Posts Tagged ‘Miami Heat’

NBA season is a wrap, but taking a look ahead is never a bad thing. So I’m taking in some of the best questions I got sent in from Twitter in the last few days and answering them here today. I may do this again, especially around Draft time next week, so if you have more you want to discuss here in the CHEAP SEATS, shoot me a Tweet over at @CheapSeatFan and we’ll chop it up here.

Until then, let’s get into it.

 

WAS THE MAVERICKS RUN A “ONE AND DONE”?

Hard to say, it will be struggle to get back to that level again for a few reasons. Number one is that they are in the West, and coming out of a division where the eight seed could have nearly 50 wins is a beast. Also they have to resign a lot of their key pieces (Chandler, Barea, Butler, Stevenson, Stojakovic), and coming off of a championship run, they’ll be able to command larger salary demands than usual. Plus the core of Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry are all over 30 and this could have been their great motivated push to justify their careers.

The Mavs took the title in the first year of Dirk's new contract...and perhaps second career peak.

However, it’s always easier to say why it can’t be than why it can. While Dirk’s show was often the big attraction, he Mavs playoff run was the finest overall team efforts in NBA history. The Detroit Pistons of the mid-00’s were written off after claiming their title over the highly favored Lakers, yet that jump started a 5 year run of being one of the best overall teams in basketball. These Mavs display all of those same elements right now. The chemistry this team displayed won’t disappear overnight, and Dirk seems to have found a second prime out of nowhere. They already aren’t the favorites in their own division in Vegas for next year already, so one of the great underrated teams ever already has another chip in place to knock off again.

 

 

WAS THAT AS GOOD AS THE MIAMI HEAT CAN BE?

Actually from a supporting cast standpoint, this was the worst team they’ll be able to field this year….maybe. Under the current (yet very likely to change) salary cap structure, they’ll have more money under the mid-level exception to add greater talent to their long-term core of LeBron/Wade/Bosh/Haslem/Anthony/Miller.

Everything around just how this team will be able to proceed, however, is up in air, as they have more money committed longer than any other club ($70 million through 2013-14), but they also will be in the position of dropping a lot of dead weight from their roster as well immediately. They may not bring back anybody from the majority of their bench, and if nothing else, they may can adjust and make another run with some more useful pieces acquired with the free money and cap alignment they could have. However, for a team that took a long time to mesh after a complete face lift a year ago, bringing in another vastly different cast could be a major concern once again. The soap opera continues on Days of the Heat…

 

CAN MIKE BROWN LAUNCH THE  LAKERS INTO ANOTHER RUN?

I’ve said it on repeat, but I’ll do it again: there’s no job I would’ve wanted less than this one. The Lakers have a world of expectation that’s in place regardless, but after a season that ended with a sweep to conclude their three consecutive trips to the Finals, the retirement of the greatest coach ever and not to forget the ugly fashion surrounding it all, there’s a lot of clean up that needs to be done here. This all hinges on if Kobe accepts a coach he apparently didn’t favor having guide him, if the team makes the necessary additions to its structure (getting faster and adding some shooters) and if they can synthesize all of this at once. Then yeah, Mike Brown can do it. But best of luck not aging double time in the process my man.

 

WHAT KIND OF IMPACT CAN RICKY RUBIO MAKE?

All eyes will meet Rubio from the moment he takes controls of an NBA game for the first time.

Well it’s the  Minnesota Timberwolves, so any type of boost offers some sort of hope. As for now, the young Spanish sensation has the brightest spotlight of any new NBA-er shining over him. Rubio has digressed some evidently since being the best non-American performer in the 2008 Olympics, but he also hasn’t played with players the caliber of even what the Wolves offer in the NBA to help him capitalize on greatest gift: making himself better by making others better. His fellow draft mate in 2009, Johnny Flynn hasn’t panned out and been able to lead the Wolves to more than 32 wins over the last 2 years, but they probably have more talent on their roster now than they have since Kevin Garnett was at the driver’s wheel, and adding a legit play creating PG to the mix is needed here.

As with all foreign guys, especially young ones, the potential for being lost in translation is always there. And despite his heavy experience at the pro level already, Rubio is still only 20 years old. However, he brings a level of professional familiarity at that age that many other young PG’s that have been saddled with franchises in bad shape upon their NBA debuts (see Wall, John and Rose, Derrick) did not have yet. Plus, in a rare wild card scenario, he’ll be spending time with the perfect example of what NOT to do every day after coming over from Europe with some amazing expectations: Darko Milicic. So maybe it’s not too late for Darko to give something back to the league…maybe. Praise Joe Dumars.

 

ARE THERE ANY FREE AGENTS THAT CAN CHANGE A TEAM LIKE LAST YEAR’S GROUP?

None. Not one whatsoever. And with the entire financial picture of the NBA up for redefinition as well, we could be in store for seeing a holding pattern on all major signings, similar to what is happening in the NFL right now. The top unrestricted, completely available guys on the market are Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, JJ Barea, J.R. Smith, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko and the high risk, “are you sure about this?” tandem of Yao Ming and Michael Redd. Other names that could throw their hats in the ring with termination options are Tim Duncan, David West, Nene and Shannon Brown.

Crawford is a definite scoring boost, but doesn't bring a franchise direction shift.

With the exception of Duncan (who is going nowhere…we’ve been here before), none of these guys can change the entire direction of team by himself. However, it is a good year for teams that need to pick up that one piece to get over the top. So for the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, Thunder, Heat and Pacers of the world, it’s a great year, but not so much for any club looking to redefine themselves with one player. Whenever it gets to that point, which brings us to…

 

NBA LOCKOUT: What’s going on with the NBA finances and what’s it all going to lead up to?

The NBA is in a bad place right now financially, competitively and harmonically. There are a lot of things on the table that need some adjustment and all are coming to head at once. Some teams are losing their only attraction and therefore losing money. Other teams are gathering together much of each All-Star team in one place and in a way contracting the competition in the league. Other teams are laughing in the face of the league’s “salary cap” and going around it or flat out paying luxury taxes for going over, simply because they can afford to. Well a change is a-coming to the NBA, and it seems that one half is completely fine with holding off any more tip offs until it is resolved.

Cleveland's Dan Gilbert is one of several owners that are looking for a way for top talent to stay put.

One thing is for certain, the NBA will not go to full free market, Major League Baseball “buy what you can afford” method. And although they have what appears to be the most orderly method of managing team assets and spreading the wealth around now, recent trends have shown there is much more to it than meets the eyes. Peep:

Currently the NBA has no hard, absolute salary cap. In 2010-11, the cap was just over $58 million per team. While there is a penalty for going over it, there are plenty of ways to get around it. Mid-level exceptions allow players to be signed at the average NBA salary of all other players without it counting against the cap. Bi-annual exceptions can be spread across two years and used on multiple players. First round rookie signings don’t hit the cap. But it gets even more confusing that this: teams can absorb player salaries they trade for even if it takes them over the cap for a year (which makes the “sign-and-trade” deal so crafty) and a basic minimum salary can be signed if it takes a team over the cap, as long as it is for two years. There’s a lot going on here which makes the idea of a “salary cap” transparent as it gets.

Basically, the way things are right now, it’s not overly difficult to sign a few, high talent guys to massive contracts and then figure out ways to budget the rest of the team around them. Especially if the other players, who just want to be surrounded by those main talents, are willing to be creative with when and how they are compensated.

Many owners want to wipe this away and set a hard cap that has little wiggle room, which will keep players from having as many options on where to go get their money from. Which you can obviously see would be a problem from the player’s perspective. However, it could also be used retroactively to break apart high salary teams to a small number of players so that they could manage to field a full team (pay attention Heat and Laker fans), so it would end the potential of future alliances of superstars AND break apart the ones at work right now. Basically, the times are changing and nothing else will probably go into motion until they decide what time zone they want to work in now. We may need to start praying right now for next October.

 

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One of the greatest NBA Finals is in the books, and the Dallas Mavericks finished up business in a manner that belies how competitive of a series it began as. By the second half of game 6, the Mavs were in sync so well that it seemed like the everything that left their hands was dropping straight in, “Pleasantville” style. There was so much to this series that it can’t possibly be summed in just a few sections here.

But here you have it, the CHEAP SEAT’S final word on what all took place between the Mavericks and Miami Heat, and why the name with the brightest lights means nothing if it doesn’t have something behind it.

In the end, the numbers game was too much to deny the Mavericks their first world title.

TRUTH #1-ALL FOR ONE, PLUS ONE: From the outset of these Finals, my word has been that the Mavericks where the better team, however overcoming the high ceiling All-Stars on Miami would be too much of a task. Well the last two games of the Finals proved the greatest truth of the NBA: superstars shine, but the better team always wins. In the course of this series both elements proved true on repeat, with the names on the marquee taking their time shining, but it took the total team K.O. that the Mavs gathered up that in the end made the series look like a major mismatch. This was the best total team win for the ring since the Detroit Pistons took out the Lakers in 2004. Simply put, 10 determined players with a mission will always beat out three high ceiling players every time. When you combine that with an amazing run by Dirk Nowitzki, they had every element needed to take the series. Most importantly, they And while nobody picked the Mavericks coming into the season, and even headed into this series, in the end it makes all the sense in the world why they are where they are now.

 

TRUTH #2-MIND OF MATTER, MATTERS: Outside of failures to protect leads or close out, the Heat on repeat defeated themselves in another way as well: they continued to feed the Mavericks with more and more reasons to want to beat them. There has been no team that has had a bigger target on its back this season, even the formerly defending champs in L.A. But what became increasingly evident and just became laughable in the end is that the Mavericks not only were not scared of the Heat, they were driven into not even respecting them. What’s the worst part about this is that it was created by the “team leaders” of the Heat in LeBron and Wade. The Mavericks stayed in their ears while they gave them their best shot, and took the slaps across the face like Hulk Hogan going into manic mode. It just made them stronger. Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson basically told LeBron he wasn’t going to beat them, and in the end, it seemed like they convinced him of just that.

Nowitzki used fewer words than his opponents, but turned theirs into his advantage.

And that plays into exactly what happened in the end: one half talked the walk…and then got walked all over. On the flipside, Dirk Nowitzki, the target of much of the antics and shenanigans around the series said little to nothing and just went to work. He followed that model all the way to the end of his work year and walked right off the floor after washing his hands of LeBron, Wade and their sideshow antics…and didn’t extend a hand to either after defeating them. The example for everything the Heat need to learn was right in their face the whole time, until he was done with them. Then he had no words for them, just a few more trophies and a winner’s legacy to redefine his career. Pay attention kids.

 

TRUTH #3-WHAT ARE WE WITNESSING? Inevitably, in the end it all comes back to LeBron. Such is his place in the game that he even takes the spotlight from one of the great Playoff performances ever from Dirk and one of the most impressive runs ever to a title by the Mavericks. What was proven without a doubt is that LeBron James is not ready to win right now. His debut trip to the Finals with a team designed from the floor up around him will be characterized by perfect non-attendance in the fourth quarter, a playing up off-court rumors and the largest overall fall off in points production from regular season to the Finals in NBA history (-8.9 points difference). He looked out of it, like he couldn’t bring together all of the skills that have twice made him the best player of the first 82, and worse…it looked like he didn’t know how nor want to even.

This series made me thinking about the part in Superman II when Superman lost all of his powers and got his lunch handed to him in the bar by some trucker guy. Even saw himself bleed for the first time. That’s what we just saw here with LeBron, he got put out on front street, tried to dig down and become the guy he thought he was, only to find out in a hurry he didn’t have it in him…and got flowed for six games in a very aggressive fashion, leaving all questions and no answers.

However, that same situation can play true to what could become, on a few different levels. LeBron can let this series give him the Clark Kent, or worse…Christopher Reeves treatment, and be beaten to crippled by the beating. Or he can gut down, learn something, realize what his potential is and grow up for the final time behind this loss. Superman went back, regained his poise and confidence in his skills and then and handled the guy that knocked him down before. He either will make folks “Witnesses” or continue to be one to everybody else making the name for themselves that he is supposed to be creating for himself.

LeBron has to learn from his many mistakes in the last two weeks to make the final jump to what he is supposed to be.

 

Sincerely,

A guy that wakes up and has his own set of problems, but doesn’t get folded in by them, Clark.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more on the NBA (maybe…if this isn’t the last game for a while) and more at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

The most common prediction for this series I ran across was Heat in six. The way the Mavericks played last night, that may be the right prediction, with the wrong team attached. Coming into this series, no total team had played better in the Playoffs than Dallas, yet that form hadn’t found them in the Finals until last night. Every single element of the Mavs was clicking and when combined with Dirk Nowitzki continuing his tear through the nets, it buried the Heat consistently all night.

However, the biggest story line was the rebound of LeBron James from his drought the previous game. He did bounce back in an impressive overall fashion, however in the end he still wasn’t there to fend off the onslaught the Mavericks closed out with to put them ahead going into the final phase of these amazing Finals. Today in 3 Truths, what happened to revive the Mavericks and put them in place to pull off one of the most impressive team runs in NBA history, and why once again the Heat are left with way more unanswered questions than should even be able to be asked.

 

TRUTH #1-SOAP OPERA STARS: For as great of a series as this has been on the court, it’s been just as petty off the court. A very definition of a role player, DeShawn Stevenson, has been the biggest mouth in the series, discussing the actions of players that are at least three levels above whatever it is he stands for in the NBA. That never sets right with me, because it’s like children getting involved in grown folks business. Go sit in the other room and wait for Dirk to call you for dinner; you aren’t even capable of feeding yourself, so get out the kitchen.

Instead of doing the mocking, Wade and James are one game short of being on the receiving end now.

On the other hand, the exact opposite is happening on the other bench. The leaders of the Heat, in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, are as focused on making a mockery of Dirk Nowitzki’s injury and the coverage it has received. Is this what they should really be focused on, while Wade is giving 1000% yet still barely winning when he does and LeBron coming off a tragically impotent performance? Also, yet again rumors of LeBron’s womenfolk going under (literally perhaps) and taking him along with it? All the Heat has in the end are these two, and since they already can’t get it together on the floor, making fun of a guy that’s having one of the greatest Playoff runs ever shouldn’t be on their list of things to do. Maybe one of them should step up like Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem has in the final 20 seconds and to attempt to stop him. That would be a role more fitting of who they fancy themselves as instead of being court jesters…that are a win away from being the laughingstock of the NBA themselves.

 

TRUTH #2-ALL TOGETHER NOW: On the floor, something that was no laughing matter in Miami happened: Dallas owned every area of the floor. The Mavericks played their game completely for the first time in the series, and the results were clear. They walked away with the biggest win of any game thus far in the series, with every element of the team coming together. Dirk led the way as usual, but this time the scoring load was from just his responsibility. Jason Terry hit 20 points for the first time, but most importantly, his accuracy improved, especially from deep.

Terry's revival capped the Mavericks getting back to the form that landed them here.

Overall, 5 Mavs hit double figures, with Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea finally breaking out of a series long slump and regaining the form that made him a major x-factor in the Thunder series. This led the top scoring performance of the series, and when combined with superb defense all night, the Mavs played the best game either team has mustered the entire series. They used their last home game of the season as best as they possibly could and gained much needed momentum as they attempt to finish the series on the road.

 

TRUTH #3-DO FOR SELF: LeBron got numbers, as a triple-double is a triple-double, either way you slice it. But what still didn’t return was his assertiveness in getting them, especially while Dwyane Wade spent much of the second and third quarter in the locker room. The Heat needed him in attack mode, going after the rim like a pit bull after a crippled mailman. It never came; not when Wade was out, nor in during the fourth quarter where he was still but a “Witness” to the action himself.

LeBron's overall numbers improved, yet the song remains the same when the spotlight was at its brightest.

His great talent has always been that he can impact virtually every aspect of the game, however what is needed now is his to narrow that focus and put up serious points. Not on three pointers and fade aways, rather flying at the rim and getting to the emphasis points and/or free throws. He seems to think the flow of the series will come to him over time and he’ll find his way. Well in the course of waiting for that to find him, the Mavericks have taken control of it for themselves and now are on the verge of keeping it. LeBron would be best served by thinking of the “I” if he really wants to help the team…before it’s too late.

(LeBron got numbers…but they came on the outskirts…Wade came back…but it was awkward and too late….the Heat need LeBron to go against his focus on enabling some and going for the rim….Wade’s health needs it, he’s not that guy anymore)

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

By Matt Whitener for CHEAP.SEATS.PLEASE.

 

Last night, the NBA Finals took on the exact drama that it needed…eventually. The Heat basically dominated three and a half quarters of the game. They played with such as style that it seemed like they were up by a thousand most of the time, even if it really was just something like eight. And that’s where the story of the game takes form: that things were definitely not what they seemed. In the end, the Mavericks showed why they have been able to fight their way to this point. Their vets stepped up (in proper fashion and deference no less) when needed to close out the Heat and take home court advantage from them right before the road takes them back to Dallas, now with a series that sits at even.

Nowitzki turned it on the most at the right time, and KO'd the wobbly Heat with the game's last 9 points.

However, there are both interesting side plots developing along with some major indicators that speak to each team’s strengths and weakness that were showcased in the opening two games. If game 2 was a proper measuring stick of the balancing act of this series, there will be a lot of fireworks on deck down in Texas. For now, let’s get into what was definitely proven to me in Thursday night’s bonanza.

 

TRUTH #1-PROTECT YA NECK: The Heat showed repeatedly last night that they can get out on runs (literally) and put some definite distance between themselves and the Mavs. Half of the game looked like a dunk contest that only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were invited too. Behind this and basically taking the ball on the other end of the court whenever they wanted for a while (15 Miami steals including seven from LBJ/Wade), they roared out to several big leads.

A failure to close left LeBron and Heat with no answers, and a lost home court advantage as well.

However, these leads never stood up for long, and the Mavericks paced themselves, and continued to chip away at each big moment until, boom, they put themselves in the driver’s seat at the exact right moment to close it out and leave Miami with no time to match them. The Heat can be as dashing and exciting as they want to be, but if they only can do it in shifts, they will not be able to beat a team as solid overall as the Mavs. If anything is proven here today, it’s the number one thing I said here they must avoid to win out in this series back on Tuesday. You have to get them down, and keep them down, and that’s a lot easier said than done, especially when Dirk Nowitzki is in the picture.

 

TRUTH #2-SHAWN MARION IS UNCONSCIOUS: The biggest ex-factor for the Mavericks thus far has been the resurgence of Shawn Marion. He has been the only consistent non-German member wearing blue and without his effort, especially his 20-point, 8 rebound, 3 assist performance last night, the Mavs wouldn’t have been close in any of these games. He has been able to attack the rim and get assert himself in the open court like he’s back in Phoenix again. Most importantly, he’s continues to be a timely rebounder, which is invaluable considering the absence-while-present performance of Tyson Chandler around the rim so far. Also his half court defense of LeBron has been invaluable in keeping him somewhat contained in Game 2. Dirk was the MVP last night for putting the weight of the world on his shoulders in the last two minutes, but for much of the 41 minutes he played last night, no Mav was more important than Marion.

 

TRUTH #3-ACT LIKE HE’S BEEN THERE BEFORE: There is only one player on the Heat that has been a leading man in a championship before, and that’s Dwyane Wade. However, last night his often brash and celebratory actions after nearly each basket made him look like a novice that couldn’t believe what he was pulling off himself. Now I’m not taking this from him: he balled out last night. Plus if he had been given the chance to handle more of the closing act (once again, he was made to play second fiddle in the clutch, get only 2 shots in the last seven minutes), things may have been different. But this is exactly where and why he has step up and claim the team as his own right now.

Wade needs to take on the role of setting the example that Shaq did for him in route to his first championship, immediately.

Anybody that has watched this series should know he’s been the MVP of it thus far. But he has to act like it as well, and most importantly remind them (and maybe himself too) that he has been a Finals MVP that has led an improbable comeback by balancing an incredible level of play with a focused, level-headed approach. He’s got one half of that equation done already, now he to set the tone for the entire team on the other half has well. He can’t play to LeBron James’ tempo or Eric Spolestra’s either.  29-year-old Dwyane Wade better channel his 24-year-old self quickly and be the example the Heat have no choice but to follow behind, or the Mavs have proven they have the steadiness to wait for their opening, take it and take the W as well.

 

Follow me on Twitter for Finals outtakes, strategy and in-game reflections 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.

Here in part 2 of the CHEAP SEATS look at the NBA Finals, which tips off in a few hours, this time breaking down the Miami Heat and last stop on their coming of age in the Playoffs.

It didn’t quite go down like everyone thought it could in Miami this season, as a non-stop slaughter of likes we haven’t seen since the ’96 Bulls, but nonetheless the Heat are in the NBA’s final act. They have gotten back to full availability on their roster and are clicking and imposing their will for the full 48 minutes now. However, now that they are facing the deepest team they’ve played all Playoffs, with another great in Dirk Nowitzki that is playing unstoppable basketball more often than not, will they be able to impose their will in the same undeniable fashion they did on their Eastern Conference competition? Here are the keys to keeping the wheels moving towards their unparalleled expectations or falling just short and back into the media scrutiny hell they know awaits any failure:

 

3 UP: How the Heat Take the Ring

1. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH:  They have the two best open court players in basketball in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, so backing off the gas shouldn’t be an option at any point. This requires them to make quick starts to each half and establish that as the flow of the game, a flow that the Mavs can’t keep up with. With the multiple shooters that they be responsible for guarding on Dallas, they will be spread out all over the floor and guarding plenty of passing lanes, so capitalizing on any lazy passes (as they do so well) and turning them into points should be an emphasis.

2. LEAD IN SHIFTS: They’re greatest advantage is the ability to feature two of the top 3 players in the NBA at the same time, so why play that down now? They have a greater matchup advantage in this series with LeBron and Wade, as the Mavs have no one capable of sticking with either in even a pure athletic sense. Shawn Marion is the only one that can really do so and he’s only one man. So take the ball away from him and kill the severely over matched part of the equation on the Dallas defense. The end goal could even lead a frustrated Mavs defense to shade Dirk on LeBron, which is the ultimate match up advantage to him, as it will wear down their best offensive option trying to stop LeBron from brutalizing him on the way to the rim. So let each take their time with the ball and insert themselves as a featured guy for a while, then come back and let the other one dominate the same match up later on. They’ll wear down Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and maybe even Jason Kidd if they let him take a turn with Wade for a while (which would be a very bad decision).

A balance between Wade and LeBron playing together on the run and asserting themselves individually is the best way to take on Dallas' depth.

3. WIN IN BETWEEN THE LINES: The Heat’s main advantage is the clear one I just outlined; however as was seen on and off all season, teams have to win because two players cannot alone. Despite the fact they are less deep than the Mavs overall, they do have some areas they can take an advantage in outside of Bron/Wade. Most notably on the glass, where they have more size and more bodies to throw at the Mavs under the rim. Basically, they have to out tough the Mavs with their second team and make them earn everything inside the arc.

3 DOWN: How the Heat Would Meet their End

1. KEEPING IT TOO CLOSE: This may seem like a bit of an obvious point in the spirit of competition, but there’s more to it than just face value: they would be much better suited ending these games before it comes down to the last-minute. The Mavs have shooters everywhere and the hottest player on the planet right now (who also doubles as the biggest match up problem in the NBA since Shaq in his prime) in Nowitzki. While LeBron has put to rest many of the questions about his ability to close out games recently, there still is the outright bad closing execution the Heat displayed most of the season that still lingers in the background. Letting these games come down to a final shot scenario should be avoided, because it doesn’t favor them.

2. GETTING BEAT TO THE POINT: Kidd gives the Mavs an experienced floor general that’s not only been to the Finals before, but has led a team there on his back. That gives them one decisive disadvantage, as the Heat has had problems shifting between Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the position all year. Whoever gets this assignment has to play tough nosed ball against Kidd and keep him from getting in to the key too often to find the many options that will surround him at all times too often. Also, the job of stopping the explosive JJ Barea can’t be under sold either. If he sees too many openings, he can make the difference between a close game and serious problem.

A steady Chalmers solves multiple issues, especially in containing against Dallas' PG duo.

3. TIT FOR TAT: Nobody expects them to be able to shoot with Dallas; however somebody has to be a dependable outside option for them besides James Jones. That was to be Mike Miller’s role, but he’s offered them next to nothing in any role given to him. With that problem, the attention goes back to either PG to step up and hit the needed open shot. If this can’t happen, the Heat will lose games (plural) in this series due to not having enough answer back firepower to keep up with the three-point barrages that the Mavs will go on at some point.

 

With both teams +/- done, it’s time to pick a winner from me…..and that’ll will go on Twitter and Facebook in an hour. Follow me over there, see how I’m going and let’s talk this one out. Follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and on Facebook at Matt Whitener (send me a note on why you’re requesting me if we’re not linked up already. Not just everybody gets in over there).