Finals: Game 3

Texas. Known for it’s persistent droughts, it’s southern accents and most of all it’s crazy fans.

It’s those fans who will seal this game for Dallas. We all know that the bench plays better when they are surrounded by a stadium of people right behind them. J.J Barea, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic have yet to play their games in this series. Dallas will be praying that their fans can bring the benches esteem up and make them play Maverick basketball.

No matter what happens now, the series is 0-0. Nothing has happened before this game. Any feuds, mistakes, highs, lows made in the past two games are history. This game is the thing that counts. If Dallas wins this game then they send Miami back to the locker room down for another game in a row. They also carry more momentum for the next two games in Dallas. As well as getting the fans more involved for the rest of the series, which will be vital for their success.

If Miami wins this game then they’ve almost accomplished what they have to do. Win 2 out of 3 in Dallas. They know that to win this series they have to win at least 2 out of 3 in Dallas. Otherwise it’s byebye to the Larry O’Brian trophy.

How are they going to win though? Game 3, I call the step up game. It’s the game where the players who haven’t yet reached their full potential in this series will come out.

Take Chris Bosh for instance.

He had two 30 point games in the Chicago series. He scored 12 in game 2 of this series. This isn’t the time to back away. He is a vital part of this team. The most important part as well. With all the attention on Wade and Lebron in this game, he will have to be very aggressive and send a message to everybody saying,

” Hey, forget about me, I’m also an all-star.”

For Dallas it’s Jason Terry who I’m looking to step it up.

His whole Dallas career he has played his best games in Dallas. He gets in a groove, he rides off the crowd’s energy, his three point shooting touch starts working and the jet leaves the run-way, flies off onto a whole other level and doesn’t come down until the buzzer has sounded. Just look at this postseason. 9 three pointers in game 4 against L.A. 24 points in game 1 in the conference finals. 23 points in game 3 of the conference finals. 22 in game 1 against Portland, 20 in game 5 and 22 in game 6. Notice he scored 20 points in all of those games in Dallas.When he is feeling it, then he stretches the defence, making them have to rotate more, something the Heat don’t like doing.

Then in general, this is a redemption game for Miami. Many people including myself have been doubting Miami’s maturity and desire for the championship after their 7 minute meltdown in the 4th quarter of game 2. They stepped on the gas, went 100 miles an hour, then slowed down to 10 miles an hour and stayed like that for 7 minutes. While Dallas was on the verge of a speeding ticket in the last 7 minutes. They have to focus their minds on taking one game at a time, they have to grab this game from the beginning, take Dirk and the fans out of it and never let up.

For Dallas, they have to show that their 7 minutes of heaven last game wasn’t a goof. That it wasn’t just a veteran run, but that it was proof of desire and heart to win a finals game. They’re coming home with the energy, the momentum and the confidence. Miami will most likely start the game on their heels, the Mavs have to trip them up and show them that desire beats talent.

Game 3, see you in 2 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.

Game 1: NBA Finals

Tonight we begin the finals. We begin what could be one of the most fun match-ups in NBA history. A high octane offense against a slow half-court offense. Two lockdown defenses, 4 hall of famers, and one NBA championship.

This game will start it all. It will set the tone for the series. It will set the pace. It will show the world who’s boss. It will prove to everyone that these guys are for real.  This game is more than just an NBA finals game. This is the first impression we’re going to get of how this NBA finals will taste.

What am I looking for in this game?

For the Heat i’m looking for them to set the tone. They need to come out on to the court with more swagger then Dwyane Wade’s clothing choices. They need to be confident and they need to play like they have throughout the postseason. If they can come out and dump on the Mavs as soon as the ball is tossed then they can win this game. The Heat are very good when they are in the lead. After their shaky few games with losing leads in the middle of the regular season they focused more on the 4th quarter and closing out games. Lebron took all the criticism to heart and became a clutch player, that his team can depend on when they need him.

In a few small words. The Heat need to put their foot on the gas, go 100 miles an hour and don’t stop the whole game. If they can get an early lead then they can get the crowd into it which will be extremely important considering the Mavericks are one of the best road teams in the NBA.

Then they need to show the Mavericks that they can defend Dirk. They can’t play defense like the Thunder and let him score 48 points in game 1. His confidence hasn’t been higher in his whole career and from that game on it made it hard for the Thunder to slow him down. He played the rest of the series with a certain confidence and looseness about him that brought his teammates and the crowd up with him. The Heat need, need to shut down Dirk. It’s the most crucial thing in this series. We all know what Dirk can do if he isn’t guarded properly, and the Heat can’t let that happen. Especially not in the finals where Dirk is hungrier then ever before. It might be hard to double team him, due to the skilled three point shooters that the Mavericks have. Like Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry. They have to try and force him to give the ball up. He loves the spot on the wing between the free throw line extended and the restricted area. He has so much room there. All his teammates move to the other side of the court and give him all the space he needs to sink a jumper. I would try, first of all to double him on the entry pass and not the actual possession. If he can’t get the ball then it’s harder for him to score. Then whoever is guarding him, whether it be Bosh or Haslem, they call for a double. It’s a safer way to guard him, Jason Terry and the other three point shooters won’t make the open shots consistently plus I think Lebron is fast enough or Wade is fast enough to rotate over.

You can’t stop Dirk Nowitzki, I know that. I’m just suggesting ways to limit him.

For Lebron, it’s his big moment. The whole basketball world is watching him, waiting for every tiny mistake to critique on. He can’t mess up. He has to show the world that he doesn’t give up in big playoff moments which wasn’t true in the first place. He has to show everyone that in this series he is the best player on the floor. That he is the one who deserves the ring, and that he wants it more than Dirk. It’s his chance to silence everybody and play his game. He has to use up 100% of his energy and try get Miami into a transition game. Every time he grabs a rebound it should be up the floor, the Mavs defense is too good for them to stay in the half-court.

For the Mavericks it’s a chance to silence the Heat crowd. If they can win the first game in Miami, well it’s a gift. They would easily silence the crowd. They would cause the media to pick on Lebron more and I know he says he absorbs the criticism but with all the pressure mounting, I doubt he can stay so composed for much longer. They would pick up a 1-0 lead and force the Heat on their heels. It would also give Dirk a taste of the 2006 series where the same thing happened in 2006. Where Dallas picked up the first at home but lost in 6, it will give him sickening memories and remind him how bad he wants this and make him try harder. If that’s possible. It’s their chance to spit on any memory of playoff chokes and win this series for Dallas, for Dirk, for Jason Kidd, and for the loud-mouthed Mark Cuban. The Mavericks are the underdogs in this series and they know that if they don’t come out strong that they will lose this series quicker than it takes D-Rose to run up the court.

For the defense, it’s their time to step up. They have played stellar defense up till now but this is no time to let loose. The Heat have mismatches at the small forward spot and the shooting guard spot. That’s going to take some team defense overall to stop them. They have to remember their rotations, and shift constantly to guard the open man. If Lebron and Wade dominate their man like I predict they will then it’s basically like playing 4 on 5 in favour of the Heat.

For Dirk personally. He knows what must be done. He knows how close he is, to greatness, to glory, to champagne, to the hall of fame and to an NBA championship. He is hungrier than ever before and that has clearly showed off in his play. He has shouted with adrenaline 10 times in the playoffs as a sign of a tougher, meaner player and a more confident and proud one. He has said that this is the best team he’s played on his whole career but he knows that this is his time. It’s his stage. He knows that a ring on the resumé will let him retire in peace. Lebron said it, if you want to be remembered as an all time great you win a ring. Dirk must. He has to come out of this game not unselfishly but confidently and aggressively. He has to take over as soon as the whistle blows. He hasn’t quite realized that he is unstoppable and is shooting the 2nd most unstoppable shot ever seen in the NBA. He has to take Chris Bosh into the post, take jump shot after jump shot. Jason Kidd is smart enough to know that Dirk needs to get into a rythm early for the Mavericks to have a good chance at winning this game.

Game 1 we’ll see you in 2 hours.

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.

The Lakers Need to Improve.

As the NBA conference finals begin, we have to still wonder about the leagues former champions. What does their future hold, is it a retiring Bryant, a traded Gasol, a completely different team? When a defending champion loses it’s a big deal around the league, and a big deal within the organization. When the defending champions are swept, well, that’s a huge problem and begs the question,what went wrong?

What went wrong? It’s really simple, people are over analyzing this too much. Pau Gasol just didn’t play. It’s almost as if he wasn’t there. Dirk Nowitzki ran all over him, he barely put up a fight. He missed easy shots every game, wasn’t aggresive enough on the boards or on defense and that dragged the Lakers down. When the man supposed to be giving the other team’s player a hard time doesn’t defend then there is going to be havoc. Their biggest strength is their duo of 7-footers on the front line, but in this series there was just one 7-footer in Andrew Bynum and one 7-footer playing like a scared child in Pau Gasol. Pau’s low production forced the other players on the team to carry his load, but trying to make up for 18 points and 10 rebounds is hard, and it was too hard for the Lakers. It wasn’t just Pau though, let’s not blame the whole Laker meltdown on one player. It was the effort. It was the hustle. The attitude. The defense, or lack there of. In game 4 of the series the Mavericks made 20, three pointers. How did they reach this milestone against such a tough defensive team? The perimeter defenders were lethargic, they didn’t rotate to the shooters, they didn’t even try to get a hand in the shooters face. Jason Terry did not have a hand in his face on any of his three pointers, the same with Peja.

This series is over though, the Lakers get to go on vacation early, and the Mavericks get to move on to the conference finals feeling proud and accomplished. Something has to change though. We already know Phil Jackson won’t be returning next season. Brian Shaw or Rick Adelman are the favorites to take over his position. Magic Johnson rumored that roster changes may have to be made if the Lakers want to be contenders next season. I agree, but what changes do they have to make? First off, they need a young, quick, athletic point guard. Derek Fisher is a veteran with lots of invaluable experience but he can’t keep up with the faster guards in the league like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, and Deron Williams. Steve Blake didn’t play up to expectations this season and although he has less years on his legs he still can’t compete with the faster guards. They won’t be getting any good draft picks any time soon so they better try to find a quick young point guard this summer. Then they have to wonder about Pau Gasol. He has proven to be a great competitor, an all-star, a top 10 power forward and most of all a champion, but he really let them down this postseason. Kobe only has 3-4 good years left in him and the Lakers may want to think about trading Gasol for an athletic, talented scorer to take the stage once Kobe is gone. Or maybe trade Gasol for another power forward, someone who is tougher and more dependable in big playoff series. As I mentioned before, Kobe only has 3-4 great years left in him so the Lakers may want to put a lot of their time into their younger players like Shannon Brown. He proved himself to be very productive off the bench, he is extremely athletic and he can definitely score the basketball. His game is still developing but I see a player who could do a solid job of filling in Kobe’s shoes. The last thing is that they need some gritty perimeter defenders. The Lakers, although they may play tough, are a pretty soft team. They need some tough perimeter defenders, players like Thabo Sefolosha or Tony Allen to keep the scorers under control.

After the Lakers disgraceful showing in the semi-finals, ways to improve are a must, if the Lakers want another ring.