MIAMI -- As we go into crucial Game 5, it's time for another NBA Finals hoops session with ABC TV's "coach in the truck," Bob Salmi.
Your move, Avery and Dirk
The former NBA assistant coach prepares tape breakdowns for the ABC production crew and broadcasters to look at before, during and after games. His analysis helps the broadcast team keep track of the action and provide key moments for the viewing audience at home.
Salmi shared his thoughts and some of his priceless tape breakdowns with the Daily Dime heading into Game 5 on Sunday night, including how the Heat had successfully handled Dirk Nowitzki and adjusted to Avery Johnson's defense.
Daily Dime: What can the Mavs do in Game 5 to jumpstart their offense?
Salmi: They know Miami is coming with another physical effort against Dirk Nowitzki. So Dirk is going to have to deal with the physical play of the Miami Heat, including the double teams and the hard fouls. He's going to have to make them pay for the hard fouls at the free-throw line.
Dallas missed as many open shots as they have missed in any game in this series. So, yes, Dirk did struggle. Yes, things were going badly for them. But they still got a lot of looks at the basket, so there's light at the end of the tunnel for the Mavs.
Daily Dime: What specifically can the Mavs do to give Dirk more room to operate?
Salmi: What they did in Game 2 when they started to get him on the move instead of making him a stationary target. In Game 4 he was a stationary target. He was just popping out to the elbow.
When you're a stationary target, two things happen.
One, it's hard to catch the ball where you want to catch it.
Two, everyone on the weak side knows where you are.
So move Dirk more on offense. Have him set a screen before he gets the ball. I think that will help him get better looks at the basket in Game 5.
Daily Dime: And conversely, how can the Heat continue to deny Dirk?
Salmi: As the series goes along, you start to identify things that are successful. Pat Riley realizes that playing physical ball against Dirk is the best way to defend him. It's not a guarantee that you'll take him out of his game by being physical -- other teams have tried it and it hasn't worked. But your chances are better keeping him under control if you're going to be physical with him.
Daily Dime: What can the Mavs do to contain Dwyane Wade?
Salmi: It's almost impossible to contain guards because they play in the middle of the floor and it's very difficult to double a player who's facing the basket. If you try to double a player in the middle of the floor, he has two ways to go.
The other thing that's tough is when you double a perimeter player, he sees the double team coming. When he sees you coming, it's easy for him to make a play. Dallas can make a more concerted effort to meet him at the rim, but I don't think double teams will help.
Daily Dime: What about the absence of Stackhouse? How will that affect the game?
Salmi: In a strange way, I think it helps the Mavericks.
Dallas has six players miss 20 or more games due to injury this season and they still won 60 games. So they have players waiting in the wings who think, this is my time to shine.
Marquis Daniels and Devin Harris will be on the big stage and have a chance to help their team win. One or more of those guys might be able to step up and make something happen and they have before in the playoffs.
Salmi prepares dozens of clips for use on-air during the game and shared several of those scouting breakdowns with the Daily Dime.
Double teams and single coverage (see Box 8, right): In the first clip, you see how Miami successfully defend Dirk Nowitzki.
All of Miami's weak-side defenders have an eye or two on Dirk. When he spins to his left and attempts a layup, Alonzo Mourning gets there to meet him.
In the second part of the clip, Miami makes several adjustments to prevent Dirk from getting a clean look at the basket.
In the third, Dallas is not so successful in its double team on Shaq. Unlike in previous games, the Mavs bring a smaller defender to double Shaq and he has no trouble seeing over the double and passing out to open teammates.
In the fourth part, Shaq shows why it is very difficult to defend him with just one player.
Coaching chess match (see Box 9, right): Shaq re-posts and gets a lob at the basket. He gets a clean look because Miami has emptied out the weak side to counter the Mavs' defense.
Avery Johnson adjusts by having strong-side defenders double Shaq. Jerry Stackhouse leaves his man in the corner to double Shaq and gets a steal.
Seeing this, Pat Riley makes another adjustment. After entering the ball to Shaq, he moves his players from the strong side to the weak side where they can get free for an open jump shot.
Chris Ramsay is the NBA coordinating editor for ESPN.com.
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An excerpt from the Scouts Inc. breakdown of Game 4 and preview of Game 5:
Seven points in the fourth quarter -- a NBA playoff record -- says it all.
The Mavericks struggled mightily in Game 4 and they must reorganize offensively and create a much higher pace and tempo in Game 5.
I am struck by Dallas coach Avery Johnson as I am watching the game. Every time his team catches the ball he is frantically waving his arms for his team to run and push the pace.
Johnson knows that if the Mavs can create turnovers and rebound the ball and run that it gives them a much better chance to win. His team's speed, quickness and shooting are accentuated in the open floor. The Mavericks desperately need to force the action.
Johnson and his staff must find ways to get Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard different and better looks. They have to get Nowitzki the ball in his favorite spots and he needs to be in more movement. Dallas started the game getting the ball into Nowitzki's hands early. They put him in foul line isolations clearing out a side of the floor. The Heat had difficulty figuring out which way to push him to get help. But the Mavs went away from this early in the game.
The Dallas Mavericks have answered just about every question their skeptics have had about them this season:
Long ridiculed as a bunch of defensive patsies, they've proven they can offer championship-caliber resistance.
Soft on the backboards for the better part of the last decade, they've shown they can rebound as well as anyone, out-boarding their opponents in their first 17 playoff games (though the Heat have crushed them on the glass the past two meetings).
Thought of as mentally fragile, the Mavs displayed incredible resilience by winning two games in San Antonio, including a Game 7 victory in which they surrendered a 20-point lead and still held on to win in OT.
Whether it was out-finessing the Suns, sweeping the Grizzlies, or getting superstar performances from others when Dirk Nowitzki wasn't at his best, the Mavericks have overcome every challenge they've faced this season.
But there is one question that still remains: can they get physical?
I mean, real physical?
On Saturday, Avery Johnson explained his objection to the suspension of Jerry Stackhouse.
"Let the players decide the game"
Will Jerry Stackhouse's Game 4 flagrant foul against Shaquille O'Neal be the play that tips the scales for Miami, or the one that gets the Mavs going again?
Coming into the Finals, Dirk Nowitzki looked like the best player on the planet.
But as the postseason has progressed, Dirk Nowitzki has found tougher sledding, especially in terms of field-goal percentage.
-- ESPN Research
How are the Heat shutting down Dirk Nowitzki? Bob Salmi, ABC's "video coach," explains.
How help defense is shaping the series
One of the hidden keys of the game is how Avery Johnson and Pat Riley respond to each other throughout the game, as Bob Salmi, ABC's "video coach," demonstrates.
Coaching on the fly
Call me a heretic, but I'm not sure the suspension of Jerry Stackhouse is really going to hurt the Mavs much.
That's not a knock on Stackhouse, who was a difference-maker in Game 2 and a top contender for the NBA's Sixth Man award. One can understand how his absence might have made Avery Johnson just a wee bit testy in today's press conference. On any team other than Dallas, this would be a killer blow.
But this is the Mavs, a team with so much depth that they can shrug off Stack's loss with ease.
Consider the man who figures to see most of the minutes in his place, Marquis Daniels.
He didn't play in Game 4 until the outcome was already decided and has yet to score in the Finals, but he's shown at many points this season that he can provide a big impact off the pine.
Daniels started 29 games this season, stringing together six straight double-figure efforts as recently as March, and played brilliantly in Game 1 of the Memphis series before gradually falling out of favor later in the playoffs.
In terms of statistical performance, there's little to separate the two. Using my Player Efficiency Rating, Stackhouse graded out at 14.56 during the regular season, while Daniels actually outrated him at 15.00. Additionally, Daniels' quickness makes him an asset defensively and could let him give Josh Howard a rest against Dwyane Wade.
The Mavs will have to change some of their attack, however. Dallas runs lots of plays to get shots for Stackhouse, especially when Dirk Nowitzki is off the floor, and now will have to rethink where the points will come from with the second unit.
That's where Daniels' other skills may come into play. Though not the pure scorer that Stackhouse is, the 6-6, third-year wingman's ability to bring the ball up can allow Jason Terry to come off screens firing. He's also a better rebounder than Stackhouse (5.1 per 40 minutes to 4.0), an important consideration given the recent beatings Dallas suffered on the glass.
Moreover, Daniels has had success against Miami. In the first meeting he played 40 minutes and finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals, while in the second he had six points in 16 minutes.
Certainly, Dallas would rather have Stackhouse than not. Losing him limits Avery Johnson's options should his wing players get in foul trouble, and that's a factor when one considers Dwyane Wade's propensity for drawing fouls. Additionally, Daniels floats through games at times and can be turnover prone. Those weaknesses and some poorly-timed injuries have prevented him from nailing down a rotation slot.
But for one night, it won't be much of a setback. Daniels's contribution will come in a different way, but he can easily match the lift Stackhouse gives off the bench. Besides, his mellow demeanor may be a perfect antidote for a Mavs team that mentally has looked frayed around the edges of late.
The Mavs may still lose Game 5, of course, but losing Stackhouse won't be why. There's a reason we've been saying they're the deepest team in the league all year, and on Sunday Daniels will get a chance to show it.
-- John Hollinger in Miami