By John Carroll
The Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals with a thrilling 88-86 win in Dallas on Sunday. They were led by Dwyane Wade who scored 19 of his 29 points in the first half. Wade dominated the Mavericks by attacking the basket and getting into the paint at will. He scored time and time again right at the rim with little or no resistance from the Mavericks big men.
Dirk Nowitzki was spectacular for the Mavericks scoring 34 points, while grabbing 11 rebounds. Nowitzki scored 15 of his teams 22 points in the 4th period and he scored the final 12 point of the quarter. Unfortunately for the Mavs he missed a tough off balance shot that would have tied the game off a side out of bounds play with 4.4 seconds to go.
The Mavericks are in a must win situation in Game 4. They must tie this series back up at 2-2 due to the format of the Finals. The last two games of this series are back in Miami and it is essential that they get back on the winning track in the next game.
Game 4 Adjustments:
1. Helping Dirk: Dirk Nowitzki is doing his part, but his teammates need to pick up the slack. The Dallas Mavericks are not going to beat the Miami Heat if his fellow starters do not contribute more. Nowitzki scored 34 of his teams 86 points, approximately 40% of his team’s scoring. With Wade, James and Bosh scoring 64 of the Heats 88 points the Heat have too much talent and too many weapons for the Mavs unless other people start to contribute more on the offensive end of the court. Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, and Tyson Chandler need to help Dirk. They need to become reliable offensive threats in Game 4 in order for the Mavs to win. The four of the Maverick starters scored a combined 25 points to help Dirk’s efforts. With all of the double teaming and help on Dirk Nowitzki the other players should be able to get more open looks and drives to the paint to create for another teammate. The Heat are making this more difficult with their length and speed but the Mavericks must still work harder to move the ball quickly, attack the closeouts by the Heat and get some baskets to take the pressure off of Dirk. If they cannot contribute with more offense the Mavs cannot beat the Heat.
2. Protect the paint: One of the biggest keys to this series was whether the Mavericks could keep LeBron James and Dwyane Wade out of the paint on drives to the rim and could they keep them off the foul line. If they could make them into jump shooters they would have a chance to win this series. Unfortunately for the Mavs they allowed the Heat to attack the rim at will in Game 3 and it cost them. The Heat outscored the Mavs 40-22 in paint points. The Heat don’t have a post game that delivers point paints. Their paint points come off hard, attacking drives by LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. The Mavs must improve their ability to keep Wade and James out of the paint in Game 4 or they will lose.
Defensively the Mavericks must do a much better job of keeping the ball in front of them. Their ability to contain the ball 1-1 ball containment versus Wade and James was very poor. Secondly their support from their big men was non existent. They allowed the sea to part when Wade and James drove the ball to the rim. The Dallas big men (Chandler and Nowitzki) were swiping at the ball instead of putting their bodies in front of the Wade and James. The Mavs must give help off of Bibby, Chalmers, and Miller to support the drives of the Heat perimeter players.
Wade scored 29 points in Game 3. Of his 29 points he was 8-11 on shots inside of 5 feet, including 2 dunks. On shots outside of 5 feet he was only 4-10. Wade scored 19 points in the first half and 8-10 of his makes were from 5 feet and in. The Mavs must cut off his drives to the rim and make Wade and James beat them with contested jump shots. If the Mavs do not improve their ability to keep the ball out of the paint they have no chance of beating the Heat.
3. Turnovers: The Mavericks lowered their turnover number from 20-14 in Game 3, but unfortunately that was still not good enough versus the Heat. Turnovers versus the Heat lead to bad things, it feels like every turnover leads to a dunk. Incredibly the Mavs won Game 2 in which they had 20 turnovers that led to 31 points. In Game 3 the Mavs turned it over 14 times. Those 14 turnovers led to 19 points. Turnovers are big key for the Mavs in this series. It is a statistic that they can control and improve on in Game 4. If they can limit their turnovers and not let the Heat capitalize with as many points they will give themselves a much better chance to win Game 5.
4. Bench: The Mavs are not getting the same production from their bench that they have gotten all season long and in the earlier rounds of the playoffs. Because of the talent of James, Wade, and Bosh the Mavericks need their bench to offset the abilities of these three superstars. Jason Terry has been able to support Dirk Nowitzki off the bench, but JJ Barea, and Peja Stojokovic have not contributed much yet in the Finals. The Dallas bench scored 25 points in Game 3 and it is the third time they have been held under 30 points in this series. The Maverick bench had been averaging 39 points a game entering the NBA Finals. Rick Carlisle needs Terry, Barea and Stojokovic to make a much bigger contribution in order for the Mavs to tie this series at 2-2.
5. Miami Defense: The real reason that the Miami Heat lead this series at 2-1 is because of their suffocating defense. They have held one of the best scoring teams in the NBA to 88.3 points per game. The Heat have held the Mavericks, to 40% or below from the field in two of the three games. With the Heats unbelievable length, quickness and athleticism they are averaging 9.3 steals per game, forcing 15 turnovers a game and capitalizing by scoring 20.6 points off of them. Except for Dirk Nowitzki the Mavericks are having a tough time scoring. The Heat are taking the Mavs out of their comfort zone and not allowing them to get the shots they want. They are forcing them to go to other options. The Mavs must find a way to score more efficiently. They must find ways to get the shots they want and make them. With the talents of James, Wade and Bosh and the defense that Miami is playing in the playoffs the Mavs have a tough challenge ahead in Game 4.
Prediction: Mavericks win Game 4