Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bosh’

When you look back at this series in a few years, or maybe even next week, Game 4 will stand out as the defining game of the series, one way or another. From a team perspective, if Dallas doesn’t win you can chalk it up. If Miami wins, they show their fortitude by coming into Dallas snatching two quick road wins. On the other hand, there are the performances of the top billed stars. Dwyane Wade keeps hammering the Mavs like a hurricane, but fumbles away his chance at a historic closing chance. Dirk Nowitzki’s heroics now beat the clock…and illness. Chris Bosh keep reasserting himself. And LeBron James has a funeral in the middle of the game…for himself (but I’m not even sure if he showed up for that).

That last part is major and tells the whole story of everything else that went on, has been debated and will paint the picture of everything going forward. But for now it frames why this series is tied up and is headed to what could be a race to the finish. Will the Heat’s co-star regain top billing, or did he doe irreparable damage to his standing (and legacy)? Has the Mavericks confidence and home support been repaired to the point that, as a unit, they now know they can win this thing again? There’s a lot that Game 4 told…and opens up a Pandora’s Box of scenarios. Today in 3 TRUTHS I’m taking on all of the major plot lines that showed their faces, varying from ugly to promising to downright horrible on Tuesday.

TRUTH #1-LeLOST: Where do you start? The numbers are clear and were already beaten Washington Generals-level dead before the game even ended, so let’s go beyond that. I’m going at exactly how it happened. LeBron stood around at the top of the key and dribbled back and forth non-stop, and was often hard to spot in the flow of the game. Now stop, that’s what stands out to me the most: just how much he didn’t stand out. He was timid. Even in the light of the larger than life effort by Dwyane Wade, it was still the loudest silence I’ve heard in long time. Matter of fact he disappeared, and when he resurfaced the results show one of the absolute worst performances for a leading man in Finals history.

Even in November that would’ve been unacceptable performance, but now it’s magnified to a major level. LeBron is no stranger to the spotlight, but the effort he put up on Tuesday was the first time I ever saw him basically drop back from it. He’s not the first major superstar to have a game like this in the Finals, as once again, the Jordan comparisons are inappropriate (a look at Magic Johnson’s clutch failings early on paint nearly the exact picture as LBJ currently). The main difference: Magic proved he could win already, he had climbed the mountain that LeBron looks like he’s on the edge of falling off right now. However, he put himself in a unique position that breeds unparalleled expectation. This is the position he forced himself to get to from the moment from the second he aligned himself with the Heat and immediately made them the spectacle they are. So to get here, and continually decrease your profile in the Finals to the point where you nearly have to get out a flashlight and search and rescue dogs just find out if he even played? Nah, this is plain unacceptable. 25-year-old ex-MVPs cannot become zombies in the Finals. No exceptions. While it’s far too early to look at this as a deciding point in his career, it is a mark that he must overcome now, once again, in a similar fashion that Magic did in route to re-establishing himself.

LeBron can't hide from how bad that performance looked...and his legacy may not be able to either

In the end, the issue is that great players are expected to step up and be undeniable forces in close games, especially in during the pinnacle series of the season. However, so far LeBron has managed nine points in 48 minutes of fourth quarter basketball in the Finals. And like it or not, that is the only reason the NBA season is still going on right now. You got to carry that weight LeBron, because you asked for it.

TRUTH #2 – MORE FOR LESS: This series is playing closer than any Finals series in history, so the first 40 minutes have become basically nothing more than the undercard to what is on deck in the end: how far ahead can the Heat get before Dirk inevitably starts his Blitzkrieg (I’d been want to work that reference in all series, I’m relieved now).  In a complete opposite take on what was just relayed about the life and times of LeBron in the last 48 minutes, Dirk has total 44 points in the fourth quarter thus far. That’s right, nearly a point a minute ridiculously efficient output. And the biggest issue may have become in this series for the Heat may have become not stopping Dirk, but how far ahead can they get before the inevitable charge he leads comes. They may just have accept the fact they can’t stop him from getting his late, and just do everything humanly possible to try to limit it instead.

At this point, even King Koopa probably can't slow Dirk up down the stretch. He should just wear this fit tonight instead.

By limiting it, I don’t mean trying to play tougher defense against him, because clearly that’s not possible anymore (seriously, he’s playing like he gets the invincible star from Mario to start every fourth quarter now). By limiting him, they’ll have to get ahead by so many that even Dirk can’t bring them back. But for that to be, it all comes back to LeBron once again and if he can find a way to play with D. Wade and share the clutch minutes as much has he does headlines. The only game they successfully “Dirk-proofed” was Game 1, when they turned the last two minutes into an 2-on-8 fast break show and pulled off the biggest margin of victory of the series yet. So even saving them from Dirk is all in LeBron’s hands, which right now, is a scary proposition.

TRUTH #3 – ALMOST FAMOUS:  Despite the big name successes and failures ringing out the loudest after Game 4, for the majority of Tuesday the biggest noise in Dallas was made by the supporting cast that was coming to play finally. Other than Dirk, team depth was a great strength for Dallas coming into the series, but it had not shown itself at all yet and they had labored along due to it for much of the first three games. However, with Nowitzki struggling from a high fever most of the game, it was a must that the rest of the Mavs finally step up and shoulder some of the burden, collectively. Shawn Marion has been putting in work each game, but has often been the only supporting member of the deep Mavs squad to show up. Tyson Chandler inserted himself on the glass finally, and his 16 rebounds were the first time he completely dominated the glass in the series. His presence shifted what had been a great advantage for the Heat: control of the glass on both ends of the floor.

If Chandler's rebirth can spark the rest of the supporting Mavs, they may be about to take series control.

Chandler’s reemergence was just the first step in Dallas being able to make a legit run at taking the two of the next three games in this tied up and restarted series. Jason Terry has to get more shots falling earlier on so the Mavs can establish real leads to protect. But most critical is Jason Kidd has to find a way to get the ball to everyone in smarter places. Dirk is the only player capable of creating his own shot, so the rest of the Mavericks are waiting on Kidd find his self, and find them. The outcome of the next three games (and I’m calling a seven games now), may hinge on it.

While the series shifted from one American Airlines supported venue to another (Center to Arena) and to Dallas, it was nearly a complete repeat of the previous game in Miami. The Heat break out early, have a dunk contest and get way ahead. Then Dallas chips away at that lead, and finally gives it to only Nowitzki to close it out.

The only difference came this time in that Chris Bosh was given shooting the last shot duty, as opposed to defending it, and Dirk didn’t make his last second suspense-filled jumper to bring the Mavs back, and the Heat survived to pull ahead 2-1. But what’s really going on? Game 3 was so similar to Game 2 because there are some definite factors and identities that have been developed between these two teams that are pushing it in down the same avenues over and over again. Who do they favor? Can the Mavs continue to live inch by inch and do the Heat have what it takes to drive the stake into them and keep them down?

Here’s my 3 TRUTHS on those issues and a few more.

 

TRUTH #1 – GAME OF INCHES: So far this series has been remarkably close, with no game not being decided in the last two minutes. Games 2 and 3 were nearly twins, with just a style. The type of affair where you’d think your DVR messed up if not for the last 30 seconds. However, there’s a lot more to it than just the game of tag it has appeared to be so far. Game 3 established one major consistency that does not bode well for the Mavericks winning three more games this year: they cannot build on their leads.

Bosh looked much better taking the last shot instead of defending it, and it made the difference in the game.

Dallas has been playing catch up all series and are keeping it just close enough for Dirk’s one man show to pull them back into it (he scored 9 consecutive to end Game 2 and went on a 12 point spree to pull Game 3 even). That’s not the way to get a championship run done; just ask the Indiana Pacers of the 90’s. The Heat have been able to play for too comfortably for too long and that’s why it seems like they are always up by a million regardless of what is on the scoreboard. Somehow, Dallas has to play like the last two minutes starting in the first two, and no time better than the present to make it happen, at home with the fan motivation. But…..

 

TRUTH #2 – MOTIVATION: The Mavs are falling behind because they are a mixture of flat (basically anybody not

Cuban changing approach could be the spark the Mavs need.

named Dirk or Marion), confused (Rick Carlisle) or sedated (surprisingly, Mark Cuban). However, while it led to their downfall once, the Heat have been fired up the whole series, and their style of play as shown it. I’m going to take this one off the floor and say the biggest catalyst they could use is a fired up, intense Mark Cuban. Make your boys sweat out there Mark, you’re the biggest sideline presence in the game. Like vintage Spike Lee, only with the power to actually get under the refs skin and put the fear of leaving the luxurious lands of the Dallas Mavericks locker room in your players. At this point something has to give, and if the page is going to turn on this series it’s going to have to come from a spot on the bench that isn’t required to shoot or defend, just yell and write checks.

 

TRUTH #3 – THE DAGGER: So far LeBron has been doing the in-between work, playing a much lower profile game than usual (aside from a truly disrespectful dunk every quarter or so. I wonder if anybody has reclaimed Ian Mahinmi’s soul yet after Bron Shang Tsung’ed it with that dunk on Sunday). He’s played a game where he’s embraced the Scottie Pippen-type of role: making the assist, playing masterful defense and second hand scorer (an a step back from his role as the 2nd leading scorer in the League this year and Chicago Bull killer). His handling of the details has played a major role in Dwyane Wade being able to focus on being an outright carnivore against each severe mismatch that keeps get fed to him by the Mavs.

LeBron making more impacts like he did over Mahinmi could be what finally breaks Dallas' spirits.

However, coming out of Game 3 and looking forward, a visit from the Bulls series version of LeBron could break the Mavericks spirits. No player in the league finishes at the rim with the style he does, and if it can be found in the flow of the game (and still secondary to Wade’s all-out onslaught thus far), it could be the dagger in Dallas’ spirits. LeBron did a great job of constructing and playing within the best overall team performance of the series from Miami in Game 3, but now that they have the lead again, he’s got to go for the throat. Dallas will have to adjust their focus to be heavy on Wade in Game 4, he’s just doing way too much damage to them the way they are approaching him now. This equals more openings for LeBron in getting looks at the rim, and that’s the poison of playing the Heat: you have to give up a lot to stop a lot. If LeBron focuses this into attacking like Juggernaut for 4 quarters tonight, Game 5 may just be a formality.

 

For more on this, in-game rants and outtakes for Game 4, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

I usually reserve the 3 Truths tag for when something of controversy or major split opinion sporting news takes place, but there was just too much that happened in the game last night that made a really strong statement for me to pass on breaking it out today. So, I’m not even going to delay with the setup here (cause the Heat definitely didn’t), let’s get into it.

 

TRUTH #1-THE HEAT OWNED THE PAINT: The Mavericks aren’t a good rebounding team, mostly due to the fact that much of their advantage comes from the bevy of outside shooters they bring at you. However, if they want to stay in this thing, they have to get more from Tyson Chandler (4 rebounds in 34 minutes). Even if it just means keeping Chris Bosh honest around the rim. Overall, three Heat players totaled nine boards or better, while only Shawn Marion hit double figures on the other side. The most telling stat is the 16 offensive boards the Heat grabbed, while only surrendering 6 (one of which Brendan Haywood almost broke his arm trying to dunk back but getting severely hung…like, dude, you’re seven feet tall. Really?). If the Heat can own the area around the rim and live on put backs like the Mavs let them yesterday, this series won’t make it too far into next week.

Wade owned the glass for six more boards than Tyson Chandler. That can't happen again for the Mavs to make it.

TRUTH #2-WHERE WERE THE REST OF THE MAVS? The greatest advantage the Mavs have is their depth, as I discussed yesterday, their ability to deploy many different matchups and overall depth at is the best thing they have going. Well, they didn’t subscribe to that idea yesterday, as they only got 5 points from their non-Jason Terry bench. Peja Stojakovic, JJ Barea and Brendan Haywood combined to go 1 for 12 from the field, with nothing from behind the arc. Even Terry had a tough go at it, as he was surprisingly guarded by LeBron James much of the time and worked overtime hard to end up with the 12 points he did, going 3 for 10 from the field against his physically superior matchup.

If the other Mavs don't fill in their roles soon, Dirk could average 30 a game and it wouldn't be enough to pull it out.

The good news is that this most likely will not happen again, as they are too experienced to not adjust and find a way to impose themselves in the next few games, but the Heat did a masterful job of playing team defense and contesting the Mavericks all over the court.

TRUTH #3-DID THEY GIVE IT ALL THEY HAD? This game was close throughout, with the Heat only pulling away at the end; however that raised the biggest question of them all for me: could this just be the warm up for Miami? The Heat are closing games out as aggressive as any team I’ve seen in a while right now. In the last two minutes, LeBron and Dwyane Wade basically shredded the entire Mavericks team by themselves, concluding with a ridiculous NBA Jam-style oop that drove the dagger not just into Dallas chest, but through their back too. However, when I look at James (24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists) and Wade’s (22 points on 9 of 19 shooting, 10 rebounds and seven assists) stat lines, I just know they have even stronger efforts to turn in.

Despite a convincing 8-point win, could the Heat still be in route to widening that margin in game 2?

They did the majority of that damage in the second half, after a bit of a slow start from both clubs. However, there was nothing that Dallas was presenting that seemed to challenge them very much, even before they switched into fourth quarter overdrive. And this is all without mentioning how easily Chris Bosh asserted himself deep under the rim, which is definitely not his game.

I bring up all of that to lead to this: this isn’t the best effort they have in them on the offensive side. If the Big Three asserts itself in its fourth quarter fashion a bit early, continues to play stellar all around offense and the Mavericks don’t find some way to get those shots outside falling AND to throw their bodies around more underneath, this could be the shortest Finals since 2007….with a certain controversial Heat forward on the other end of the deal this time.