The Difference: Miami Heat 92, Dallas Mavericks 84

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 1, 2011 under Recaps | 6 Comments to Read

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You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • To those struggling to find the fine line between the acknowledgment of Miami’s excellence and the hope provided in the Dallas’ missed opportunities, I empathize. Game 1 has to be viewed in terms of all that the Heat accomplished, but I can’t shed the thought of Dirk Nowitzki’s missed layups, J.J. Barea’s botched runners, Jason Terry’s poor decisions. Credit Miami’s D for their impressive contests — and even for the impact of their potential contests, which clearly had Barea shaking in his boots — but the Mavs can play much better…as long as the Heat defense doesn’t improve yet. We knew this would be a competitive series, but I’m not sure anyone quite expected such an odd start. To credit the Mavs’ offensive failures or the Heat’s defensive successes would be a terrible oversimplification, and yet somewhere in that relationship is the dynamic that could decide the series.
  • The Dallas zone had its moments, I suppose, but its start to the series was anything but exemplary. Mario Chalmers was able to burn the Mavs with a pair of wide open threes from the corners, but it was the play of Chris Bosh that made things particularly painful for Dallas when in their zone coverage. Bosh finished with five offensive boards in capitalizing on the displacement of the Mavs’ defenders, and his passing from the high post provided a terribly effective counter to the Mavs’ zone look. Rick Carlisle didn’t seem too distressed about the zone’s performance, so I’m curious as to what he saw in Dallas’ Game 1 zone execution that we didn’t; how much zone the Mavs run in Game 2 should provide a more authentic appraisal than anything Carlisle said postgame.
  • Udonis Haslem and the Heat’s double teamers did a credible job defending Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 7-18 FG, eight rebounds) by playing passing lanes and limiting Dirk’s attempts. In terms of challenging, the Heat defenders can only do so much; Haslem and Joel Anthony just don’t have the height or length to really alter Nowitzki’s shot, which leaves their means of defending him a bit more reliant on prevention. Anthony couldn’t quite pull that off, but Haslem — with help from Mike Miller and others — was able to put enough pressure on Nowitzki to make him pass out of doubles and rush through many of his possessions against single coverage. Nowitzki needs to get settled in, but Erik Spoelstra is too good of a coach to maintain a static approach against Dirk; he may see the same basic defensive look in Game 2, but the specifics of its implementations (the timing of the double, etc.) will likely change. Nowitzki was able to adjust and attack, but he may have to start that process all over again in Game 2.
  • Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson were able to have some success in man-to-man coverage against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but then the Mavs shifted into zone, the zone failed, and the final product was flawed man-to-man execution that allowed the Heat do do as they willed. James and Wade didn’t have their most aggressive driving games, but they were certainly assertive scorers; the two stars combined to shoot 6-of-9 from three-point range, and several of those attempts came against pretty good defense. The prospect of defending Wade and James is always predicated on concession in some form. Teams often cede long jumpers — both twos and threes — to both James and Wade in the hopes that it lures two of the league’s best creators off the dribble into taking decidedly less efficient shots and stalling their team’s offense in the process. That’s still a semi-effective strategy against Wade (particularly due to his poor shooting from three-point range), but James has somehow become even more unguardable by hitting threes with consistency. Defending against either player is a miserable assignment, defending against both at the same time is just brutal, and defending against both at the same time when they’re hitting 67 percent of their three-point attempts is something I’m not sure the basketball world is — or will ever be — quite ready for.
  • Nowitzki tore a tendon in his left hand (or on his middle finger, to be more precise) while trying to strip the ball from Bosh on a drive. Had the tear been in his right hand, we’d be looking at a series ender; Dallas needs Dirk producing at an elite level to compete in this series, and a legitimate injury to his shooting hand would be a painful blow. However, the fact that Dirk injured his left hand isn’t exactly irrelevant, consider how crucial his handle and driving ability are to his overall game. It’s no secret that Nowitzki prefers to drive left, and considering how many driving lanes he had in Game 1, a limitation on his handle and finishing ability strikes me as rather significant.
  • Mike Bibby played 14 minutes, which was probably 14 minutes too long. Mario Chalmers wasn’t perfect, but he was far more productive than Bibby, and the Heat’s no-PG lineups even better than those involving Chalmers. I doubt there will be much of a change in Spoelstra’s rotation at this point in the playoffs, so Dallas needs to take advantage of the time that Bibby sees on a nightly basis.
  • James actually defended JET to close the game, a matchup that, while stifling and impressively creative, opens up an interesting opportunity. Marion had a fantastic offensive game, but could have been even more involved in the fourth quarter offense by going to work against Miller in the post. Any time that Marion can shed James, he’ll have an offensive advantage on the low block, and while he was able to create from the post a few times throughout the game, I think Marion can be used as an instigator of change. If Marion can be efficient enough in the post against Miller, Spoelstra could be forced to give up on assigning LeBron to chase JET and disrupt the Mavs’ two-man game, which would ultimately open up one effective offense by way of another.
  • Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood aren’t deserving of scapegoat status, but they have to be better on the glass. Their job (of anchoring the defense, challenging the shots of stretch bigs like Bosh and Haslem, and still hitting the boards) isn’t ideal, but it’s the task placed in front of them. I don’t see how the Mavs win this series without Chandler and Haywood pulling off something of a minor miracle in that regard. Best of luck to ‘em.
  • Kirk Henderson

    Disappointing game.  Surprised we got bullied on the boards so badly.  Need more from everyone in that respect.  Also, hitting wide open shots would be nice.

  • Jerry Vinokurov

    You gotta box out Mike Miller…

  • Charles M Reed

    The Mavericks haven't gotten to this point by folding under adversity and their particular flaws and pratfalls shouldn't surprise anyone at this point. That said, the narrative of who did what to whom is inevitably shaded by who has the highest score at the end of the game. Miami played well when they needed to and Dallas didn't. Period. This wasn't an out and out thrashing and, lest I am mistaken, I watched two teams shoot under 40% due to a considerable amount of defensive discipline on both ends.

    There are certain areas that, as Rob mentioned, must be rectified – the zone defense must either be better or be abolished. Dirk's close outs were atrocious really, but only marginally so compared to his compatriots. We have to rebound better – the gap between our total rebounds in G1 (46-36) wouldn't be so significant if it weren't completely comprised of offensive boards. Offensive indeed. Interestingly enough, a salve for both ills would seem to be served by Chandler's unique talents, once again highlighting the importance of his presence of the court for as many of the 48 as he can handle. There were a few questionable whistles against him last night, but, for the most part, he failed to adjust to the way that the game was being called. For what it's worth, I thought Brendan played a pretty good game last night – the onus of our poor rebounding shouldn't fall to him so much as to a systematic failure of all five players on the court more often than not.

    Adjustments (and rants!) aside, though, the real story of Game 2 is about how effective Dirk can be in a splint. I'm hoping he's at the gym right now getting accustomed to the new reality.

    The most disturbing thing about this loss? How much lighter the bandwagon became afterwards. You know the score boys, back to doom and gloom and smug glee that they Mavericks are on the cusp of failing again just as you know they would. I do have to tip my hat to the Heat though – becoming the first team in NBA history to sweep a series 1-0 must be a delightfully intoxicating feeling.

  • fantasywildcat expert

    the heat are going to take game two too! check it out. here is why. leave ur thoughts! much love all!

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  • kurt

    Losing after being 15 points ahead in the latter part of the 4th Quarter is amazing. I'm a Heat fan but I'll give it to the Mavs, they worked hard and they appeared to be the hungrier bunch. Kudos to them but the Heat will be back… We have a classic battle in our hands boys and girls…:) Its going to be exciting!