Tonight is the fifth game of the 2011 NBA Finals. With the series knotted at two games a piece, Game 5 is a pivotal one for both teams. If the Miami Heat are victorious, then it’s almost a foregone conclusion that they’ll take the title with Game 6 and a potential Game 7 played at home. However, things could get very, very interesting if the Dallas Mavericks defend their home turf and go back to South Beach up 3-2. Five things stick out to me as we are a┬ámere 12 hours away from tipoff.

 

1. Where The Hell Was LeBron?: If you watched Game 4, you probably didn’t hear LeBron’s name mentioned that often. The King posted a line of 8 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. For most, that’s a respectable all around effort. For the NBA’s top player, that’s just not acceptable. After averaging 26.7 PPG during the regular season, LeBron has only averaged 17 points so far in the finals. The Heat have opted to put him on Jason Terry to defend against the pick-and-roll with Dirk, but LeBron seems a step too slow to guard the agile Terry. If the Heat want to win Game 5 and grab this series by the throat, LeBron needs to come out and dominate on both ends.

2. Who Will Stop Tyson Chandler? Tyson Chandler was an absolute beast in Game 4. He grabbed 16 total rebounds including nine on the offensive end to go with his 13 points. Joel Anthony was no match for the burly seven footer. The Heat are extremely weak inside and if they cannot contain Chandler on the boards, they’ll be heading home down 3-2.

3. The Dallas Crowd: The Dallas crowd has been great all post-season long. They are rowdy, loud, and passionate about their Mavs. This franchise is absolutely starved for a title and owner Mark Cuban would probably do anything to go back to Miami up 3-2. If the Mavs get out to a quick lead, expect the crowd to let the Heat know about it. Home court advantage is huge in the NBA and that will be on full display tonight.

4. Dirk’s Health: It was well publicized that Dirk was suffering from flu-like symptoms during Game 4. However, the sharp shooter played through the illness, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. His 6-for-19 performance wasn’t his best ever, but he continued to display his efficiency on the foul line, knocking down 9 of 10 opportunities. All reports indicate that the big man is feeling much better and is out for blood in Game 5.

5. Prediction: As a pure basketball fan, I want to see this series go seven games. The Finals were great last year and Game 7 in LA was very entertaining. This season, we will see another Game 7. I don’t think there’s any way that Dallas loses Game 5 on their home court. Dirk won’t allow it, the fans won’t allow it, and I don’t think the refs will either (sorry had to say it). Going home down 3-2 will be a great test for this Miami Heat team. They haven’t had to deal with adversity all season long and we’ll finally see how mentally tough they are. I can see a Game 6 blowout by Miami to force a Game 7 where literally anything can happen.

Las Vegas has the Mavericks pegged as a one-point favorite heading into tonight and if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Dallas tonight in Game 5.

Dallas 92 Miami 89