Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t a very exciting game, unless you were Miami Heat fan. The Heat completely shut down the Dallas Mavericks offense en route to a relatively easy 92-84 win.
It wasn’t a spectacular offensive display that sunk the Mavs in game 1, it was defense. By now, everyone should know that it’s defense that wins championships, defense and superstars. The Miami Heat have both, the Dallas Mavericks fit the bill of the Lone Star state and are a little light in the superstar department.
Miami held the Mavericks to their worst shooting performance of the playoffs. Disco Dirk wasn’t his usual self, shooting well below his playoff percentage, Dirk shot 7 of 18 shooting for a quiet 27 points.
Surprisingly, the Heat out-rebounded the Mavs 16-6 on the offensive glass and kept the game a low scoring affair.
The strategy of the Miami Heat is clear now. They will give Nowitzki different looks between Haslem and Anthony, and occasionally double team him when he puts the ball on the floor, but ultimately, the Heat are satisfied to let Nowitzki get his, and shut down Jason Terry.
For the Mavs, Jason Terry opens up their offense. If Terry isn’t producing, the Mavs lose much of their bench scoring. People will talk about how the Mavs bench needs to be better, but as I felt in the preview, the Mavs will have no advantage in their bench.
It comes down to Nowitzki. He must play so well that the Heat have to double team him when he catches the ball, otherwise, the Heat will be content to make him work for his points and shoot a low percentage, while they close out on shooters and Wade and James lock down Jason Terry. The Mavericks strategy to stretch the floor only works if their hitting threes, last night, they weren’t shooting just 9-22. Stojakovic missed three wide open looks that he normally knocks down, but credit has to be given to the Heat defenders who used their speed to routinely chase shooters off the line.
Turnovers hurt Dallas too. For every turnover you give the Heat, you might as well put 2 points up on the board.
In the fourth quarter, the Heat simply have two of the best clutch players in the game who have made a living on closing games out. The dynamic duo of Wade and James overwhelmed the Mavs. In the second half, Wade seemed to have a flashback of the 2006 NBA Finals, while LeBron continued to strike from distance by hitting his first four three point attempts, including a buzzer beater which he shot from the scorers table. Wade would finish with 22, James had 24 and Bosh chipped in with 19 points.
Both teams shot under 40 percent, but the worst part about game 1 for the Mavs was that the Heat played poorly by their standards and still won easily. Worse yet, Dirk Nowitzki suffered a torn tendon on his off hand and will have to play with a splint for the rest of the series.
Bettors must be scratching their heads and wondering if they should be taking the under on Game 2 given how tight both teams are defending.
I initially thought this series would go 6 games in Miami’s favour, but if Dallas plays like that, this one could be over in 5.