Round 4, Game 3 (Dallas v Miami)

Final score: Miami 88, Dallas 86

I promised myself I wouldn’t get carried away with Dallas’ game 2 victory, but I still let myself fall for the trap that is the expectations game.  Here’s the weird thing about this game: everyone, myself included, thought that Dallas was going to win the game, or so it seemed.  Pundits and the like were saying it could go either way, but come game-time, watching the game, it seemed like every fan in the arena was just utterly convinced that no matter what, Dallas was going to pull out a victory.  It was truly the unspoken secret that everyone, for some reason, thought that Dallas was going to win.  Thus when Dirk’s shot bounced off the rim, the crowd seemed completely stunned as if they didn’t know how to react.  It wasn’t a crowd like the one in Miami, stunned by what had transpired, it was a crowd that literally was trying to make sense of something that seemed outside their scope of understanding.

The thing is that there are two sides to the story of the game.  The first is that the Mavs blew it.  Dirk willed the team to a come-from-behind tie with just under a minute remaining and from there on, had a turnover, a bad defensive play on Bosh and a missed shot – enough to lose the game.  The Mavericks were in the game in the final minute, but a couple miscues sank them.  Unlike game 2, where even the biggest bonehead play in a long, long time (Terry’s lack of defense on Chalmers) was overcome with basketball greatness in Dirk, this time, there just wasn’t enough time left on the clock.

The other side of the story, though, is that Dallas, just like in games 1 and 2, had no business being in this game.  They were down 6 late in the 4th and played catch-up throughout most of the night.  In fact, it took more Nowitzki heroics to even give them the opportunity to be in it at the end.  Dirk has scored the team’s last 9 points on Thursday and 12 points on Sunday.  Considering how good Miami’s defense is/has been, this feat is all the more astonishing.  It’s no secret now: the only Mavericks player who can score in the final minutes (at least 4 of each game) has been Nowitzki.

But here’s the thing, time and time, and time again, Dallas has found ways to battle back from very large deficits against the Heat.  I can count about 5 times in just the last two games where Dallas has gone on a run where they outscored Miami by at least 10 points.  So my question is where does this burst of fantastic offense and terrific defense go for the stretches where the Mavs get clobbered?  Coming out of the half, Dallas turned the ball over like 3 straight times resulting in 2 dunks and an ally-oop layup.  That’s pathetic and that’s what’s killed Dallas this series.

I’ve insisted from long before this series even commenced that Miami was the superior team athletically and talent-wise, an assertion I still maintain.  Nowhere has this been more evident than in Dallas’ turnover-prone stretches.  Nowitzki and Kidd (as well as Barea, Terry and Stojakovic) have been struggling mightily with Miami’s athletic defense.  The Mavs have, as a team, turned over the ball 43 times this series many, many, many of which have led to Miami runouts and dunks.  I have no idea what the true count is, but Miami is getting like 10 dunks per game… and still shooting 43%.  Take out the dunks, and Miami is shooting an ungodly putrid percentage (easily sub 40%).  Yes, Dallas is shooting poorly themselves, Terry is having a very poor series, and Barea and Stojakovic are humanoid forms that futilely run around missing shots, but I believe that if Dallas somehow managed to stop turning the ball over and getting easy dunks for Lebron and Wade, they could stop falling behind and being forced to stage marvelous comebacks just to get a shot to win at the end.

I thought this post was going to be short, because I was depressed.  Shows what I know.  The turning point of the game was the Nowitzki turnover in the final minute.  Sadly, I actually missed that play (I think I was doing dishes or something else of real-world value) and when I turned my head back to the game, James was improbably passing the ball to Bosh for the game-winner.  At the point of Nowitzki’s errant pass, Dallas had complete control of the momentum and a chance to take a lead in the game.  Fast forward to the next time Dallas has the ball and they’re facing a 2 point deficit with 4.4 seconds on the clock.  Big mistake by a guy that’s been almost error-free in the 4th quarters of this series.

I give the player of the game to Wade for his second consecutive fantastic offensive outing and, most importantly, making the big plays when it counted.  He’s probably had around 8 dunks alone in the past 2 games, but what’s more impressive than that is that many of his dunks have come on his own defensive play on the perimeter.  He also sank 2 crushing 3’s in the second half that kept the Mavericks at bay.  As Hollinger said on the NBA Today podcast, Miami’s offense down the stretch was just as atrocious as in game 2, but Wade made up for it by sinking the 3’s in clutch situations.  A smaller trophy, though, needs to go to Chalmers who sank 4 incredibly important threes in 29 minutes of gametime.  Considering Bibby’s frozen corpse is his only replacement, Chalmers’ contribution was a huge double plus.

Going forward, I only have one piece of advice for the Mavs: stop turning the ball over.  No team should ever get dunked on that many times off turnovers in a single series.  So while the running story of the day is definitely the need for someone on the team not named Dirk Nowitzki to step up, I think it is far more important for Dallas to stop shooting themselves in the foot with poor processions and turnovers.  Miami now has 62 points off turnovers to Dallas’ 43.  Yes, Dallas, I mean Dirk, needs help offensively, but the TOs have to stop, too.

For Miami, I think they need to make sure they don’t get overconfident.  Game 3 could easily have been Dallas’ if not for some really lucky occurrences.  So far in the series, Miami has hit 28 3’s and shot a hair under 40% on those shots.  Bibby, Chalmers, Miller, Wade and Lebron have all hit at least 2 in a single game.  But as Miami found out the hard way in game 2, when those 3’s aren’t falling, the game is hard to win.  The Heat need to remember that they’re the better team not in 3-point shooting, but in athleticism, talent, quickness, and speed.  That means they need to keep attacking on offense as well as defense, generating more of those awesome dunks.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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