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NBA Finals 2011, Mavericks Vs. Heat

After a five year layoff, the Mavericks are headed back to the NBA Finals. Just like the Mavericks, the Miami Heat will be returning to the NBA Finals after a five year layoff, marking the first appearance for both teams in the NBA Finals since the Heat bested the Mavericks in six games in 2006.

2006, though, is seemingly ancient history in the NBA. The Mavericks swept the Heat in the regular season this year, though, they did it with Caron Butler playing. Butler will almost certainly be unavailable for the NBA Finals, at least according to Tim MacMahon.

There is a slim chance Butler could be available, according to coach Rick Carlisle. But Butler hasn't even been cleared for contact yet. Even in the unlikely event that he can play, it's crazy to believe that Butler could just chip off more than five months of rust to compete against King James. 

That's too bad, especially because Butler got the best of LeBron James during the Mavs' regular-season sweep of the Heat. 

Butler averaged 18 points on 54.2 percent shooting in the Mavs' two wins over Miami. James had subpar performances in both games, averaging 21 points on 30.5 percent shooting, although he produced 9.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists. 

When Butler was on the floor, James averaged 17.7 points per 36 minutes on 28 percent shooting. Butler's numbers against LeBron: 23.8 points per 36 minutes on 57 percent shooting. The Mavs outscored the Heat by 28 points in the 53 minutes both players were on the floor.     

Butler would also provide championship karma, since the Connecticut product saw his Huskies win the 2011 NCAA Tournament earlier this year.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for Tuesday night in Miami.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.