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Dirk stopper?

Before we get to the question of who guards Dirk Nowitzki late in games, let's get to the Heat's new rallying cry in this series: Erase the ink!

Apparently, that tattoo of the Larry O'Brien Trophy on Jason Terry's right bicep will be removed if the Mavericks don't win the championship. Not that the Heat needs anymore motivation, but.... TerryTattoo

As for that "who covers Dirk" thing, the popular opinion is that LeBron James is going to cover Dirk late in ballgames, the same way he essentially shut down Derrick Rose by defending him late in fourth quarters.

Here's the only potential problem with that: The Mavs have a very set lineup to close out games. They go with Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler and Dirk. The Heat's ideal closing lineup would be Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade and LeBron.

So let's just match up Kidd and Terry with Wade and Miller. Then assume Bosh sticks to Chandler. That means if LeBron has to defend Dirk, Udonis is responsible for Marion.

Now, Haslem has guarded a handful of small forwards in the past. And his lateral quickness isn't bad. And it's unlikely the Mavericks run anything for Marion anyway, because they only seem to do that when he has a smaller player on his back that he can back down and shoot over.

But it's still a potentially problematic matchup when you consider that Udonis is used to dealing with bigs, and boxing out bigs, and staying in the paint with bigs. Marion could create issues with his athleticism and quickness if matched up with Udonis.

Now, if defending Dirk with LeBron is clearly the best option, it's a challenge I'm sure Udonis will be up to, and he'll very likely hold his own. But if it's a toss-up as to whether LeBron or UD is the better option against Dirk, chances are that Erik Spoelstra will stick with Udonis on Dirk down the stretch and let LeBron help off Marion if he's on the perimeter.

Of course, the Heat could go with an entirely different closing lineup -- and based on Spo's flexibility this season, he's not set on any singular lineup. But it's something to think about if you assume those are these two teams' closing lineups.


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