I’ve been slacking way to hard lately. I wanted to comment on games 1, 2, and 3 before they happened but…I dont know I’ve been just an utter slob completely drained of any work ethic. Then again I dont see how I could be so drained when I’m not even employed at the moment. Anyway, enough of my inadequacies, lets get down to the nitty gritty.
The Finals through game 3 have been absolutely spectacular in my opinion. The fabled “Big 3” have been unable to truly stifle the gallant Nowitzki and his band of veteran misfits. Game 1 may have been the single game in which the might of Miami’s three headed hydra defeated the brave Maverick with their overwhelming power and speed. Yet, they only won the game by 8 points, which happens to be the largest margin between the two teams in a win this series.
As I assumed, Rick Carlisle (aka Jim Carrey’s stern older brother) came out with a match up zone defense which served them well in the first 3 quarters of game 1. It is the more conservative but strategically sound call. Miami’s athleticism makes them a difficult match up in a man-to-man defense for Dallas. However, as any coach at any level of basketball will tell you, when you utilize a zone defense your rebounding efforts must double.
In a man-to-man defense, individuals are body-to-body with the opposing player allowing them to quickly box out and retrieve a rebound. In a zone defense, even a match up one, there is little body to body contact, more specifically the location of the person you are defending is ambiguous since you are playing in the space.
Therefore, the issue running the zone against the Heat, a team with exceptional athletic ability, is that players like Wade and James may leap into open spaces and take advantage of the increased difficulty in boxing a player out. While the Dallas defense watched shots go up, the threat of James and Wade made it difficult to not only box them out but the remaining Heat players as well. Thus Miami had +10 in rebounds which came from offensive rebounding, most likely due to the zone defense.
So as a result, I will give game 1 to the Heat not because Wade and James played better but because in practice, a zone defense does not work well against players with MVP caliber athleticism.
Fast forward to game 2 and we have a true battle of wits. Instead of sticking with the match up zone from game one which in my mind honestly proved to be effective, Rick decided to go with a man-to-man. Now anyone who knows the team average of players ages on the Mavs will tell you that this plan was suicide. The average age turns out to be something around 32.2 I think. Jason Kidd is on the top end of the distribution at 38 years of age.
I thought Rick was crazy. No way can his already depleted rotation manage to grind it out with Miami’s bucking thoroughbreds. But I was pleasantly surprised. Youth and athleticism will only take you so far, ask Rose and Westbrook. Not to say that they both will not see the glory of the finals in the near future but beyond ability, a resolve and most importantly EXPERIENCE, will determine the outcome of close games. And that is exactly what occurred. In the Heat’s defense, yes shots were missed, poor utilization of possession and clock were involved as well, and yes both Wade and James have reached this point before but they just were not on the same page.
What I think happened was a systematic attack on the part of Dirk and company. Dirk in the post game said not one play was called in the last 4 minutes of game 2 and I believe him. But when you have that much experience packed into one team, victory may as well be inevitable.
I liken their attack to Barcelona’s free form soccer play. Yes, the ball went to Dirk 99% of the time but the back to basics motion offense, picks, screens, and cuts were all in sync, just like watching Barcelona’s build up play which normally results in a Villa or Messi goal in the box. It is tactical, methodical, and absolutely beautiful.
It was beautiful to watch, like a pick up game for the ages, shot for shot and rebound for rebound. Culminating with Dirk’s historic drive left, it was an ode to the essence of the game, a left hand libation to the basketball legends of lore.
Game 3 saw a similar path. But whereas in the previous 2 games “King James” imposed his royal strength upon his opposition, he was nowhere to be found in the second half. Wade on the other hand looked like he was fresh out of training camp. Making tough jumpers with spot on defense attached to his hip, euro stepping to the basket as if everyone around him was a proletariat and he a member of the bourgeois. It was as if Thor had found his hammer in Dallas and regained his godly might. Wade could not be stopped.
But the 7 foot Maverick would not just let any city-slicker come stompin’ through his yard. To match his opponents onslaught he put up 34 points and 11 rebs against Wade’s 29 points and 11 rebs. The Mavs ended up losing by 2.
I thought they had game 3. Why? Because my whole theory regarding the “Big 3” was to limit James to 20 points and Bosh to 15 points. If you can achieve this you can let Wade go for 30.( James had 17 and Bosh had 18 in game 3). I came to this conclusion when Miami lost to the Bulls in game 1 of the East Finals. Bosh went for 30 but James and Wade scored 15 each. It may sound like something better said than done but it is possible. It is a 7 game series, you learn and adjust.
But more importantly, the Heat dont really have a strong second unit. If the second unit doesnt produce then you need to put your ace cards on the table. Downside is you’ll tire them quicker than you want to. Yeah they may be young but anyone who has played an extra 20 games on the season will say that it is also better said than done.
So what happened to the Mavs? Shots. No not drinking before the game or at halftime, they just couldnt make shots when they needed. If you leave crumbs near the fridge the Heat will empty it out top to bottom. Thats what happened to the Mavs. They had a lead in the fourth but they could not seal the win because no one else could make shots. Dirk can put 25+ up in a night. His numbers for the last 5 seasons will tell you that. Put perhaps his last chance in the finals on the line and he may just put up 30+.
Its simple. The Mavs need to make shots. And they have to make them in small windows of space because the Heat close out on the wings faster than special operations on Osama.
So for game 4 I think the Mavs have small adjustments to make. Bosh, Wade, and James will be there for the next couple games, you just have to cope with it and they have done well up to this point. Haslem has not come on as strong as everyone had thought coming off the Bulls series. Chalmers, as well as he has played the last 2 games, (and I am a huge fan from his Jayhawk days) will not be as big of a factor for game 4. Why? Rick Carlisle. He is a meticulous calculating tactician. Masterful in his approach to the game, I wouldnt be surprised if he made it seem as if the Mavs were playing 5 on 4. I’m gunna give the Mavs game 4. Come out strong and play agressive defense as they have been but most importantly, they MUST make their shots.
I like both these teams, I truly do. But in the end I dont see Dirk and Kidd making it back to this stage. This may be their final opportunity to grasp the mantle that has evade so many worthy but unlucky talents of the hardwood arena. James, Wade, and Bosh will be back, as soon as next year if all things continue as they are currently progressing. I wont be mad if they lose and I dont think I’ll be that disappointed if they lose the finals either because I know they will win a championship together. No doubt about it. So for Kidd’s sake, I hope the Mavs look at one another and realize that this may be their last time together, their last run, their final glory. What could be more fitting than riding out in glory in the wild west? I honestly dont know.
“I want to hate the Heat, want it like my next breath, but Wade is nice, James is fun, Bosh is sincere, Spoelstra is cool, Riley is brilliant, and the way they all play is so damn selfless, I can’t.
I’m pissed that I can’t be pissed.”
After last night, I think Dirk has made a statement about what he wants. As the 40 something big kid that is Mark Cuban received his Western Conference title, Dirk sneakily maneuvered through his teammates and coaching staff into the locker room avoiding Doris Burke’s Q&A tactics as well as the crowds admiration. Why? I would like to think he is not satisfied. Not many people make it this far in the playoffs in such a dominating fashion. When you look at the Mavs they are somewhat like a bizzaro Lakers championship team of last year. A figurehead (Dirk), veteran point guard (Kidd), an all-around athletic multi-positional and defensive player (Marion), and a gritty defensive rebounder (Chandler). Throw in the sharp-shooting of Jason Terry and you have a team that is unstoppable, Portland, LA, and OKC can all tell you that. When Dirk left the court before Doris Burke could catch him at first I thought that he had some sort of issue with Mark Cuban. This may still be a possible answer to his abrupt exit but I feel like it was more of Dirk seeing it as another day at the office. I mean come on, this is his job, occupation, his profession for god sake. After the rest of the team began clearing out and Doris was with nothing but cameras and he own microphone I saw Dirk’s move as the act of a champion. Lebron may be smiting the Bulls defense with his superior athleticism but he has the advantage of D Wade and (the lesser) Chris Bosh to allow him to do so. I dont think this will happen against the Mavs. It will be interesting to see these two super powers clash in the final. I know I am writing this before the east finals have concluded but I dont see the Bulls taking down the big three, at least not this year. Both Dirk and Lebron are playing the game at its highest and most pure form. Void of internal contradiction and full of confidence, they play each game with and effortlessness that seems to come once ever 5 years in the NBA. This time it has been bestowed on two players, on perhaps approaching the peak of his prime (Dirk) and the other realizing the beginning of a possible dynasty. In the end, I’m taking the the lanky 7 footer with the ratchet of a jump shot. Mavs in 6 baby. Next year Bron Bron.