Wed Jun 01 12:55pm EDT
If I have a bias, it's for more basketball. That's not some cute saying, banged out to somehow ably represent me in 140 characters or less. It's the truth, as potent in February as it is with a week or so to go before an NBA lockout. I might pick a sweep, when we all know it's going to take five or six games, but that doesn't mean I'm not dying for every series to go seven. As we all are, or should be.
So you'd be right in terming me an appalling optimist as I try to find the brighter things. Picturing that glass as half full following games that were somewhat close but should have probably been one-sided. Tuesday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals went along those lines, as it was close up until the final minutes, even though we probably all were guessing that this was a few strong possessions away from being a Miami win. This game was close, and there were things that Dallas could have done better to make this a one-possession game down the stretch. There are also things it can improve upon in time for Thursday's Game 2.
But beyond that. That glass looks kind of, well ... you know. Don't make me say it. Click the jump, as I ask the Internet's best and brightest to take me down a notch.
OK, boys. Prove me pessimistic.
To these eyes, upon first glance and before watching this game again, it appeared as if Dallas' zone created havoc in the first half while Miami struggled to score. And the Heat did struggle to score in that first half, far less so in the second, and the dwindling amount of possessions that Dallas lined up in the zone formation seemed to be the cause of that improved Heat offense. At the very least, it had to be a small factor, right?
A second watch showed that the zone wasn't as potent as you remember. And then you open up your email folder and read this column from Matt Moore, and the stats prove that second watch correct.
The result was a series of attacks over the zone's defense right under the basket, including what may have been the dagger, a Udonis Haslem(notes) and-one finish. The lead had been cut to three with six minutes to go before Haslem's bucket, one of those two zone attempts the Mavericks threw out. The Mavs gambled with the zone. The gamble failed.
The zone wasn't completely useless, but the Heat scored 20 points on 18 possessions against the zone. But more importantly, it allowed the Heat to have the Mavs in man defense down the stretch, and to let their superstars play.
Twenty points in 18 possessions, as Matt pointed out in his email, is 111.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would rank in the top five this season, and a small improvement on Miami's overall 109 points per 100 possessions from Game 1. Clearly, 18 possessions in an 84-possession game can't be counted on as some sort of lean-to, but more zone possessions for the Mavs can't be trusted as some sort of defensive panacea in-wait.
More distressing for Dallas are these marks from Game 1, as relayed by SI.com's Zach Lowe:
Mavs scored 0.47 PPP on pick-and-rolls last night, 0.29 in isolations. Whoa boy.
Indeed. Forty-seven and then 29 points per 100 possessions? Not what you're after. Not what an NCAA team would be happy with, going up against the Heat. That's brutal.
Equally as brutal was Dirk Nowitzki(notes) running to the front of the rim in an attempt to defensively rebound a perimeter shot that is 95 percent bound to bounce into a long rebound. Actually, Zach points out that Dirk didn't exactly have a chance even if he went to the correct spot:
This trend disturbed me much more: Nowitzki looked badly overmatched trying to box out the Heat's big men. It is there on the film, a loud reminder that 32-year-olds with plenty of wear on their tires and a shaky leaping ability are going to have problems with younger, quicker and more athletic big men. Joel Anthony(notes) in particular shoved, dragged and maneuvered Nowitzki out of the way over and over. Perhaps the best example came at the 8:15 mark of the third quarter, when Dwyane Wade(notes) attempted a pull-up jumper off a pick-and-roll. It's exactly the kind of shot Dallas wants Miami to take, and when you freeze the tape as Wade releases the shot, all seems well for Dallas. Chandler had inside position on Bosh on the left side of the paint, and Nowitzki had Anthony boxed out on the right block.
But Anthony darted around Dirk's back, stuck his left arm into Dirk's stomach, shoved him out of the way and grabbed the rebound.
Guh. Again, we're not rooting for Dallas, we're just rooting for six more games. Can anyone help me with this?
What about the Heat's young coach, Erik Spoelstra? Surely this whippersnapper is too big for his britches, more prone to snap his way through the Charleston at his speakeasy of choice than to humble that braggadocio about "grinding" while keeping those kids in check, righto?
Eh, not so much. Right, Kevin Arnovitz?
Ask a dozen people and you'll get a single impression: Spoelstra is among the game's hardest workers, most prepared coaches and respectful characters. The uniformity of these testimonials is so extreme, it demands a little diversity of opinion. Can Spoelstra possibly be as unimpeachable as everyone says he is?
"Let me save you a lot of time and phone calls -- yes," says one NBA general manager. "All he does is work his balls off and treat everyone the way they should be treated. He treats the film kid the same way he treats Pat Riley. He knows the game as well as anyone. But the big thing is -- he's respectful of the opportunity he's been given. He doesn't have amnesia about where he came from."
Oh, bloody hell.
Also, as you no doubt know, Dirk Nowitzki tore a tendon in the middle finger of his left (non-shooting) hand. He'll wear a splint for the rest of the playoffs, which I believe just ended on Tuesday night.
Here's hoping you make it to three games, Dallas. Because if I'm reading correctly, you've just about had it.