DALLAS -- In the 2006 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat started an aging but still effective Shaquille O'Neal at center with Alonzo Mourning coming off the bench. The Dallas Mavericks rolled out a tag-team center unit of DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier.
In 2011, the Heat start 6-9 center Joel Anthony while more traditional, but well past their prime post men, Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamal Magliore can't get on the floor. Dallas starts All-Defensive second-team member Tyson Chandler with currently ailing Brendan Haywood (right hip flexor) as the backup.
"He was very good [Tuesday] night. It goes without stating, obviously," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday about Chandler's 13-point, 16-rebound performance in Dallas' series-evening Game 4 win. "Nine offensive rebounds and putting a lot of pressure, getting to the rim. He's an impact player and he has been for several years when he's been healthy. So we understand that. We have to meet him with force, with effort, and we have to be relentless, because he does offer them relief points in the paint with his aggressiveness."
Here's relief: The 7-1 Chandler has drawn the most fouls during the Finals (25), grabbed the most offensive rebounds (20) and has the most second-chance points (17).
Much of that is because of the obvious size mismatch inside, particularly when the Heat use two big men to double Nowitzki. Chandler is drawing fouls on the boards, but the Mavs have also fed Chandler in the paint with the fourth quarter of Game 4 serving as a prime example. Then there's the defensive side. Chandler has been highly active protecting the rim, limiting penetration and free throws for Wade and James.
"We love Chandler," said Jason Terry, who along with Nowitzki are the only remaining members of the '06 team. "Obviously, what he means to us from the inside as a presence offensively and defensively is huge. Each team has to have that presence. They had it in ’05-’06. We have it now and he’s a big difference-maker."