The Miami Heat took Game One of the NBA Finals today 92-84 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. The scoreline ended up flattering the Mavericks somewhat with a made basket inside the final few seconds. This puts Dallas in a must-win situation for Game Two regardless of the upcoming three home games via the 2-3-2 format. There were a few danger signs for the Mavericks in this game today and the coaching staff will be feverishly defining strategy for Game Two which will be played in Miami on Friday, Melbourne time. For Miami it was business as usual as now, after 97 games they are only three wins away from their goal of an NBA Championship.
The usual suspects littered the box score for the Heat with the “Big 3” accounting for the following share of Miami’s totals:
- Points: 70.6%
- Rebounds: 60.8%
- Assists: 70%
- Field Goal Attempts: 66.2%
- Field Goals Made: 77.4%
Put simply, these guys were everywhere for Miami and while stopping all of them is impossible, the task now is surely just stopping one of them. Dirk Nowitzki had a solid game and carried his team admirably with help from Shawn Marion. On a night when both teams shot a shade under 39% from the field, the combo of Nowitzki/Marion bucked the trend and combined for 43 points (at 43% from the field), 18 rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal. The problem for Dallas was their second unit that influenced the game about as much as Mark Jackson’s commentary intellect. For those playing at home, that equals zero.
Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood and JJ Barea combined for just 17 points on a horrid 4-22 (18%) from the field. Justin Bieber shot just above that clip (3-11) in the All-Star Celebrity Game in February.
Yes, I mentioned Bieber which is bad but the Mavericks bench were worse.
(Note: My spell checker identifies “Bieber” as a problem which is wonderful. However it’s suggested fix is “Lieberman” which is insulting to the game’s female version of Jerry West.)
In my opinion Miami’s win today doesn’t guarantee them anything but it does go a long way towards capturing the flag that is the Larry O’Brien trophy. Historically, teams who take Game One of a best-of-seven series generally advance/win at a clip just above 70%.
With all of this considered the Dallas Mavericks have one simple goal in mind right now, and that is to win Game Two. The only way this is remotely possible is through improved bench play and the disabling of one of the “Big 3”. Miami didn’t do a terribly good job of containing or defending the perimeter, so Dallas will be afforded the opportunity to shoot a much better percentage and try to force the scoreboard into triple figures.
Defensively there can be no more cheap, non-physical fouls. It still amazes me that opponents don’t simply tackle James once he gets past his man and into the lane. Both Wade and James can finish with significant contact, let alone a cheap bump or slap. Turning those three-point plays into two’s and maintaining a 45-50% field goal percentage will go a long way to winning Game Two for the Mavericks.
This is far easier said than done however as this Miami team is playing significantly better Basketball than Portland, Los Angeles or Oklahoma City. The Heat have higher level threats at the most dangerous positions of two, three and four and rely much less on their bench. While Durant and Westbrook could kill Dallas from the perimeter, there was no inside presence for the Thunder. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum tried to one-two their way through the Mavericks defense sans Gasol while the Laker bench disappeared. While Portland were multi-skilled, they lacked role definition and about $30m of talent.
If Dallas lose Game Two in Miami on Friday, this series feels as though it will be over in five games at a maximum. If Dallas gets the series split however, I see this potentially going seven games. Dallas fans better hope Dirk’s finger ligament damage isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Buckle up for a Finals classic or an LBJ “coming out” party depending on the Game Two result.
For some, those two are one and the same.