Top 5 Mavs 'Non-Adjustments' For Game 2
"We'll play better, I'm certain of that. … it's a long series, and we'll adjust and do things we need to do to get ourselves in a better position,'' said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle after Tuesday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a 92-84 loss to the Miami Heat that conventional wisdom says should leave Dallas scrambling for new solutions.
But what if the existing solutions are all that are available? Or, more positively, what if the existing solutions are actually the proper ones … and simply need to be rolled out again in Thursday's Game 2 with the promise of more likely results?
Yes, that's my contention. Dallas' gameplan was fine. And it remained fine … right up until the moment when the ball didn't go in the basket.
A five-item review/preview as the Mavs gathered in Miami for a workout and film study:
NON-ADJUSTMENT 1: The Heatles did not kill Dallas. LeBron/Wade/Bosh came into Game 1 averaging 66 points in the playoffs. They came out of Game 1 falling a point short of that average.
Wade struggled early, making 3-of-10 shots in the first half. Bosh struggled throughout, high-volume'ing his was to a 5-of-18 night. And LeBron didn't go at all nuts until he hit a pair of end-of-third-quarter 3's.
In terms of keeping Miami's Big 3 in relative check, using some zone and lots of Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson on LeBron and Wade, the Mavs' defense on them was relatively effective.
Why change much?
NON-ADJUSTMENT 2: The Mavs believed they could out-duel Miami at the arc. Lure the Heat into becoming a perimeter team (thus keeping them away from the rim and the line) while relying on an inside-out game to set up their own 3-point marksman.
Instead, the Heat made 11-of-24 from the arc. That's twice as many makes as they usually total. LeBron was 4-of-5 from out there, yet he's a 33-percent shooter from the arc normally. Meanwhile, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and JJ Barea combined to shoot 4-of-21.
So should the Mavs no longer believe that Miami is the 33-percent-on-3's team it has been all year, and that Peja's suddenly lost his sniper touch?
All three of the aforementioned Mavs were featured in that inside-out attack – or, at least, were supposed to be. Again, the inside-out game should've worked.
Peja open at the arc? Yup. He just didn't make shots. JJB's penetration to the rim? Yup. He quite obviously let nerves jangle him into misses. ("I thought he was rushing some of his shots in the paint,'' Dirk said.) Jet taking shots in rhythm? Yup -- for the first half, when he was 3-of-3 from the arc … but then fell apart as he was sometimes being guarded by James. Now, THAT was a bit of a surprise. And when Carlisle notes that it's an area worthy of "adjustment,'' he's not just mouthing the words.
"We've looked at it,'' Rick said of film study. "We'll do some things that we think can help us.''
Overall, though, those three guys don't need to change much about their shots. They simply need to make them.
NON-ADJUSTMENT 3: Dallas is completely reliant on Dirk to be Dirk. Now, we'll see if an alteration is forced here due to Nowitzki's middle-finger injury on his left hand. Ignorant observers have dismissed the importance of the torn tendon, citing the fact that The UberMan is right-handed. In fact, of course, he's ambidextrous – and actually favors his left hand when dribbling inside.
With his hand still healthy in Game 1, Dirk shot 4-of-15 through three quarters. He was especially ineffective when opting to shoot while double-teamed, but … that's what Dallas does.
Dirk's 10-fingered excellence is threatened now ... potentially compromised now. But the Mavs can't really alter Nowitzki's gameplan involvement here. Because if Dirk isn't Dirk, this ship will quickly sink.
For what it's worth, Nowitzki is reporting less pain in the finger than he expected.
"It didn't get as sore as I was anticipating last night,'' he said today. "It should be alright."
NON-ADJUSTMENT 4: The Mavs know they are giving up something (rebounds) to get something (rim protection and team defense in the zone). Should they give that up because they got outrebounded by 10 overall and because they were crushed in offensive rebounds, 16-6?
There are some schematic issues that resulted in Dallas getting outrebounded as it did. Now, four boards for TY? Tyson Chandler -- playing against a Miami lineup that is often 6-8 and shorter -- oughta get four rebounds by fortuitousness.
But again, to the scheme: As was the case against OKC for most of the Western Conference Finals series, Chandler's job is as a help defender; when the opponent drives, he's coming to meet him. This is going to result in fewer Miami layups (again, keeping LeBron and Wade off the rim). But it also sucks TY off his man ... leaving his man to collect rebounds.
Additionally, TY on Chris Bosh (making Bosh an inefficient scorer in Game 1) allows Miami to draw Chandler away from the basket.
And finally, Dallas' zone means fewer get-a-body-on-a-body situations.
These are the concessions Dallas' defense makes inside so it can survive overall.
They don't need to fiddle much with the scheme, and I think Carlisle is hinting at that when he says, "We've got to do a better job of scrambling and getting bodies on bodies. We have to come up with the ball.''
That's not "gameplanning'' that will be scribbled on the white-eraseboard in the G2 locker room. That inked-in word will be "effort.''
NON-ADJUSTMENT 5: How about reviewing again what we referred to this morning as a big ol' Bag O' Aberrations?
In Game 1, Dallas recorded more steals, more blocks, more free throws and more fast-break points.
Meanwhile, Miami had more assists, more rebounds, more bench points and more 3's. I believe much of that should cause Dallas to believe that its plan wasn't flawed until its shots didn't go in.
Maybe Jason Kidd is right when he says today at practice, "It's on me (to increase tempo). It's on me. We've got to get out and run." But that would require an upgrade in rebounding and an exhibit of athleticism that asks Dallas to be Miami's equal.
Worth a try, I suppose. But I'm not banking on it.
I am much more interested in Kidd's involvement in "flow.'' Immediately after the game, Shawn Marion called for more of Dallas' "instinctive'' approach to its offense rather than the called plays from the bench. I wrote at the time that with all due respect to ‘Trix, I'd acknowledge that as a worthy adjustment as soon as Kidd did. Said Kidd before today's workout: "We've got to … play in flow and put pressure on their defense and make them rotate."
Done. Kidd said it. So there's a legit focus on a change.
But even in "flow,'' the essence of the offense remains the same. (I might urge Dirk to cease being so predictable as a pick-and-popper and try rolling to the bucket, but maybe I'm nitpicking.)
In Miami today, and probably on Thursday before Game 2, there is cocksuredness.
It is Sports Law, too: The winning team is allowed to congratulate itself. And I'm not sure if LeBron James is truly superior to Michael Jordan, but King James is surely a first-ballot member of The Self-Congratulatory Hall of Fame.
"We always said we would figure it out," LeBron said. "We always believed in our abilities. We always believed as a team. Everything we went through, the pitfalls and the downs, was going to turn and make its course. ... We just stuck with it and understood it."
This quote is an echo from Miami's preseason victory celebration. It is premature. It is presumptuous. It's not billboard-worthy, but it's still enough to cause LeBron haters to seeth. It sounds like the sort of proclamation a team might issue at the end of a journey. LeBron's got it "figured out''? After his first-ever victory in a single Finals game?
But in the Mavs meeting rooms, there isn't reason for clueless coaches to panic, for screwy players to call inappropriate timeouts, for unfocused fellas to change team hotels, for muscular security to make sure players stay out of the South Beach clubs, for squealing ownership to scream "conspiracy!'' or for Devean George to be installed as the starting center. Because maybe the Mavs have it "figured out,'' too – with a gameplan sound enough to re-commit to in Game 2.