs that become dunks.
Heat: (50) Joel Anthony 6-9, 4th yr — Production and playing time dipped in Eastern finals because of Udonis Haslem’s return. … Must keep Chandler off the offensive glass. … Outstanding interior defender.
Mavericks: Jason Terry is second option in crunch time, behind Nowitzki, keeping defenders from doubling on Dirk. … Peja Stojakovic is a long-range threat. … J.J. Barea is effective as a change-of-pace point guard.
Heat: Can’t overstate importance of Udonis Haslem’s return. He can body up on Nowitzki, as he did in 2006 Finals, when Nowitzki made only 39 percent. … Finally healthy, Mike Miller is their X-factor, capable of changing a game.
Mavericks: Rick Carlisle 3rd yr — Was Tom Thibodeau really the best defensive coach in the league this season, or was it Carlisle, who somehow turned a team that has Nowitzki, Stojakovic and Barea into one of the best?
Heat: Erik Spoelstra 3rd yr — Does anyone remember when his job was on the line back in November? … His message during Eastern finals was consistent and to the point: Defend, play hard and play smart.
Mavericks in 6