Thursday, June 2, 2011

Game 1 Notes

A few thoughts after Tuesday night's 92-84 Miami victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

Peja Stojakovic looked lost on defense every time he took the floor. Against Los Angeles or Oklahoma City, Stojakovic could be assigned to guard Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Nick Collison, or Thabo Sefolosha: relatively slow men who are not primary ball-handlers. Against Miami, which plays Lebron James and Dwyane Wade together for nearly 48 minutes straight, Stojakovic is forced to cover an All-NBA wing every trip down the floor. He shot 0 of 3 last night; if he keeps up that desultory record, coach Carlisle may be forced to yank him for Corey Brewer, who at least plays adequate defense. I wonder, too, whether the half-healed Caron Butler might be useful in 5-minute bursts.

Dallas missed a lot of open shots: J.J. Barea missed several of the Nash-like layups he usually writhes into the hoop, and Jason Terry missed a few open 3s. Including Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood, the Mavs' bench combined to shoot for 4 for 22. They will surely improve that rate next time and will score more points. Miami's whole roster shot only 39%, but their three stars still delivered 65 points; it is not obvious that Miami can find more scoring.

Miami has four seven-foot centers bound to the bench: Dexter Pittman, Jamaal Magloire, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Erick Dampier. Coach Spoelstra chose to employ 6'8" Udonis Haslem (30 minutes) as his backup center behind 6'9" Joel Anthony (18 minutes). Spoelstra further used 6'10" Juwan Howard for 8 minutes to spell Chris Bosh at power forward. Dallas is the only playoff team with two starting-caliber centers (non-playoff Sacramento could make the same boast; Boston could say the same if Shaquille O'Neal were healthy, as could Portland with a healthy Greg Oden), but Spoelstra chose to combat them with long-limbed agile men. Like the Atlanta Hawks (except better), Miami's typical five-man squad is not a "big lineup", as they play no 7-footers, but not a "small lineup" either, as Lebron James and Mike Miller are oversized for their respective positions. If Miami insists on eschewing its tallest guys, Dallas must find a way to exploit the Heat's short stature. I saw Dallas using a Stevenson-Barea-Terry alignment in the fourth quarter last night; if going small does not work, why not go big? Try bringing in 6'11" F-C Ian Mahinmi, who played 56 games in the regular season, to play with Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler when Lebron James leaves the game.

My suggestions to play Butler, Brewer, or Mahinmi could be easily ridiculed as desperation. Perhaps Dallas should not mess with the nine-player rotation that destroyed the Lakers and Thunder. But Miami is very, very good.

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