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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Defense is fine, but Mavs need jolt of 'O'

By Jeff Caplan



DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks spent the season preaching defense. But, three games into the NBA Finals and trailing the Miami Heat, 2-1, defense is not the problem.

The Mavs have held LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company to an average of 91.0 points a game. The Mavs, however, are averaging just 88.3 points, down from 100.2 in the regular season and 99.7 points in the first three series. If Dallas is going to tie up the Finals and have a chance to take a 3-2 lead back to Miami, it will because they finally get their free-flow, spread-the-wealth offense back in gear.

"We have to get the ball out quickly and push and look for early opportunities in transition, get this tempo up," cold-shooting guard Jason Terry said. "I just believe, honestly, if we score 100 points they can’t beat us. If it’s a 90-, 80-point game, which it has been the last three, then it gives them a chance. We get up in the 100s, I like our chances."

The Mavs are 6-1 in the playoffs when they score at least 100 points. The bad news for Dallas is that in 18 playoff games, the Heat and their smothering, swarming defense, have allowed 100 points once, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls.

But, Dallas is shooting just 42.0 percent in the series, down from 47.5 percent in the regular season, and the Heat defense has turned them into a low possession team, averaging 70.1 shots in three games.

"Our ability to spread the floor and shoot is a big reason why we made it to the Finals, to really spread the ball around and shoot and make timely and big shots," Dirk Nowitzki said. "But, for some reason they're so long and athletic on the perimeter that they're able to swarm me and my post-ups, and when we swing, they're still athletic and quick enough to get to our shooters on the weak side and run them off, or at least contest them."

Turnovers are obviously another significant issue. The Mavs have 45 turnovers for 62 Miami points --accounting for more than 22 percent of the Heat's total scoring -- compared to 37 Heat turnovers for 43 Dallas points.

"I've got to do a better job of putting my teammates in a position to be successful," said Jason Kidd, who has 12 turnovers in the three games. "I think that's the one thing from here on out I'm going to try to do."

As Nowitzki said, the Heat defense has been excellent doubling him, yet being aware enough and quick enough to close on the perimeter. Terry has experienced the brunt of that force. He has not shot well and has struggled through two awful fourth quarters. And because James and Wade log heavy minutes, the Mavs' prized bench has been unable to capitalize on a true bench-on-bench situation.

The Dallas bench, the highest-scoring during the regular season at about 20 points, is averaging half that in this series. J.J. Barea, who turned into a mini-star with his breathtaking penetrations against the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder, has been totally removed as a threat. He's averaging 4.3 points and shooting 21.1 percent.

He got into the lane in Game 1, but couldn't finish. Ever since, his drives to the rim have been few and far between.

"Any time I get by him [Heat guard Mario Chalmers], LeBron is waiting for me at the free throw line and the big guys are waiting for me under the rim," Barea said. "Team effort, they're doing a good job. They know if they want to win they've got to be like that."

And the Mavs have to get back to a free-flowing offense that puts points on the board.