Round 4, Game 1 (Miami v Dallas)

Final score: Dallas 84, Miami 92

Sometimes I really hate being right and unfortunately for me, game 1 played out exactly like I had feared.  Dallas hung around all game (very much like Chicago did in the previous series) only to get run out of the gym in the final few minutes.  Actually, the more I think about it, game 1 had plenty of parallels with the Chicago series.  Dirk (like Rose) had a nigh number of points, but shot a poor percentage (given for Dirk, poor is sub 50; for Rose, it’s sub 40); the game was close throughout as Miami only pulled away in the final minutes; during that closing stretch, though, Dallas couldn’t buy a shot; Miami won the game with defense and unreal plays by James and Wade.

I watched from the 8 minute mark of the 2nd quarter on and the game was for me, as a Dallas fan, torture.  The only moment when I felt like the Mavs had a good chance to take game 1 was that short stretch in the 3rd when they pushed the lead to 11.  But even then, the Heat immediately came back and by the end of the 3rd, held their own 4 point lead.

Strategy-wise, unlike most commentators, I don’t think either team came out ahead.  Problem is that Miami is so much more talented than Dallas that a “tie” is actually a victory for them.  Miami managed to hold Dallas’ offense in check for most of the game, somehow managed to win both the rebounding battle as well as bench scoring, and keep Dirk in check (by the way, if we’re making a list of “you know your great when”s, then Dirk’s “you know you’re great when the defense feels like they contained you well and you still scored 27 points on 1.5 points/shot” is pretty fantastic).  However, Miami failed to stop Marion and to truly expose Dallas’ smaller guards on offense.  On Dallas’ side, though, they managed to defend Miami on a level I don’t think anyone saw.  Miami shot under 40% as a team, Wade, Bosh and James scored only 65 (which the Mavs will definitely live with).  For the Mavs, though, their defensive failures include giving up 11 threes, which lost them the game, as well as not being able to force more than 10 turnovers against an often careless basketball team.

There’s always more to talk about, but let’s get to the game breakdown.  The turning point in the game has to be Lebron’s fantastic (and let’s be honest, lucky) fadeaway three at the end of the 3rd period.  That shot should never have gone in, but it did and buried the Mavs in a 4 point deficit, from which they would never recover.  Maybe more crushing than that three, though, was the fact that it came on the heels of a Nowitzki TO on a drive that could have sent the Mavs up 1 going into the 4th.  Instead, Lebron his the 3, capping a 5 point swing and the Heat thundered toward the finish line.

The player of the game, in my opinion, was a no-brainer.  Lebron did everything that Miami needed and more.  While I am not of the opinion that he somehow “shut down” Jason Terry (I feel like Terry missed his fair share of open shots), his defense and offense were phenomenal throughout the game.  James’ 24-9-5 belie the fact that he shot 9/16 from the field and a very impressive 4/5 from the three-point line.  Also, it fails to show that he somehow dominated the entire 4th quarter without scoring a point until the game was essentially out of reach for Dallas.

So I was planning an aside for this blog post and now seems like a good place to put it.  Lebron James is not just a physical and athletic beast, he is also maybe the single most fit player in history.  I have never before seen a player log 45 minutes a game (averaging 44 in the playoffs) and play with such energy and strength in the 4th quarter.  James literally never looks like he’s tired.  Especially in game 1, where he played a fairly passive game (only 2 FTs and few drives to the basket), he looked so fresh, almost as if he had never been sweating, leaving the rest of the players on the court looking like Jordan during game 5 of the NBA finals in ’97.  But here’s the kicker – after Dallas had worked their rear ends off in order to defend and keep him and Wade out of the paint throughout the game, James’ athleticism and fitness took over as he kicked his game and speed up another notch and ran away with the game.  With Dallas wilting all around him, James burst forth for two tremendous dunks to seal the game.  So much for shutting him down all game.

Going forward, Dallas has a lot of work to do.  Like I said before, a tie isn’t good enough for the Mavs, because they just have such an extremely large talent deficit.  Game 1 changed nothing about how I think about this series, but it does give me a better idea of the little changes that need to be made.  Dallas has to continue to play good defense and hope Miami starts missing some 3’s.  They also need to make their open shots.  Peja, who had such a great Lakers series, went 0-3 in his 15 or so minutes on the court.  Problem is that all three attempts were wide open and for Stojakovic, an offensive specialist, it is absolutely essential that he make his shots, because he sure isn’t going to make up for it with his defense.  Similarly, Terry, Barea and Dirk and Kidd to a lesser extent all missed shots they should have made.

For Miami, all they have to do is play more of the same.  In any other universe or variation thereof, I would throw out a warning that Miami is leaning too heavily on its talent and athleticism to put the games away.  Problem is that this strategy is absolutely working.  Down the stretch, Miami’s offense is “get the ball to Wade or James and let him go 1-on-1.”  And where I thought it was such a bad idea for Rose and Durant in the previous series, it has completely worked for these Heat!  So in conclusion, Miami just has to maintain the status quo and Dallas has to do everything good they did in game 1 and top it off with a much better offensive performance.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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    • dad
    • June 4th, 2011

    sounds like a boring, painful game

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