The NBA post-season continues its winding road, as the Heat reclaimed home court advantage last night in a rugged game in which both teams played great defense, poor offense, and the deciding margin was a fluke 40 point jumper that probably should not have counted. So the Heat now have it locked up, right?
Of course they do.
Of course they don't.
The dichotomy is the reason why the NBA playoffs are so great.
You get a strong sense that the Mavericks know exactly what is wrong with their performances - they continue to fall behind early, and there is simply not enough offensive help to buoy Dirk Nowitzki's heroics. For today's astute analysis, I'm going to conclude that the two are somehow connected.
They note that while Dirk was once again great in the 4th, in the two most important possessions of the game, the Heat defense forced him into a turnover and a missed shot.
Pelton came to the same conclusion that I did - the Mavs really lost this game early in the game, rather than late. After the bad 1st quarter, the Mavs actually won the next three by way of some stellar team defense. Pelton makes a great observation as well - Dirk has been getting subbed out earlier in the 1st and 3rd quarters, presumably to make sure he has enough left in the tank at the end. However, when he goes out and Jason Terry does not replace Jason Kidd, the Mavs have no primary scorer on the floor, which has led to some costly stretches.
Dallas has been leaving itself precious little margin for error in this series, as well as the last. If you recall, the Thunder were primed for wins in both Games Four and Five, leading late, and Dallas came back twice. Likewise, they have played from behind the entire Finals. They need more offense earlier in the game if they are to avoid going down in the series, 3-1.
Susan Bible has a great post here where she breaks down the entire team's past performance and looks at where they are headed. Of particular note - team fouls and 3-point shooting discretion need to be improved upon.
More links after the jump.
Hollinger notes a very strange thing - the two best 2-point scorers in the league are doing terrible in making those shots here in the Finals. Open looks have been extremely hard to come by, for both teams. As good as the Miami defense has been, the Mavs' defense has not been too far behind.
If the Heat win the series, LeBron and Wade will get most of the accolades, but you cannot understate the impact that a returning Udonis Haslem has had on the team's play and morale. In the two biggest plays of the game, Halsem set the screen that freed up Chris Bosh's game-winning jumper, and on the other end he defended Dirk well enough to force Dirk's final shot to miss.
Since 1977, the pairing of two prime superstars has only occurred 12 times. While regular season success always followed, post-season success did not.
A great observation is made here about both Dallas' early game defense (bad) and Dirk's offense (passive). I too noted that in the first quarter Dirk had only attempted two shots. His late-game heroics are remarkable, but in the Thunder series DIrk was much better at being aggressive early, and his assertiveness really helped open up the rest of the Dallas offense.
Congratulations to the cool kids at TBJ, who were noted as one of the best blogs of 2011 by Time Magazine. I've been following those guys for years now, and it is commendable that they have caught the eye of the larger media community.
Give a listen as the TGR guys interview the Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry as well as Daily Thunder's Royce Young.
I did not want to give this story too much merit, since it seems like it was a byproduct of speculative conflagration, but it seemed like the rumor got serious enough where Hornets GM Dell Demps felt he had to give a comment on it. The entire escapade is as improbable as they come, and most should know this if they know anything about the parties involved. Royce Young at Daily Thunder also chimes in to help put the kibosh on it, so hopefully we can move on.
Mayberry writes that what could have fractured the team locker room ended up bringing them closer together.
"We know what's real and we know what's going on, and I think it was good for us to see that that stuff doesn't matter." - Nick Collison
I should probably start paying closer attention to this stuff.
This is a great story on Nick Collison and the connection he made with Zack Hardiman, a 12 year old special needs child. Just like the game planning, drafting, and on-court performance, this too is the Thunder way.
Here is a look at the far-reaching impact that the Thunder's season and franchise has had on OKC this past season.