Finals: Game 3 Notes

Dwyane Wade just found his purpose on this planet. It’s to destroy the Mavericks.

His performance in this series has been MVP like. 29 in game 1, 36 in game 2, 29 in game 3. He has dominated every defense that the Mavericks have thrown at him. It doesn’t matter, his purpose is to destroy the Mavericks and win 5 rings. He’s on his way with both. At the rate he’s at, at least.

It’s performances like that, that show a true leader. After the game 2 meltdown. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem conducted a talk amongst the players for an extra hour then usual. It must have been during that hour where Dwyane decided he had to get the ball more often. Lebron got most of the touches in the 4th quarters.

He’s the one on the finals posters, he’s the one who is supposed to be one of the greatest of all time but it’s Wade who has shown his true talent and leadership this series.

In game 3, Dwyane came out attacking. He wasn’t settling for poor jump-shots like game 2. He attacked the paint like a mad man. Dunking, penetrating, taking people off the dribble. As soon as the game began, we could all tell this was a different D-Wade. A more focused, aggressive, determined player then the 2 previous games.

Besides D-Wade there was another member of the big three that stepped up when it really counted. No it wasn’t Lebron James.

I said before that this game was going to be the game for Chris Bosh to step up. He did. Throughout the game he was playing soft. He was pump faking instead of popping a jumper. He was playing nervous. Maybe it was the roudy, proud and loud Dallas fans or just the pressure of being the third biggest piece to a finals team. Something he’s never had to deal with.

It was 86, 86 there were about 45 seconds on the clock when Bosh took the biggest shot of his career. He was wide open on the baseline. He took the jumper, followed through and watched the shot fall through and give Miami the crucial lead, and the eventual victory. That was the shot that silenced the critics. Screw being soft, screw shying away from the spotlight, screw not producing. Chris Bosh is a ligit all-star, he didn’t get asked to play with Lebron and Wade because he was an inconsistent softy. He stepped up and that helped the Heat immensely.

The Heat did what they were supposed to do. They played lockdown defense, got their bench and stars to produce and won game 3. The most important game of the series so far.

The Mavericks deserve some serious credit. They played their best basketball of the season. Dirk scored 34. They held Miami under 90. They held Lebron to 20 points.

Then there is somethings they didn’t do too well. Handling D-Wade. There is something about D-Wade’s presence that makes the Mavs play scared defense. The perimeter defense play on their heels, and when he is intruding their paint they just put their arms up weakly and hope for a miss. No real defense is played on him. They need to do a better job of guarding him. Maybe double him as soon as he gets the ball instead of Lebron. Lebron gets mild numbers, and isn’t a dangerous threat like Wade has been this series.

Then the Mavericks have to take care of the turnovers. That’s what started up Wade’s momentum. It was open floor monster dunks that he got because of careless turnovers that the Mavericks have to pay more attention to.

Then the biggest thing. The Mavericks lack of offensive production.Dirk had 34 but the other starters had like 9 made shots. That’s not enough to win the NBA finals. They’re playing against the most offensively talented team in the NBA, and if they can’t even produce more then 60 points from starters only then why even keep playing. It’s not just the starters it’s the bench as well.

They still haven’t realized where they are and what they’re playing for. The NBA finals, the biggest stage in basketball. They have to produce some points. It doesn’t have to be monster production, but c’mon, score the ball. That’s how you win the game, by getting the ball in the net. That’s what they have to do to win this series.

 

Finals: Game 2

Coaches always say forget about the bad and just focus on this possession, this play, this quarter. That’s what the Mavericks mindset must be like heading into Thursday’s game. The bench can’t dwell on their embarrassing play from last game but must focus on the task at hand.

Everyone says a series hasn’t started until someone wins on the road. The Mavericks have to try and make it a series tonight.

They are one of the best road teams in the league and with their extra ounce of desire from last game’s disappointment then they should be taking this game in Miami.

I’m looking for the Mavericks to come out strong. I suggested giving the ball to Dirk more often. I watched how Miami was playing him and they were getting Mike Miller or another perimeter player and Joel Anthony to harass Dirk as soon as he touches the ball. That did limit his offense but he has become such a talented passer that he got the ball to open men who scored a lot of points. I don’t think they realized that was working. They didn’t give it to him enough, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry played too much like a street-ball player and was trying to dribble by everyone. That won’t work. Especially not against a defense like the Heat.

Then they have to get Tyson Chandler in a more aggressive mindset.

He came to Dallas this year and instantly set off a different personality for this team’s defense. They were tougher, and put in more effort. This is not the stage to be getting soft on. He has been compared to Kevin Garnett for his instant defensive presence on a new team.

Only difference is Kevin Garnett got more than 4 rebounds in game 1 of the 2008 finals.

Then they need J.J Barea to snap out of his fantasy world and get into the game. Last game he scored 2 points, and barely dished out any assists. He was a no go in game 1. Dirk is 32 years old. When you’re superstar player is a seasoned veteran then the bench gains much more responsibility to produce when he isn’t on the floor. He was getting so much hype throughout the post-season for his fast play, his dribbling skills, and his nifty moves around bigger defenders. I know he’s a younger player, and is new to having such big role on a big stage but he has to produce. It’s that simple.

For the Heat. This is their chance to put the Mavericks in a hole. Put them in a deep 2-0 hole, cover them with dirt and fill the hole up. If they can win this game it’s going to be very hard for the Mavericks to win the next three games in Dallas. It’s a very hard task for teams. If they lose 1 game in Dallas then this series is pretty much over because we all know when Lebron and the Heat get back to Miami they’re winning. They’re 9-0 at home this post-season.

Miami won last game with lockdown defense and a huge advantage on the boards.

They only declared victory in the last 5 minutes of the 4th quarter. That’s how close the game was. Both teams shot below 40% from the field. But the Heat only won in the last 5 minutes.

That may be too close for comfort for Erik Spoelstra and the Heat. They know that that game could’ve easily gone the other way. It just came down to the Heat having Dwyane and Lebron and Bosh on their team in the closing minutes. And the Mavericks having to depend solely on Dirk.

The Heat need to stop with the silly ball handling and careless passing. They fooled around too much in the first quarter and that prevented them from getting into a rythm. Also on one of their first possessions Lebron took a fade away jumper on Deshawn Stevenson. A 6’8 guy fading away from a 6’4 to 6’5 kind of guy.  Why is he doing that? Sure he made the shot but c’mon. I feel like Lebron settled a bit in game 1. Sure he got 24 points but most of it was from jumpers. He could score an easy 30 next game if he attacked the rim and tried to penetrate the paint especially when Tyson Chandler is off his game.

They did nothing else wrong. Nothing I could see at least. The Heat played a strong game, they let their defense win them the game and they stepped up when they needed to. Maybe with a bit more offensive production they could easily win this game in the third quarter.

Game 2. We’ll see you in 9 hours.

 

Game 1 Notes

Round of applause to the Miami Heat. They stayed in the game the entire way, used their defense and their superior rebounding skills to carry them up until the 4th quarter, then Lebron and Wade their best players took over.

That sounds almost like a perfect game doesn’t it.

A finals contender using their defense to carry them throughout the game. Even when they were shooting 29% from the field they flushed all the bad and went to the other end of the floor and shut the Mavericks down. They held Jason Terry to 0 second half points. They held Dirk to 7 of 18 shooting and they managed to silence the very productive Maverick bench. The Maverick bench scored only 17 points in the whole game. The Heat bench scored 27 points.   Then there was the rebounding clinic that they put on. If you haven’t read the stat sheet then let me share with you.

The Heat out rebounded the Mavericks by 10. One of the more important stats was that the whole Mavericks bench got a total of only 8 rebounds. 8 rebounds was less than Lebron James by himself. Another important stat was that they held Tyson Chandler and Brendon Haywood to a total of 11 rebounds. That shows not only persistence on the boards but it means the Heat big men have the upper hand in this series. They were tougher, they clearly just wanted the ball more. On offense and defense.

Then there was the 4th quarter production of Wade, Lebron, and Bosh. Dwyane Wade scored 7 fourth quarter points, Lebron scored 5 fourth quarter points and Bosh scored 5 fourth quarter points. That’s 17 4th quarter points between the three leaders of the Heat. It’s good to see them being confident and leading the way by closing out the game.

What to work on:

For the Heat, they’re careless ball handling and passing was a result of many turnovers. Even if it wasn’t turnovers it messed with their offense and made it hard for them to get into a flow. That’s why I think they were so unsuccessful shooting the ball in the first half. That and the defense of the Mavericks. They have to think more about their passes and where they’re dribbling.

For the Mavericks there is a lot more to be done. They need to get it into Dirk more often. Even if he doesn’t get off a shot. I can’t tell you how many times Dirk got the ball at mid-range and he passed to the open man on the perimeter. Jason Terry scored most of his first half points from passes out of the double team. They should be focusing their offense on Dirk’s passing ability and his unstoppable shooting abilities. They also need to work more on the boards. It felt like the Mavericks were giving up some when the ball clanked off the rim. They have to realize that this group of guys may never get another chance like this. Everything counts. Being out-rebounded by 10 in the first game can affect everything in the rest of the series. With two lockdown defenses playing their best it’s going to come down to who wants it more and who is willing to do more to win. Then they need their bench to get into the series. They were completely out of it. It may be that they are facing a top 2 defense or maybe their bench is scared. Maybe the big stage is too much for them. In previous series I saw J.J Barea try, at least try to penetrate the paint on almost every possession. Or try to shoot a three off a pick and roll. He didn’t even look for his shot last game. He has to, he can affect this series immensely if he continues to play with confidence. Jason Terry can’t really do anything about his 2nd half. He was getting the open shots, he just wasn’t sinking them. That will happen sometimes but he has to find other ways to help his team besides lingering on the three point line waiting to get open. He should try, I don’t know, maybe cutting through the lane or setting a screen. Ya, that sounds about right. Do other things in the finals, it’s do or die.

Overall this game was a great taster for what is waiting to come in the next few games. The Heat are ready and played like they deserve the ring while the Mavericks played like they deserved to be in the finals but didn’t deserve to win it all.

Mavericks-Thunder Series Preview.

Many thought they were too young, too inexperienced. Many thought they weren’t ready, weren’t prepared. All the haters were silenced tonight when the Thunder inked their status in the elite group in the NBA when beating the 8th seeded Grizzlies in the conference semifinals, and advancing to the conference finals. The only problem is that now they have to face one of the mayors of the elite group. The Dallas Mavericks.  Many thought Dallas wouldn’t be able to hold off the defending champs, but they did. In championship like fashion. Both of these teams have silenced the nay-sayers and are sitting promptly in the conference finals, awaiting their tough competition.

Just like the Heat-Bulls series, this should series should be a serious offensive struggle. The Mavericks held the TrailBlazers to 88 points in 6 games, and the Lakers to 92 points in 4 games. The Thunder held the Nuggets to 97 points in 5 games, and the Grizzlies to 114 points, but game 4 went into triple overtime.

For the Thunder to win this series, there are a lot of things that come into play. Not all of them are basketball related. They are going up against one of the oldest teams in the NBA, that means they’re going to get tired quicker, and aren’t going to be as fast but that also means they are very strong mentally, and have a high basketball IQ. Playoff games can get heated, and players can get mad, but the Mavericks don’t usually lose their grip on the game. If the Thunder’s young and inexperienced players can’t handle the very heated playoff games against a contained Maverick team, then they won’t be able to play a whole 7 game series and advance to the finals.

Now onto the basketball related factors. Russell Westbrook, a superstar, and a quick, athletic point guard will be matching up against a 38 year old veteran in Jason Kidd. You probably know what I am going to say. Westbrook is going to run all over Kidd that he’ll have to come out every 5 minutes to catch his breath. Russell can jump higher so J-Kidd will have trouble getting a hand in his face when shooting, he is slower so Russell will beat him off the dribble much easier, causing the big men to come out and guard him and leaving a corner 3-pointer open. He has to take advantage of this mismatch, if he does then this will be a much easier series for him and the Thunder. Another factor for winning is that they have to keep Dirk Nowitzki under control. That, of course is easier said than done. Pau Gasol couldn’t guard him so what makes anyone think Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, or Kendrick Perkins will be able to. He is taller and much too quick for Collison and Perkins. Ibaka will have to guard him. He played very good defense on Zach Randolph in the post, but now he will have to be running more around curls for Nowitzki, or trying to prevent his nearly unstoppable jump shot. They don’t want to double on Nowitzki because then Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic will be left open, and we know what happens when they’re left wide open. Ibaka has to be up for the challenge, if he can’t contain Nowitzki then this series is pretty much over before it began. Another thing they have to do to win is take advantage of the mismatch at the small forward position. Unlike Memphis, and Denver, the Mavericks have no gritty, tough, good perimeter defenders to handle the Durantula. Shawn Marion will most likely guard him, but Durant is quicker, more athletic, and just too talented for Marion to cover. This means Durant has to be very aggressive on offense, trying to drive to the hoop as much as possible, and taking quick dribbles and pull up jumpers. If he and Westbrook can take care of their mismatches then they’ll be in great shape.

For the Mavericks, it’s a different story. They’re going to need J.J Barea to be on his top game in this series. Jason Kidd most likely won’t be able to guard Westbrook, so that means Barea will see much more playing time in this series. He has to be able to play confidently, he has to guard Westbrook toughly and drive by him when he has the chance to. Then we have to look at the big men. Tyson Chandler will be key in this series. He will be guarded by Perkins, and Collison. He is taller then both of them, and quicker then both of them. He has to take advantage of his speed, and size down low for the Mavs to be able to win. He has to box out effectively, and jump on the glass whenever he can. Dallas should try to run some pick and rolls for Chandler, because with Kidd’s passing ability, and the center’s not being able to catch up with Chandler when he rolls, Chandler should have some easy dunks this series. Handling Durant will be the toughest mission for the Mavericks in this series. Shawn Marion, or Peja Stojakovic will have to guard him. Neither are talented enough defensively to handle the best scorer in the league. They may have to double Durant, the Thunder won’t have that many options to pass out of the double team to, there is always Westbrook but Sefolosha isn’t a dangerous shooter, nor is Harden consistently, that is.

This series will come down to guarding the star players. If the Thunder can contain Nowitzki, they’ll be in better shape. If the Mavs can contain Durant then they’ll be in better shape. We’ll see when the series starts. If I had to make a prediction right now. I’d give this series to the Mavericks in 6 games.

Grizz Without Gay.

When the playoffs began, nobody, I repeat nobody would’ve thought that the Memphis Grizzlies would be entering a tough game 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semi-finals. It seemed like mission impossible, it seemed like wishing on a star, but the fans in Memphis definitely got their wish.

All of this happened without Rudy Gay. Their young budding superstar. He and Zach Randolph were supposed to lead this team to greatness, together. They were going to be the one-two punch that would lead Memphis deep in the playoffs. Then Gay suffered a left shoulder injury against the 76ers on the 15th of February. That was the end they thought, the Memphis hopes died down, and they didn’t expect to go very far. Then they signed Shane Battier, got Tony Allen to step up on defense, got Gasol to play more aggressively in the post. When they adjusted to playing without Gay, they were back in business.

Throughout the postseason, they have been known for they’re play on the boards, their tough defense, they’re hustle for loose balls, they’re tough low post presence, and they’re hunger for winning. All of this without Gay. When Gay got injured they focused their offense more on Zach Randolph and focused their game more on defense then offense. How would they have played this postseason without Gay? There are many different vantage points we could look at it from. One, if they had Rudy Gay then they would have their offense focus on the offensive drives of Rudy Gay and the low post skill of Randolph. Which would help to spread the floor, and give the offense more options. It would also make it harder for teams to double team Z-Bo because then you have Rudy Gay wide open for a shot. If you look at it like that then they could kill teams with their offense as well as their defense. Or we could look at it like this. Rudy Gay wouldn’t put in enough effort on defense that the Grizzlies are known for. He is a strong perimeter defender, but don’t expect him to dive into the stands after a loose ball, or dive on the floor for a steal. He’s just not that type of player, but hey, not a lot of budding superstars are. With all of his playing time, then Tony Allen and Shane Battier wouldn’t play as much, therefore all those hustle plays that have helped them get this far wouldn’t have happened.

I hate hypotheticals but you have to wonder how Rudy would have effected their play in the playoffs. There is an upside and a downside. For now, good luck Grizzlies, and get better Gay.