The Heat favored to win in seven games
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The hubris and exuberance displayed at the Miami Heat welcoming party in July seemed blasphemous, almost serving as a championship parade before South Beach's superstars had stepped onto the hardwood. This vanity vaulted the Heat into permanent Haterade by the media and general public, as there's nothing more sacrilegious in sports than showcasing an underserved sense of accomplishment.
Yet despite every hurdle, whether perceived or authentic, the Heat have emerged as kings of the Eastern Conference mountain. They decimated top-seeded Chicago with four straight victories to earn their ticket to the NBA Finals. Regardless of the feelings one harbors towards the Heat, there's no denying the gauntlet they overcame to claim their conference crown.
Dirk Nowitzki knows something about obstacles. After coming out on the short end of the controversial 2006 NBA Finals, Nowitzki unleashed his vengeance on the rest of the NBA the following year: He earned the 2007 MVP and led the Mavericks to a league-best 67 wins. Alas, this season is best remembered for Dallas' epic collapse against Golden State. The Mavs lost to the eighth-seeded Warriors in six games in the opening round. The disgrace of failure was placed on the 7-footer's shoulders, a stigma that Nowitzki was seemingly unable to rid despite his continued excellence.
This sentiment was a catalyst for many critics choosing the Trail Blazers as a trendy upset over Dallas in the first round of this year's playoffs.
So it has been apropos that Nowitzki has left detractors in his wake, averaging 28.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in spring while disposing of Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City. Although he remains four wins away from the promised land, Nowitzki has rehabilitated his image and morphed from goat into one of the league's premier clutch-time performers.
Both the Mavericks and the Heat have defied their forecasts, but which will hold the Larry O'Brien Trophy? According to the WhatIfSports' simulation engine, the Heat beat the Mavs in 69.3 percent of the series simulations, with an average series win of Miami in seven games.
That being said, when have the Heat ever followed the expected protocol?
Joel Beall is a Content Writer for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.