Monday, June 12, 2006

Evaluating Game 2

What the Heat did well:
Maintained a strong defensive scheme that focused on zone coverage and a collapsing defense against penetrators that continued to make life difficult for Dirk and Josh Howard.  Focused a little more on Jason Terry.  Jerry Stackhouse was the only scoring threat that managed to hit over half of his shots.  

How the Heat failed:
Doing everything that was wrong in game 1, but worse.
Allowed Walker and Williams to again abandon the gameplan and go into a trigger-happy mindset.  Pat Riley and Shaq were ruthlessly critical of Stan Van Gundy last year for abandoning the post in their Eastern Finals loss to the Pistons.  Imagine what Riles would have done to Stan if Shaq had a 5 point, 6 rebound game.  Ultimately, it falls on the coach’s feet if players go off on their own agendas.  Yes, Shaq should kick it out if he’s swarmed by defenders.  No, that does not license the perimeter players to gun away.  Reposting is a technique that any team with a dominant big man must employ.  Wait for the help defense to leave, and then pound it right back inside.  It could not be clearer that the Heat, and especially Walker, are acting like weak-willed dieters passing by a McDonald’s.  Walker and his volume shooting need to be benched.
Dwayne Wade is looking more and more like Steve Francis each passing game.  The laughable Michael Jordan comparisons have stopped cold for good reason.  Specifically, through two games:
1.16 points per shot1, down from a 1.44 regular season average
4.9 shots per assist, way up from his 2.8 regular season average
1.00 assist/turnover ratio2, well below his 1.88 regular season average
What does that tell me?  Wade is acting less like a playmaker and creator and more like a Kobe Bryant without a jumper.  He’s passing less, shooting more, but is actually scoring a less.  He’s wasting possessions.
Altogether, the Heat are acting like anything but a team.  They are trying to win out on individual talent and refuse to work together on offense.  This team reminds me of the parable of hell: everyone seated at a great feast, everyone starving, but no one able to eat because their forks are far too long.  All they needed to do was feed one another, but they never would become part of a larger whole.  Shaq has talked a lot about his legacy; will this open talk about his two other embarrassments in the Championship round instead?

What the Mavs need to fix:
When you’re up two games?  Not an awful lot.  Still, Nowitzki still has not found the comfort zone he enjoyed in the first 3 rounds, still having trouble attacking inside against Miami’s collapsing frontcourt.  At the same time, he’s been able to get to the line and be a factor there.  As long as Miami stays in a zone, he may be best served as a 20-foot sniper if he starts to struggle.
Josh Howard still isn’t picking his spots as well as he could, but he’s maintaining his aggressiveness and finding that outside shooting will come easily against this defense.  

Why the Mavs won:
Effectively using a zone to tempt loose cannons like Walker from sticking with Shaq.  Shaq managed only 12 attempts in game 1, now it’s down to 5.  Wade, Walker, and Williams let loose for a coach-killing 17-45 shooting performance.  
A flexible, unselfish offense that fells out the defense and rides the hot hand of the night; in Game 1 it was Terry and in game 2 it was Stackhouse.  Once again, Miami is struggling to contain perimeter players, and Dallas is eagerly exploiting it.
Taking advantage of the available outside shot.  To hold back Dirk, Miami is leaning on a collapsing zone but they simply don’t have the quickness or focus to rotate on outside shooters.  Dallas may not have any Dell Currys in their pocket, but wide open jumpers aren’t too difficult for them to hit.  Howard, Stackhouse, and Van Horn hit a combined 7-10 from beyond the arc.

Looking forward:
The number one thing the Heat must do in the next game is re-emphasize Shaquille O’Neal in their offense.  Shaq likewise has to play with enough energy to merit that gameplan.  Dallas is simply not equipped to stop him or Wade with regularity, but when Walker starts firing recklessly it gives them a free pass.
The NBA’s 2-3-2 format makes it extremely difficult for the team with homecourt to maintain momentum, however, Miami’s falling apart at the seams and needs more than a shot of enthusiasm at this point.
The ultimate question is, can Riley nail down the collection of individuals on his roster and get them on the same page?  Dallas has really unified as a team, the common denominator among all championship teams.  If Miami continues to try and win with players pulling in multiple directions, they may not be coming back to Texas.

1measure of shooting efficiency, with a 1.5 or higher being excellent, a 1.25 being good, and a 1.0 being poor  
2best benchmark for effective playmaking and handling, with a 2.5 or higher being excellent, a 1.7 being good, and below a 1.0 being poor.


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