Tied at 1-1, let's reset these Finals
After the Mavs' dramatic comeback, the series is tied at one a piece. The time is now righteous to hit the pause button and assess the pluses and minuses demonstrated by each team thus far, as well as to suggest what adjustments might be in order.
Most importantly, the Heat's half-court defense has virtually disabled the Mavs' half-court sets. Particularly effective has been their menacing of attempted layups, their denying Dirk Nowitzki his favored low-post possessions and then crowding him when he does manage to catch entry passes. Also, Miami's quick hands in the passing lanes and in attacking dribble penetrations have been critical — except, of course, in the last minutes of Game 2.
Kick-outs and skip passes have routinely found open shooters.
Their transition offense has been awesome. That's because their defense (along with Dallas' carelessness) has produced numerous run-out turnovers, and because the team is loaded with so many incredible finishers.
Offensive rebounds have generated numerous extra shots.
Dwyane Wade's quicksilver wing and baseline-attacks on the basket have been unstoppable.
LeBron's powerhouse drives, creative flips and fadeaway jumpers have likewise been irresistible. And when he lets loose sensible treys, LBJ has usually made the nets dance.
Chris Bosh's ability to knock down uncontested mid-range jumpers.
Mario Chalmers dynamic all-around play off the bench.
When taken in context of their offense, the Heat's team-wide long-distance shooting has been steady.
Settling much too often for ill-advised treys — 54 in the two games!
Abandoning the passwork and ball-movement that gained them control of Game 2, the Heat began to over-handle, which enabled Dallas to load up their defense.
Neglecting to deal with weak-to-strongside cuts along the baseline — mostly on the part of Shawn Marion.
With players going to the bathroom, settling down and re-entering the court to get loose, coaching staffs usually have about 9-10 minutes during halftime with which to make adjustments. In Game 2, the brief WIRED segment of Miami's intermission period was incredibly meaningful. For sure, Erik Spoelstra spent most of his off-camera time on Xs and Os, but the available footage caught him repeatedly reminded his team to play hard the remaining 24 minutes.
I, for one, was stunned. Does a team in the championship round really need to be begged to play hard?
In any case, the Heat did play with admirable intensity … until the last seven minutes. That's when, thinking the game was already won and Dallas would fold like they did at the end of Game 1, the Heat shifted into cruise control. The point being that Spoelstra really does understand his team.
Moreover, Miami's defense against Nowitzki's game-winning hoop was awful.
Although Nowitzki first dribbled right, the lane was packed with defenders so there was nowhere for him to go. Even so, Bosh made a total commitment to bang Nowitzki's left (lead) shoulder, forgetting that the Mavs' go-to scorer always prefers to drive left. As a result, when Nowitzki spun and did indeed drive left, Bosh was hopelessly out of position. However, Udonis Haslem should have read the player and the play and moved to meet Nowitzki at the left box, but Haslem didn't arrive in time to make a difference.
MIAMI'S NECESSARY ADJUSTMENTS
Move the ball and move the bodies on offense!
Show more diligence and patience on offense and stop resorting to so many quick knockout three-balls.
Diminish the number of isolations called for Bosh. Let him get his shots off ball movement, dive and baseline cuts and offensive rebounds.
Improve the intensity and duration of their concentration when shooting free throws, no matter how secure their leads might seem.
Subdue their own arrogance while increasing their respect for the Mavs.
Nowitzki's perpetual hard work, highlighted by his productivity in the clutch.
Jason Terry's catch-and-shoot, one-on-none accuracy.
Shawn Marion's persistent hustle with and without the ball. He has also posted up for profit.
The plus-results accruing whenever they can push the ball.
Jason Kidd's generalship.
The gritty play and timely shooting of DeShawn Stevenson.
The effectiveness of Brendan Haywood off the bench.
Above all else, their never-say-die attitude. Credit the players, of course, but don't underestimate the toughness and heart Rick Carlisle has provided.
Terry's inept passing and dribbling.
The utter uselessness of Peja Stojakovic.
J.J. Barea seems both confused and intimidated by the quick help demonstrated by Miami's bigs. That's why he's missing so many layups and having so many of his shots touched.
Better command of their defensive glass.
Concentrating so much on plugging the middle defensively that too many of Miami's long-distance aces are unattended.
Late defensive help on D-Wade ventures into the paint.
Careless ball-handling, even on the part of J-Kidd. Many of their turnovers are due to underestimating the range of Miami's defensive helpers, but many are unforced.
DALLAS' NECESSARY ADJUSTMENTS
Nowitzki needs more open looks, which he can generate by using single-double screen combos and by totally isolating him on a wing so he has space to go backdoor.
As soon as Terry puts the ball on the floor, Carlisle should prevent a second dribble by lassoing him.
Take much, much better care of the ball. To help here, potential pass receivers must make sure they're open by exchanging positions with somebody else, moving to more advantageous angles, or using their bodies to seal their defenders away from their own target hand.
Play every sequence as hard, as mindful, and with as much confidence as they did in the waning minutes of Game 2.
The pertinent questions for each team in Game 3 are these:
• In order to play winning basketball, Miami has to have and maintain an unalterable belief in themselves. Has this belief been shaken enough to create subconscious doubts? In other words, is the arrogance and self-confidence routinely exhibited by the Heat just cover-ups for their being front runners, or have they learned a painful lesson and play 48 minutes of focused, unselfish, intelligent basketball?
• Can Dallas outrun the runners, or at least create enough early offensive situations to prevent Miami from setting up their defense? Do they feel their courage and spirit gives them an advantage over Miami's superior overall talent and athleticism?
Not even the Shadow knows the answers.