Tag Archives: 2011 finals

How the Mavs can beat the Heat

31 May

There were some interesting trends in LeBron James’ offensive strategy during the recent Eastern Conference Finals, some of which may provide opportunities for the Mavs these NBA Finals.

Firstly, consider that James likes to shoot from the left side of the floor, and in that mid-range area between about 15 and 21 feet. He’s prone to pulling up here but with far less poise than Michael Jordan, though his 46% field goal percentage these playoffs indicates otherwise. It’s misleading because James pulls up his average by bulldozing into the paint from time to time. The truth is, he likes the pocket on either side of the foul stripe perhaps more than he should because he often misses from there, especially at key moments in a game.

In Game 4 against the Bulls, for example, “The King” missed a number of mid-rangers in the third and fourth quarters and in overtime. Yes, he also made some, but not enough that Dallas should fear it. If the Mavs can utilize their zone defense by sitting back on perimeter ball handlers – and therefore James – they should be able to tempt the big fella into popping it from those  spots, preferably foul line extended.

This will have a secondary benefit for Dallas, playing to one of its major advantages – height. With Tyson Chandler anchoring the baseline defense, together with Nowitzki and Marion on the edges, Miami won’t have it so easy driving inside. So in protecting the key and asking the Heat to shoot 15-footers, Dallas plays a low risk brand of defense that should also better position them for rebounds. And defensive rebounding is certainly a task they’ll hope to execute well to have any chance of winning. Chicago, of course, struggled offensively against Miami, but Boozer, Deng and Noah owned the defensive glass, stifling second chance shots for the Heat’s Big Three.

James made a few more left side midrange jumpers in Game 5 of the Conference Finals, with more misses coming from the right. Ideally you’d like to see a greater number of clankers from the left if you’re Dallas because that means he’s preferring to drive that way. For what it’s worth, it’ll be easier to stop those dribble drives toward the hoop against his off hand.

Some questions have been raised about Jason Kidd’s ability to stay with Dwayne Wade, and those doubts may be fair given that Kidd’s motor has slowed. But realistically, who can defend Dwayne Wade one on one? As long as Kidd directs Wade around the key instead of allowing him through it, the Mavs should be able to rotate and help their point guard. Wade will both get his shots off and draw fouls, so it’s just not worth worrying about that. Both he and James each shot 11 free-throws in Game 5 against Chicago, and 17 charity shots between them in Game 4. The chief issue is containing them – being fleet-footed enough to push them into those mid-rangers and tough enough to bang them when they come inside. And don’t discount Kidd’s quick hands. He can still rattle ball handlers, especially ones like James who tend to fumble around the three-point line in the final minutes.

Offensively, Dallas need to simply hold the pedal down. Nowitzki has been on an attacking tear recently, not only shooting sharply but opening the floor for teammates like Kidd, Barea and Stojakovic to knock down threes. He went 10 of 17 for 29 points in Game 2 against the Thunder, 12 of 20 for 40 points in Game 4, then 8 of 15 for 26 points in Game 5. That’s Bird-like and we all know what Bird did supposedly great defenders during his Finals appearances.

look, this will be a tough out for Dallas, there’s no question of that. They’ll need to move the ball faster than the Miami defense’s feet and make the best of their superior shooting skills. Their size should also provide them a distinct advantage on the boards, especially at the defensive end.

Lastly, they have the smarter, more experienced Big Two in Nowitzki and Kidd. Sure their knees are creaking and at times they’ll need oxygen to keep up with their energetic opponents. But these guys have superb basketball IQs, won’t be overwhelmed by the occasion, and are quite possibly looking at their last hurrah. These three factors could go a long way to determining who’s still standing at series end.