Team Pace Off. Eff. eFG% FT/FG ORB% TOR
Dallas 88.0 108.0 52.0 22.7 31.4 20.5
Miami 105.7 53.5 22.2 16.7 13.6
You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.
- It’s hard to fully encapsulate an incredible comeback with a single bullet point — or even two, or seven, for that matter — but these Dallas Mavericks apparently love to see me try. Of all that impresses me about this Mavs team, high on the list is how natural they make feats of extraordinary strength appear. They don’t have the kind of athletic talent that makes highlight reel dunks look easy, but the way they move the ball and find shooters is not normal. Dallas has a truly exemplary offense, and yet you’d never know it as Jason Kidd makes a relatively routine pass to the corner at just the right time, or Tyson Chandler sets a barely legal screen to free up Dirk Nowitzki with enough room to launch an off-balance jumper. Nothing in their equation is ordinary, and yet it’s all instinctive, all reactive, all a product of a team filled with intelligent ball players doing merely what they know to do. Seven minutes is a long time to contend with an offense like that, even for a elite defense. The Heat D is fast and flexible, but nonetheless subject to the mandates of the offense. When Dirk touched the ball, Miami was largely forced to double. When the ball swung this way or that, the Heat were forced to shift to compensate. All of this is a fundamental part of the offense-defense dynamic, but when the freewheeling Mavs dictated everything with their crisp passing and perfect spacing, the Heat can only do so much. That said, they could have gotten one more shot or one more bucket to significantly impact the result of this game. That might make the Mavs’ remarkable comeback win feel serendipitous, but in truth it was simply a process of in-game natural selection. One team adapted over the final few minutes and the other did not, and the power of that sudden evolution was apparently far more potent than a mere 15-point advantage.
- Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry will get credit for making big plays and huge baskets in the fourth quarter, but Shawn Marion (20 points, 8-13 FG, eight rebounds, three offensive boards, three assists) and Tyson Chandler (13 points, 4-6 FG, seven rebounds, four offensive boards) were the MVPs of this game. For most of the night, Nowitzki and Terry shot incredibly poorly from the field; both finished just shy of .500 shooting for the night, but only after their respective sprints down the stretch of the fourth quarter. Dallas was able to remain competitive — even in spite of a breathtaking performance from Dwyane Wade (36 points, 13-20 FG, six assists, five rebounds) — because Marion weaved through the Heat defense straight to the rim time and time again, and because Chandler worked relentlessly to find the ball or have it find him. These two were the true anchors of the Mavs’ offense, and their combined 33 points on 20 shots doesn’t even do justice to their impact…in part because of the stellar accomplishments of both players on the defensive end. Dallas only came back in such spectacular fashion because they played the pick-and-roll with LeBron as the ball-handler so aggressively, and that doesn’t happen without Tyson Chandler — who was pressuring like mad, despite having five fouls at the time and Brendan Haywood unavailable with a strained right hip flexor — shutting down LeBron’s options. It’s not as if they were only successful defensively at the end of the game; Marion played James to a virtual tie in the box score, and though Marion pulled off a highly efficient offensive night, the key was meeting James in the middle ground. 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists is still excellent production, but it’s the kind you live with (or even laud) when coming from the best basketball player on the planet. Throw in five turnovers and that’s about as good of a defensive performance as one could hope for against James. That wasn’t all Marion’s doing, but he certainly played his role, and played 41 minutes as a result. That playing time says it all; Marion simply could not be pulled on Thursday night.