Friday, June 16, 2006

Evaluating Game 4

Let me jump things off by reviewing my long time keys for the series:
  1. Miami, unlike any previous Mavs postseason opponent, as the pieces to make the paint a no-man’s zone and take a way a crucial aspect of Dirk’s new game.  

  2. No one single player can guard Dirk, Wade, or Shaq in this series.

  3. Miami has to keep Walker on a leash or on the bench.

  4. Dallas needs its secondary players (Terry, Stackhouse, Howard) to be aggressive against Miami’s poor perimeter defense, either by attacking or with outside shooting.

Last night, the Mavs got handled.  Pure and simple.  What I saw:
Miami playing to its full potential on defense, creaming anyone trying to establish an inside game, and maintaining its intensity for 48 minutes instead of 15.  
Shaq and Zo finally dominating the center position, totalling 21 points (70% shooting), 19 boards, and 5 swats.
Walker chilling out, hoisting only 11 shots instead of the 17+ he had been averaging in the series.  Williams kept his shots to 5.  
A continuation of game 3’s final 7 minutes for Dirk and company.  Like I said before, the Mavs completely take their mental and emotional lead from Dirk.  When he’s got swagger and a wagging tongue, they all light up.  When he’s flummoxed, they all look like they need to change their contacts.  That was just a horrific shooting display last night, with the Dallas big four putting up a combined 17-58 (29%).  

Looking ahead to Sunday…wait, stop.  Let me get this off my chest first.  Major bone to pick with ABC and the NBA’s willingness to go along.  First, there’s no need for a two day lay off during the middle three games of the Finals.  There’s no travel, and if anything, it gives an additional edge to the team without homecourt, letting them cool their jets at home longer than they have to be on the road in the series.  I say, make one of those three games a back-to-back.  Let’s see a champion show some fortitude.  Second, the late starts are completely out of hand.  All seven games in this series in this series are slated for 9:20 pm ET tips?  Even the ones in Miami and the two Sunday games?  Are you serious?  Last I checked, the Suns weren’t in this Finals.  Consider things from this angle: how many Florida kids are being shut out of watching their home team because ABC is catering to the west coast viewers in this way?  It’s pathetic and upsetting.  I’m pretty the 15 people in L.A. that are even aware that the NBA season extended past the Lakers’ would be okay tuning into the second half of games after work (6 PT, 9 ET).  That would give us 7:30 tips on the East, and I’d even be cool with them tipping at 8.  No big deal.  The late night Sunday starts are particularly galling as well, though.  Boo, ABC, boo.

Anyway, what to look for in the now best of 3 series.  
  1. History is pretty definitive that whomever breaks a 2-2 tie has almost certainly locked the series (right around 85%, if I recall correctly).

  2. I doubt we’ll see all 4 Mavs ground out like that again.  Howard hasn’t broken through yet, and Nowitzki’s been up and down, but Stackhouse and Terry aren’t going to go long before their next tear.  That was a bad night for them more than a Heat defense snuffing them out.

  3. That was the first night that the Heat played with energy all the way through.  They might be able to repeat it at home with the two days off, but I’d keep a close eye on their gas tank.

  4. If Stackhouse gets suspended, it would be unfortunate as it was maybe a tenth of what Shaq normally gets each night.  It simply looked bad because he was airborne and carries the momentum of a runaway train.

  5. My guess?  Dirk brings the Mavs’ offense back to take the next two games and close things out.  I would look for this Miami team to get a little high on itself, especially the secondary players.  Bare in mind, we still have not seen a game where the Mavs have run on all cylinders.  If they break loose, it’s finished.


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