By John Carroll
The 2011 NBA Finals may come down to one simple fact. The Miami Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and the Dallas Mavericks do not. This series may come down to the overwhelming talent of Miami Heat. James and Wade are two of the best playmakers in the NBA, they can create shots early or late in the shot clock, and they can defend multiple positions on the court.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh combined to score 65 of the Heat’s 92 points. Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points for the Mavericks but got little help from his teammates. The Miami Heat’s defense did not let the Dallas Mavericks go off on big scoring runs. The Mavs looked very much like the Chicago Bulls last night in Game 1, due to the fact that they did not have a second scoring option. They had Dirk Nowtizki and not much else. The biggest key for the Mavs in Game 2 is who will be their second or third scoring option. If no one steps up the Heat will win and be up 2-0 in this series. If they can get Jason Kidd, Jason Terry or someone else to step up to help Dirk Nowitzki they have a very good chance to tie this up 1-1.
Game 2 Adjustments
1. Dirk needs help: Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points but it took him 18 shots to get that number. The rest of the Mavericks were cold from the field and it allowed the Heat to gang up on Nowitzki without any repercussions. The Heat will attempt to wear Dirk down during this series. They will utilize Udonis Haslem (30 minutes) on him with 3-4 other players surrounding him. The Heat are a very fast, athletic team. Their athleticism allows them to double team Dirk, make him get rid of the ball, and still rotate and recover. By doubling Dirk the Heat will make him be more of a facilitator instead of a scorer. Also by doubling Dirk it stops him from getting into a rhythm where he becomes unguardable. One thing that Dirk did in Game 1 was to go quickly on the catch. He caught the ball and attacked quickly without waiting. It helped him avoid double teams, and allowed him to beat the defense before it could collapse on him.
2. Zone Defense: The Mavericks were forced to use their zone defense versus the Heat because of their inability to matchup man to man with their bench players. It is difficult for Jason Terry, JJ Barea, and Peja Stojakovic to match up man to man. The Heat had good success utilizing the zone versus the Heat during the regular season and they used it again last night. The zone served its purpose by allowing Rick Carlisle to play his bench. They have worked on the zone all season and it may prove to be one of their biggest assets in this series. However the Mavericks must find a way to box out much better in their zone. One of the Mavericks biggest weaknesses is their ability to rebound collectively as a team. They struggled to keep the Heat off the glass all game giving up 16 offensive rebounds. Many of these came in their zone defense. If they are going to utilize the zone in Game 2 they must gang rebound the ball with all five players and have a much better effort on the glass.
3. Pick and Rolls: The Mavericks utilized the pick and roll all game long to create scoring opportunities for themselves offensively. They did a very nice job of diving the man who set the pick and forcing the Heat to come off the shooters in the corners to cover the roll. The Mavs did a nice job of bypassing the first open man and skipped the ball over the top of the defense to find the open man. They knew exactly how the Heat would cover the pick and roll and how to take advantage of it. Unfortunately they missed a lot of open shots in Game 1 that they will have to make in Game 2 to win. But they do know how to get good shots by utilizing the pick and roll to create them.
4.Versatility of Lebron: LeBron is the most versatile defender in the NBA. He can guard the 1, 2 ,3 and 4 positions on the court. Many people were looking for LeBron to be guarding Nowitzki in the third or fourth quarters of Game 1. What Erik Spoelstra decided to do was to put LeBron on Jason Terry who was killing the Heat in the first half (12 points) and slow him down. Terry did not score in the 2nd half. In addition the strategy of putting LeBron on Terry was to help with the Terry-Nowitzki pick and rolls. With Lebron guarding Terry it allowed Lebron to switch the pick and rolls involving Nowtizki. This strategy would not allow Nowitzki any wide open looks and not force the Heat to be involved in full rotations of their team to Nowitzki. If LeBron guards Terry again, look for the Mavs to put him into much more screening action and make Lebron work hard running off screens to chase Jason Terry. This will hopefully open up some quality shots for Terry and tire LeBron out having to run around to defend Terry.
5. Bench: The Mavericks have one of the best benches in the NBA and for them to win the NBA Finals they must outplay the Heat’s bench. They allowed the Heat’s bench to outscore them in Game 1 (27-16). Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller and Juwan Howard gave the Heat a big lift off the bench. Jason Terry scored 12 points for the Mavs all in the first half. The entire bench of Terry, JJ Barea and Peja Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood combined to shoot 4-22 (18%) from the field in Game 1. This group must find a way to have a much bigger impact in Game 2. Their bench has been a big strength of their team all year and they must find a way to score and support Dirk Nowitzki to win this series.
6.3 pt Attack: With all the attention to stop Dwayne Wade and LeBron James the Mavericks must give up something. They are trying to take away the drives to the rim and free throws. They did a very good job of keeping the Heat off the free throw line only allowing James 2 and Wade 5 free throws. In fact the Mavs outshot the Heat from the free throw line 32-26. However the Mavericks allowed the Heat to hurt them from behind the 3 point line. The Heat shot (11-24) 45.8 % from behind the line. The Mavs must be able to limit the drive and free throws and still protect the line better in Game 2. The Heat are the better drive team. The Mavericks cannot allow the Heat to outscore them from the 3 point line if they want to win this series.
Prediction: Dallas wins Game 2.