Monday, June 13, 2011

Observations from Game 6

  • Just as they had in the last few games, the Dallas offense showed that they had figured out how to get good looks against Miami's athletic and active defense after starting slow through nearly two full games.  With good looks coming often, Dallas converted them (with the exception of Nowitzki in the first half, who uncharacteristically couldn't find the bucket), whereas in the first two games, where the good looks were at such a premium, the added pressure of hitting when the opportunities were there resulted in some uncharacteristic misses.  
  • On the other end of the floor, Dallas continued to focus on trying to keep Dwyane Wade and LeBron James out of the paint, something that cannot be done completely, but Dallas did a good job limiting it as much as possible particularly in the 2nd half.  In limiting Miami's looks in the paint, and staying disciplined on offense, Dallas made this game about hitting jumps shots on open looks, playing significantly in their favor.  Credit their team defense and Carlisle for utilizing the zone effectively.  Dallas again limited their turnovers offensively, allowing them to limit Miami's transition offense defensively.  
  • Apart from a 3 minute stretch in the 2nd quarter when Miami went on a 14-0 run, they simply did not match Dallas' consistent effort and discipline on every possession, leading Dallas to generally get better shots than Miami.  Dallas led almost the entire second half after Miami's 5-2 run to start the half and take a one point lead with about 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.   
  • Neither team could hit their free throws, both shooting around 60%.  It was likely just the result of randomness, but perhaps it was the pressure of playing in an elimination game in the NBA Finals.       
  • Individually, first, Brian Cardinal deserves his just due, as does Carlisle for recognizing Stojakovic's ineffectiveness and replacing him in the rotation with Cardinal, who not only hit the open three when he was asked to do so, but, more importantly, was active and effective on defense.  Despite only taking three three-point field goals in the series, and making one in each of the last two games, he was still a threat, succeeding in spreading the floor just as Stojakovic does, but was a completely different player than Stojakovic defensively, particularly in his help defense in getting in the way of the strong and athletic James and Wade.  Though his personal numbers don't show it, there is a reason why he led the team in +/-, matching Shawn Marion with +18 in just 12 minutes of play.  Team basketball won this championship, and Cardinal is a great example of the team concept and played his role and within himself perfectly.  
  • The keys to Dallas' victory tonight, as well as in Game 5, were J.J. Barea and Jason Terry.  Barea's success in getting in the paint throughout the series finally resulted in some made baskets as he had done the rest of the postseason prior to the first few games in the Finals.  More credit to Carlisle and the Dallas coaching staff for putting Barea in the starting lineup and bringing Stevenson's defense off the bench, contributing to three straight victories for Dallas.  Barea struggled making shots early in the series, but the Dallas coaching staff recognized his success in getting in the paint and they increased his opportunities, where made baskets were sure to follow.  Jason Terry was just phenomenal.  He stepped up and knocked down shot after shot while getting himself good looks.  After being slowed by James early in the series, he did not back off and played more aggressively, driving towards the rim on the catch without a moment's hesitation, which in turn opened up some opportunities for him outside.  His reaction to adversity early in the series showed his veteran leadership. 
  • Although Nowitzki couldn't find the basket in the first half, Dallas did a good job keeping him involved in the 2nd half, and helping him find his rhythm with a shot and make on their first possession of the half.  His shots down the stretch helped seal the victory.  
  • Jason Kidd hit a couple big 3s when called upon to do so, but more importantly,  just as he did all series, contributed nothing but positive things on the defensive end and was a key piece to slowing down Miami's offense.  What he can still do defensively at 38 years old against some of the best athletes in the game is just amazing.  His hands are as good as anyone's and he is one of the smartest players around on both ends of the floor.  
  • Shawn Marion, similarly, played great defense again and was effective in his role offensively.  Marion redefined himself in Dallas as a player who strictly scores around the basket, taking advantage of his athleticism and ability to get up quickly.  Long gone are the days where he shoots the three.  The great team player he is, he has left that to the many capable players on Dallas and added value by focusing on what he does best on the team with his activity in the paint.  
  • Tyson Chandler, limited by foul trouble, was still efficient offensively, and as has been his focus throughout the series, rebounded well, got his hands on a lot of balls, and disrupted Miami with his length. 
  • DeShawn Stevenson hit some big 3s in the first half, providing Dallas a cushion that they would need with the run Miami went on in the 2nd quarter.  Though I am not a fan of jawing and tough guy behavior generally, his scuffle with Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers completely stopped Miami's momentum in the 2nd quarter and gave Dallas time to regroup.  Credit him for not fading in response to Miami's big run.  
  • Ian Mahinmi also stepped up and contributed off the bench, getting a couple offensive rebounds, working hard on defense and making a couple shots including a big one at the end of the 3rd to add to Dallas' momentum and another early in the 2nd quarter where he looked like Nowitzki on a step back one-footed fadeaway at the end of the shot clock.
  • For Miami, James played a good offensive game and finally hit some outside shots, though he focused on his strength of scoring while going towards the basket and in the paint.  He can maybe be faulted for still not taking enough shots and not being even more aggressive, but credit Dallas' defense for limiting his looks in the paint.  James was disciplined in focusing on getting his looks inside, and until the very end of the game when he took two three-pointers, every shot he took after the first quarter was in the paint, but for one (a made shot from the free throw line).  The main problem was that he didn't get more of those looks.  It also is worth noting that while Wade, Bosh and Chalmers each had a positive +/-, James was the worst on the team in that regard with astounding -24. 
  • Wade regressed in this game offensively, taking about half his attempts from outside and missing all but one of those, while making most of the shots he took inside.  Credit Dallas' defense for limiting Wade as much as they could from getting into the paint.  Wade did a good job getting his teammates involved in the 1st half, where he had all six of his assists.  However, in the 2nd half, given his success inside and difficulty from the outside, Wade failed to use the threat of his drive to create good shots for his teammates and did not have a single assist.
  • Chris Bosh continued his good shooting over the last few games of this series, fueled by the game winning shot in Game 3.  He was shooting extremely well, inside and out, and Wade and James should have looked to create for him more with their outside shots not falling.   
  • Chalmers played another good game, creating for his teammates and playing solid defense.  He also was fairly effective shooting the ball, although he struggled from beyond the arc, only making one of six before making an inconsequential three with 16 seconds remaining.
  • Off the bench, Udonis Haslem and Eddie House were effective, with House making his entire contribution in the first half and book-ending Miami's 2nd quarter run with a pair of threes, and Haslem working hard on defense and the boards.  
  • Ultimately, Miami failed in Game 6 where Dallas succeeded in Game 2.  In Game 2, when Dallas had their backs to the wall and down 15 in the 4th quarter, they focused, played disciplined offense and got good shots while playing disciplined defense and forced Miami to shoot from outside, to which they kindly obliged.  Miami buckled in big moments when down in the 4th quarter.  One particular sequence of possessions for Miami stood out with under 9 minutes remaining and the score 87-77: Wade dribbled the ball off his foot on one possession, on the next, James drove and took a good shot on a short jumper off the glass, but missed terribly under the pressure rather than attack the rim and try to get a layup or get to the line, and then Wade took a bad three after Barea had put Dallas up by 12.  Also, after Bosh cut the lead to seven with a three-point play, Chalmers got a steal with about seven minutes left and rather than pull the ball out and get a disciplined good shot, he forced the issue and tried to attack against Kidd with Chandler helping, missing a significant opportunity to cut the lead to four or five and add to their momentum with plenty of time remaining
  • Miami's big two just did not step up to the moment after falling behind by near double digits late in the 3rd and in the 4th quarter, and they wilted under the pressure with 11 costly turnovers and some bad misses late between them.  They will hopefully grow and learn from this adversity and improve as a team on the whole and under pressure going forward, but as of now, the better team, the Dallas Mavericks are the reigning NBA Champions.  

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