Fame and Fortune and Everything That Goes with It

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 8, 2011 under Video | Be the First to Comment

Just a little reminder.

Reflections of a Champion

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 17, 2011 under Previews, xOther | 7 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-06-17 at 1.05.06 PM

Apropos of nothing, here are four vignettes of your NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, some borrowed (and modified), some original. They may or may not have anything to do with basketball.

X: THE END

It’s hard to think three moves ahead as the entire planet collapses, but against a landscape of fire and brimstone, Rick plotted. He had never been the best, but he was always very good, and very much committed to his craft. He didn’t play chess. He was a chess player. The difference is even more profound than it would be with many other hobbies or occupations, if only because Rick’s endless obsession with the game within the game within the game within the game had made chess anything but a game.

He was not alone in that obsession; Rick wasn’t the only chess player. But he was always very good, and very much committed to his craft.

That commitment never wavered, but his relative status eventually did. Rick had honed his chess playing with careful study, long hours, and perfect practice. And then, as can occasionally be the case in all things, he went on a run. Every pawn he touched turned to a knight, as his already impressive army somehow transformed into an embarrassment of versatile riches. Sometimes a man can do no wrong, and for whatever reason — some cosmic return on all of his hard work, or maybe just flat-out luck — Rick’s sometimes came at a moment most opportune. He was the best, last; no matter how he might stack up to the great strategists of his time or all times, Rick had the talent and fortune to be the best chess player on the planet as Earth’s countdown neared zero.

E6. Portland crumbled under the weight of pounds upon pounds of volcanic lava. Bb4. The entire state of California drifted into the ocean. Bc5. The American Heartland was ripped to shreds. Qh4. Florida sank.

Qxf2.

This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a checkmate.

[Mahoney]

———-

11: INDUSTRY

Bee, my bee,
Your day and night
And your patience-industry
Have no respite.
Hard you endeavour
To bring the ball
To the hoop amidst the trees.
You always don
The robe of fruitful victory.

[Chinmoy]

———-

41: THE WINNING JOKE

It was his. After what seemed like an eternity, it was finally his. Dirk Nowitzki clutched the Larry O’Brien trophy in his hands. And against his chest. And rested it against his forehead. The cool metal offered relief to a weary warrior, though no more than simply holding that image of ultimate accomplishment ever could.

Dwyane Wade had put on a hell of a show, but it didn’t matter. This was Nowitzki’s day, and Nowitzki’s trophy. Doubt was no longer relevant; all of the trials and incredible comebacks were simply dramatic points leading up to the Finals’ ultimate conclusion. Nowitzki and the Mavs were NBA champions, even if they were crowned on the strength of a number of improbable victories. The Mavericks weren’t dominant, but they managed to stay alive. They milked their playoff lives for all they were worth, and took advantage of every point and every second and every step.

It was his. It was his champagne; Nowitzki didn’t drink during the season, but the taste of victory would dance on his tongue. It was his parade; the city of Dallas would scream his name as he floated by in exaltation. It was his moment; the criticism of his game wasn’t quite as intense as it had been earlier in his career, but there was nonetheless a satisfaction in silencing the endless questioning. It was his off-season in triumph; he was due an endless line of photo ops and high fives, and his phone would explode with texts from old friends. It was his trip to the White House; he and his teammates would head to D.C. to — fittingly — meet with a Texan president. It was his dream fulfilled; after all of these years, Dirk –

– found happiness…if only until he once again found consciousness. Nowitzki lay in bed, his eyes dried by the restless, blinkless hours. He wasn’t possessed by lost possessions, but driven to the very brink by the prize he had lost. Those summer months weren’t merely depressing, but tormented; Nowitzki lost himself in those sleepless nights, and lost what had tethered him to the world outside. All he had were the shadows on the cave walls of his mind, those visions of a remarkable victory, those false images of a title that was his. Nowitzki’s head was cocked to the side every so slightly, as he held the same twitching smile for hours upon end. He laughed. Slightly at first but then almost maniacally, as the little moisture left in those tortured eyes welled and then fell.

2011 couldn’t come fast enough.

[Mahoney]

———-

2.31: A CLEAN, WELL LIGHTED PLACE

“No,” the player who was in a hurry said, rising from pulling down the metal shutters. He adjusted his headband, his armband, his six pairs of layered socks. “I have confidence. I am all confidence.”

“You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older player said. “You have everything.”

“And what do you lack?”

“Everything but work.”

“You have everything I have.”

“No. I have never had confidence and I am not young.”

“Come on. Stop talking nonsense and lock up.”

“I am of those who like to stay late at the gym,” the older player said. “With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night.”

“I want to go home and into bed.”

“We are of two different kinds,” the older player said. He was now dressed to go home. “It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the gym.”

“Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long.”

“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant court. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”

“Good night,” said the younger player.

“Good night,” the other said. Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself, It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada…

He smiled and stood at the free throw line.

“What are you working on?” asked a different player shooting at a different basket in a different gym than before.

“Nada.”

“Otro loco mas,” said the player and turned away.

“Just a few more shots,” said the old player.

He took them.

“The light is very bright and pleasant but the floor is unpolished,” the old player said.

The other player looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation.

“You gonna hang around?” the player asked.

“No, thank you,” said the old player and went out. He disliked gyms such as those. A clean, well-lighted court was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it’s probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

[Hemingway]

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 105, Miami Heat 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 15, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2011-06-15 at 4.52.21 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas91.0115.456.714.625.015.4
Miami104.452.127.823.117.6

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

  • In professional sports, panic is easy. Identifying worries and overreacting to them quickly is the path of least resistance, false adjustments that feign activity. Throughout their entire playoff run, the Mavericks never were tempted into that panic; they took their path every time, even when the win-loss binary told them that path was faulty. Rick Carlisle never pushed a button for pushing’s sake, nor did any of the Mavs attempt to drastically alter their approaches in an effort to counter some real or perceived problem. They just ran their stuff. They ran their stuff in the house and with a mouse, they ran their stuff here, and there, and anywhere. They ran it in a box and with a fox, and then they skipped the green eggs and just went ham. True commitment to a system or strategy often seems a lot easier than it is (case in point: Miami’s willingness to abandon their pick-and-roll game with a single kick-ball in the fourth quarter of Game 5), and I’m convinced that perseverance within their system is among the most crucial reasons for Dallas’ first ever NBA title. Carlisle could have easily rewritten the book after Game 1 of the Finals, or drastically changed his team’s defensive strategy once Dwyane Wade began to really go nuts. He didn’t and the Mavericks thrived from the strength of their minor, precise adjustments.
  • Strictly as an observer, I haven’t decided whether there was more narrative power in the actual outcome of Game 6 or in an alternate reality where Dirk Nowitzki finished the series as dominant as ever. Both are suitable finales, but there would have been a clearly established satisfaction in seeing Nowitzki grab the Larry O’Brien trophy by its personified throat. That wasn’t quite the way it turned out, but is that a fair conclusion to the tale of Nowitzki’s historically incapable supporting cast, or an anticlimactic finish for the man who always did it all?
  • Tyson Chandler scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 6, and I still wouldn’t have been opposed to him being named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki was an offensive juggernaut in the Finals, but Chandler was the primary deterrent against a formidable Heat offense. He wasn’t an anchor, but a pillar; Dallas unveiled a beautifully crafted defensive structure in the Finals, and though Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion really brought it together, Chandler was the critical support that allowed the entire thing to exist in the first place. (Plus, offensive rebounding was pegged as a definitive Heat strength going into the Finals, and yet the Mavs won the offensive rebounding rate battle in three of the six games. That’s essentially all Chandler.)
  • For the record, my mom, soothsayer that she is, predicted that the Mavs would win the title this season. Then again, she’s said the same thing every season since 2000, so I guess hat makes her 100% right this year, and about 9% right overall. Still, even grasping at straws deserves a tip of the hat, so long as she gets the straw.
  • J.J. Barea (15 points, 7-12 FG, five assists) was unbelievable. It seems like it’s been ages since I was forced to defend Barea’s presence by outlining his unique strengths within the context of this team, but in reality, Barea was painted as a scapegoat as recently as a few months ago. He’s come a long way in terms of focus and efficiency, mind you, but the strength of his game is the same: Barea’s handle, speed, and creativity give him an inlet to the basket that few players are able to access. Barea has made clear his intent to stay with the team that unearthed him, but strange things can happen in free agency. If Barea ends up on another team’s roster, Dallas will be the worse for it.
  • There’s always room for more in Maverick Nation, and in principle, I’m not opposed to accepting refugee fans from other teams that have been bounced in the playoffs. Still, I won’t miss the bile. I won’t miss the abject hatred. I won’t miss the inescapable stink clouding what was a brilliant series with a fantastic ending. Fans are free to love or hate whoever they’d like, but the way they conduct themselves can always disgust me, even if their agency doesn’t.
  • DeShawn Stevenson dropped nine points, as did Eddie House. Brian Cardinal had three, and Ian Mahinmi four. In the closing game of the NBA Finals. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.
  • Oh, there’s this cat named Jason Terry — he’s turned the pull-up jumper in transition into an art form, and was the dynamic offensive star Dallas badly needed to finish out the series. Terry (27 points, 11-16 FG, 3-7 3FG) has been maligned as any Maverick over the years, and to an extent he’s deserved the criticism. His defense used to be quite poor. In the past, Terry’s offensive contributions could be teched against too easily, leaving Nowitzki to carry the entirety of the scoring burden on his own. But this year’s offense wasn’t Nowitzki-and-JET-dependent so much as it utilized both as investments in the system. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, and previously, Caron Butler, rounded out the offense and balanced the floor. No player benefited more from Dallas’ offensive flow than Terry, who was able to finally benefit from the creation of others. Just having Kidd set up Terry was never enough; the entire offense had an oddly stable codependency, in which Kidd needed Nowitzki, Terry, a more involved Marion, and Chandler to really do what he does best, and each of those players needed one another in order to create the perfect swing to their offense.
  • LeBron James didn’t perform as he could have or should have, and yet somehow, I don’t think anyone in Dallas really minds all that much. James has been story 1A in the postseason’s aftermath, but frankly, I was more taken by how Dallas held Dwyane Wade to 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting (with five turnovers) in Game 6. Wade’s injury likely played a part in his underwhelming line, but the Mavs used some quick doubles to chase him out of his comfort zones. Wade in the post had been the most consistently effective weapon for either team all series long, and yet the Mavs were able to completely neutralize it in Game 6 while keeping the rest of Wade’s game in check and keeping LeBron James producing on a reasonable level.
  • Do you believe it yet?

Print is Dead, Long Live Print

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 14, 2011 under xOther | 9 Comments to Read

Following the Dallas Mavericks has been an insane ride over these last few weeks, and really, over this entire season. Maybe I’m just a loon swayed too easily by the validation of a title, but I see narrative intrigue in Dallas’ regular season that most of us had a hard time discerning as the events unfolded in real time. There’s a story there. There are likable characters, an interesting plot line, and for those on this side of the tracks, a happily ever after in which legacies were re-written and all of that rigmarole.

But I’m thrilled to announce that although many will surely attempt to capture that story in print, one of the many will be yours truly:

MavericksStampede_300Final

You can now purchase my first book, a retrospective look at the Mavericks’ incredible run through the regular season, the playoffs, and those amazing NBA Finals. It’s admittedly not a heavy read; there’s a lot of beautiful, glossy photo work filling the pages, pairing my imagery with, y’know, actual images. But it’s still a journey well with your time, and I hope, your hard-earned dollar. The book should be coming into Barnes and Noble and other select stores by week’s end, particularly for those in the Dallas area. Otherwise, consider buying the book online and reliving Dallas’ run from start to glorious finish.

UPDATE: You can also purchase the book through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, both of which should help out international buyers who hit snags with Triumph’s shipping options.

Reach

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 13, 2011 under xOther | 4 Comments to Read

Dirk Nowitzki will never hear the end of the question. In the ensuing days, weeks, months, and even years, he’ll be posed the same inquiry over and over, so many times that his answer will grow repetitive but never robotic. The very thought will always invoke the same emotion he felt on this night, this perfect June evening in Miami, when the work and the effort and the torment and the perseverance all manifested itself into something undeniably beautiful.

“Dirk, what does it feel like to finally win an NBA title?

Over at ProBasketballTalk, I wrote a piece on Dirk’s moment, and the empathy of sports fans.

Apologies for how barren this space has been today — that will be remedied soon. The Mavs deserve better, but there’s a decent reason for the silence, I assure you. Stay frosty.

Never Waking Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Give it up for your 2011 Dallas Mavericks: NBA Champions, Masters of the Universe, Brothers in Awesome.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 86, Miami Heat 83

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 8, 2011 under Recaps | 10 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-06-08 at 11.20.15 AM

Box Score — Play-by-Play — Shot Chart — GameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas82.0104.942.532.929.313.4
Miami101.244.022.734.115.9

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

  • Rick Carlisle tweaked his rotation, and the three Mavs involved — J.J. Barea (eight points, 3-9 FG, four assists), DeShawn Stevenson (11 points, 3-7 3FG), and Shawn Marion (16 points, 7-12 FG, four rebounds) — each had their best games of the series as a result. Not only has Carlisle done a great job of balancing a micro-managing style with the release of control (when he lets the Mavs “just play basketball,” or execute their “flow game,”), but he’s pressed the right buttons in every damn series thus far. Starting Barea as a means to eliminate Peja Stojakovic from the rotation while still keeping Brian Cardinal’s minutes down was actually rather inspired, and though Barea hadn’t really played well in the first three games of the Finals, he was able to accomplish some good things in Game 4 — even as he shot just 3-of-9 from the field. If Carlisle was given the option for Barea to get the same looks and same penetration again in Game 5, I think he’d take it in a heartbeat; Barea worked to create quality shots, but makes just weren’t in the cards this time. Stevenson played an effective game, too, so long as we forget about his horrible, bone-headed foul on Chris Bosh. His 11 points and ability to space the floor were invaluable considering Dirk Nowitzki’s limitations, and Stevenson was an active participant in the zone defense that shut Miami down in the fourth quarter. And then we come to Marion, who had his third game in the series with 16 or more points, and accomplished that much in just 26 minutes — by far his lowest minute total for the Finals. Dallas had leaned too heavily on Marion in the first three games of the series, and while 26 minutes will hardly be the norm from here on out, we should expect more reasonable levels of playing time than the 41+ minutes Marion played in Games 2 and 3.
  • Dallas continued in their remarkable defense against LeBron James (eight points, 3-11 FG, nine rebounds, seven assists, four turnovers), but what of Dwyane Wade ()? There’s only so much one can do to curtail scorers in isolation, especially those with the handle, speed, and vision that Wade almost unfairly possesses. He can get himself out of trouble so quickly that overt doubling presents serious problems, and yet the Mavs’ man defense can only do so much to contain him. I don’t feel like Marion, Stevenson, and Kidd did a poor job against Wade in Game 4; in many cases they played him well, and Tyson Chandler was there with the help. Wade is just too damn good at what he does, and he torched the Mavs to the tune of 32 points on 20 shots. Wade very nearly deflected some of the ill will aimed at LeBron for his horribly underwhelming performance, but a loss is a loss, and when the Heat are downed it’s often James that’s left to answer for it. I’d be very interested to see how the shift in the narrative had Wade made a single free throw or made a few more buckets, but Dallas winning with clutch execution while Wade shorts a freebie comes with its own narrative power.
  • Tyson Chandler (13 points, 16 rebounds, nine offensive boards) was a monster, and while plenty will praise him for his relentlessness, I’ve come to praise him for his restraint. Dallas has only remained competitive in this series because of Chandler, and more specifically, because Chandler has avoided foul trouble. The offensive rebounds and put-backs are fantastic, but they’re products of Chandler being on the floor in the first place, something which should in no way be assumed. Carlisle will play Chandler if he can, but foul trouble placed an artificial limit on Chandler’s minutes all season long, and was expected to play a role in one playoff series or another. It hasn’t. Whether defending LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrew Bynum, or Pau Gasol — or somehow protecting the rim from the likes of Wade and James while guarding Bosh — Chandler has kept his fouls down and stayed in the game. Chandler played 43 minutes of fully charged basketball on Tuesday night, and though his motor deserves unending praise, I’m more impressed than ever with Chandler’s ability to cut down on those tempting cheap fouls that got him in trouble so often.

The Difference: Miami Heat 88, Dallas Mavericks 86

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 6, 2011 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2011-06-06 at 11.26.43 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas83.0103.645.731.430.816.9
Miami106.048.715.423.112.0

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

  • Don’t call it a miraculous comeback. All Dallas did was play, and though they spotted Miami points here and there, it’s not as if they were horrid — even at their worst. The difference between the bumbling Mavs and those blazing the comeback trail was actually fairly thin; hitting the defensive glass and taking care of the ball was all it took for Dallas to give themselves a chance in this game, and so it will be for the remainder of the series. Miami is a great team, but they’re not the only great team in this year’s NBA Finals. Provided that Dallas stays away from their bad habits, we should be heading for at least a few more amazing, highly competitive games with singular displays of greatness and brilliant collective execution. The micro and macro battles between Dallas’ offense and Miami’s defense have been absolutely phenomenal, but the other end of the court deserves its due; the Mavs have played some terrific team defense in their efforts to limit LeBron James, and though Dwyane Wade hasn’t been hindered in the same way (as evidenced by the fact that he had a monster game on Sunday night), slowing the MVP enough to create a balanced series is a significant accomplishment. Dallas — specifically Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, and Dirk Nowitzki (yes, Dirk Nowitzki) — has played some incredible defense to halt Miami’s high pick-and-rolls in the same way that the Heat defense has halted theirs, and though that side of the court doesn’t come with the same loaded result of an elite offense facing off against an elite defense, both teams have created a reasonable facsimile. Maybe Dallas isn’t elite on D and perhaps Miami’s limitations prevent them from being a truly elite offensive team, but both teams have played at such a high level in this series that those designations are meaningless. All we have is the here and the now, and both Dallas and Miami are playing terrific basketball in an incredible series.
  • Figuring out why the Mavericks lost this game requires an analysis that exceeds the limitations of a single bullet point, so with the acknowledgment that my task here is somewhat futile, I’ll offer a bite-sized element that nonetheless factored prominently into the outcome of Game 3: Dirk’s defensive rebounding. Nowitzki’s extraordinary shot-making, Wade’s magnificence, and Chris Bosh’s heroics will take center stage, but this game wouldn’t have been what it was if not for Nowitzki making a deliberate, concentrated effort to clean the defensive glass beginning mid-way through the second quarter. The Heat were still able to grab their share of offensive boards, but thanks to Nowitzki’s efforts to secure contested rebounds — and Chandler’s relentless drive to collect offensive boards — the Mavs were able to win the rebounding rate battle. It’s one of the influences on the game that will be undoubtedly overlooked because it doesn’t support the cause of the victor or explain the shortcomings of the loser, but Nowitzki’s rebounding work was one of many reasons why Game 3 was so enjoyable and competitive.

Corner Economics

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 2, 2011 under Commentary | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2011-06-02 at 11.50.53 AM

If the Mavs’ zone was indeed busted in Game 1, it was Mario Chalmers who busted it. Dallas didn’t seem to have all that much respect for Chalmers’ offensive ability; whether by design or oversight, ‘Rio found himself wide open in the corners, a cue which led Chalmers to drain a pair of back-breaking three-pointers in the second quarter. Both makes were significant in terms of the game’s momentum, but more simply, they were incredibly efficient opportunities granted to a formidable opponent that needs no favors.

To make matters worse, Miami’s success with the corner three went beyond Chalmers. LeBron James, too, found plenty of open space by spotting up in the weak side corner, as did Mike Miller. The result of those three players’ efforts was 5-of-10 shooting on corner threes in Game 1 alone, a completely unacceptable mark for a team that typically does a stellar job of limiting opponents in one of the most efficient zones on the floor.

According to NBA.com’s StatsCube, the Blazers made just eight corner threes in six first-round games against the Mavs on 28 percent shooting. The Lakers made two corner threes in four games on 12 percent shooting. In the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder made just four corner threes in five games on 33 percent shooting. Chalmers may have been encouraged to take control of the offense, but I find it exceedingly hard to believe that Rick Carlisle and Dwane Casey would so willingly concede one of the most efficient shots in the game, particularly given the defensive emphasis given to the corners in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

That’s why this post began in the conditional; though Miami was able to work well against the Mavs’ zone in Game 1, I see no reason why that particular defense is ‘busted’ or solved. It was bested for a single night, as the Heat took advantage of some poor defensive execution.

“We were playing zone and we didn’t buckle down,” DeShawn Stevenson said. “Those are some adjustments that have to come. We’ll look at tape and find that out. We can’t give those guys shots like that because the corner three’s the easiest shot in the NBA.”

“Our zone’s been good all year. They got some shots that we didn’t want them to get, but our zone is good.”

The zone still created a strong defensive front that denied penetration, and still forced the Heat to settle for some tough shots. It also allowed for corner threes and offensive rebounds, but not purely because of the system’s limitations. The zone isn’t a magic solution that can be employed irrelevant of execution; as is the case with any man-to-man or hybrid defense, precise execution is key. The Mavs were on-point in some regards, but they got careless on the periphery of their zone and paid the price. The problems didn’t occur because Dallas ran a zone, but because they didn’t execute it properly.

“They’re good at attacking the paint,” Brendan Haywood said, “and when teams attack the paint and the ball rotates, sometimes the corner three is what you get. Tonight we gave it up to LeBron, Mike Miller — Chalmers hit a couple. Those things happen, but I feel they can be corrected.”

Part of the perceptual problem is the weird stigma of the zone defense that still endures to this day. Every defensive system has its weaknesses, but the zone’s areas of vulnerability are treated as a death sentence. Every offensive board allowed is an indictment. Every made three is a supposed instigator for change. Many expect a shift back to man-to-man D at the first sign of trouble, even when the zone is successfully walling off the paint and swarming opponents who make interior catches. Defensive breakdowns are simply part of the game, and though the zone is often seen as gimmicky or somehow inferior, it’s merely subject to the same costs that come with defensive letdowns of any kind.

The Difference: Miami Heat 92, Dallas Mavericks 84

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

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 1.25.16 PM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Dallas84.0100.044.037.316.713.1
Miami109.545.623.834.811.9

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.