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Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

Posted on: May 29, 2011 11:36 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 11:48 pm
 
What would a nightmare scenario look like for the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.




Earlier, we took a look at the Miami Heat's blueprint for beating the Dallas Mavericks and winning the 2011 NBA Finals. This is the flipside: What's the nightmare scenario for the heavily-favored Heat? How does their dream run at the title in the first year since the triad was formed fall apart?

The Chicago Bulls hit upon the formula for taking down this Heat group in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals: dominate the glass, knock down tons of outside shots, win the bench scoring battle, get efficient scoring from your No. 1 option and keep LeBron James in check. The only problem? The Bulls were only able to put all of those pieces together once, in Game 1, and got run out of the playoffs in five games.

The good news for the Dallas Mavericks is that they are well-equipped to accomplish most of the things on that list. 

For starters, Dallas boasts the best overall offensive efficiency, the highest effective field goal percentage and the highest true shooting percentage. Put in simpler terms: The Mavericks have gotten to the free throw line and knocked down their three-pointers, two critical factors if you need to keep pace with the Heat during a halfcourt game. 

Leading the way is Dirk Nowitzki, who is a significantly more efficient offensive player than Derrick Rose. Without question, Nowitzki is the key cog in this machine. If he can regularly command double teams, even if James is matched up on him, all of Dallas' fringe offensive players become much, much more effective threats. Shawn Marion can cut hard to the basket with less interference, Tyson Chandler is more open for lob plays, Peja Stojakovic can set up in the corner, and Jason Kidd can have enough to set his feet and stroke the long ball.

Nowitzki being unguardable one-on-one, therefore, is absolutely the first chapter in Miami's nightmare scenario.

Deriving from that is multiple Mavericks getting hot from deep. Stojakovic and Kidd have already been mentioned, but neither of those guys, as good as they have been, boast the high-end scoring capability of Jason Terry. While Dwyane Wade figures to be a good individual defensive match-up on Terry, the Mavericks are able to get him loose in the pick-and-roll and as a release spot-up shooter too. The Heat will undoubtedly be very aggressive in defending Dallas' pick-and-roll plays. By this point, though, Terry and Nowitzki have seen just about every defense in the book. If Terry is effective enough to command blitz attention from Miami, the Mavericks have the ability to both swing the ball to the open shooters and have those shooters knock down the shots. Chicago, obviously, didn't have that capability past Game 1.

On top of that Dallas has a more potent bench: Stojakovic, Terry and Barea should easily offer more offensive punch than Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. Miami has won by being top-heavy; The Mavericks need to prove, like the Bulls did in Game 1, that a balanced approach can counteract that skill level.

If Nowitzki is rolling, the Mavericks' shots are falling and the Dallas bench is showing up big, Miami's nightmare would deepen if James and Wade get frustrated, reverting to forcing shots in isolation, over-relying on their outside shooting, or settling too often for fadeaways. To their immense credit, Miami hasn't displayed these bad habits very often in the playoffs, but they were an issue at times during the regular season. With Heat coach Erik Spoelstra playing his superstars so many minutes and the Mavericks comfortable turning up the pace a bit, the creeping bad habits are certainly something to keep an eye on. For high-volume shooters like James and Wade, it only takes roughly five extra non-ideal shots over the course of a game to send the efficiency numbers plummeting. It might look like a lot in the boxscore, but one additional bad shot every eight or nine minutes of playing time from your primary ball-handlers and offense initiators isn't that much.

Whether those bad shots come from Marion and DeShawn Stevenson being physical, from a tough-to-crack zone defense or from Miami falling in a hole early and looking to score in bunches to get back into a game, dropping efficiency from James and Wade is not inconceivable. It doesn't feel likely, given how well they've played over the last two series, but again we're talking about a nightmare scenario.

To this point, the Heat have displayed an almost otherworldly focus and ability to execute. A nightmare scenario would also see that focus replaced by jitters, indecision or panic. Dallas has demonstrated in each of its three playoff series that it has a knack for striking at the moment its opponent is most vulnerable, launching monster comebacks and winning games on the road with ease. 

Always a tipping point issue: Foul trouble, and here it cuts both ways. The Heat, with their aggressive and athletic style, are used to getting to the free throw line regularly and often rely on those points to be difference-makers in low scoring games. So far in the playoffs, they've been able to play James, Wade and forward Chris Bosh extensive minutes -- even in overtime games -- without encountering too much foul trouble. A nightmare scenario here could go two ways. First, it could see one or more of those star players rotting away on the bench due to careless early fouls. Second, it could see Chandler playing heavy minutes in every game in this series, able to avoid fouling on Miami's paint attacks and during rebounding scrums. Surely Miami would much rather play smallball against the Mavericks given their talent advantage and the fact that they don't have anyone that can truly match Chandler's length and at-rim ability. 

Last but not least, there's the matter of homecourt advantage. Miami has yet to lose at home in the playoffs, but doing so in one of the first two games of the Finals could prove particularly costly. Why? Because the Finals switches to a 2-3-2 format, and the Mavericks would then have the ability to close things out by winning three consecutive games at home. Losing in five games is an unlikely scenario but it is a plausible nightmare for Heat fans given Dallas' own home dominance (the Mavericks are 7-1 at home during the playoffs).

To pull this all together, the Heat's worst case scenario sees Nowitzki getting loose and the Mavericks (including their bench) bombing away from deep while their offense degenerates to isolation, contested outside shots and unfocused play. It also sees the Mavericks bigs staying out of foul trouble while Miami's skill players made early mistakes or get called for charges that sideline them for stretches at a time. It would then see them drop a game early in the series and be unable to recover homecourt and momentum. Is it unlikely that all of these things happen at once? Sure. But that's why they call it a nightmare scenario.
Comments

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: May 30, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

This is impressive but sadly, untrue. For the year 2010-2011, Dallas scored 109.7 per hundred posessions while Miami (3rd in the NBA) scored 111.7 per hundred posessions making the Miami offense 2 full points per 100 posessions more efficient. As for effective field goal percentage Dallas had .525 while Miami was .524 not a significant advantage to either team. But wait - in allowing opponents effective field goal percentage Dallas allowed .488 while <iami was significantly better at  .475. In true shooting percentage Dallas shot .565 while Miami was better at .573. So none of these premises are correct according to basketball-reference.com.
Unfortunately it is true, the reference the author makes to the best overall offensive efficiency, the highest effective field goal percentage and the highest true shooting percentage is based on the playoff averages and not the regular season.  During the postseason the Mavericks are averaging 114.3 per 100 possessions as compared to the Heat at 106.3 a full 8 points more efficient.  The Mavs Effective FG percentage is .522, while the Heat is .479, however the Heat do have the advantage in opponents effective field goal percentage allowing .462, while the Mavs have held opponents to .475.  All of these can be found at basketball-reference.com.


The clear advantage that Dallas has is indeed if Miami needs to double team Dirk. However that happened all year from every opponent (except Lakers) and Miami was still more efficient. This strategy depends on Dallas shooters hitting wide open shots. As we have seen in the playoffs so far, Miami closes out on shooters very fast. The tone of this article seems to be hoping for results which are not supported statistically.
The Heats defense has looked great at times but this was against a young and unproven 76ers team, an old/injured and inconsitent Celtics team and a one-dimensional Bulls team.  None of the teams the Heat have faced this postseason had as many scoring options as the Mavs.  The Heat have had the luxury of leaving their opponents at times ungaurded to provide help defense, this will not be effective against the Mavs who have multiple shooters and with a quick cutter to the basket like Shawn Marion. 


On the other side of the ball using Peja to guard LeBron is not going to be pretty. Asking Kidd or Terry to guard Wade - that is not going to be pretty. Can Dallas' aging players keep up for a physical 48 minutes against younger legs? We are about to find out because they need Kidd and Peja to shoot with tired legs in fourth quarters.
I'm not sure why you mention Peja guarding James or Terry guarding Wade since neither player will start, I expect Marion and Stevenson to see the majority of the minutes guard James and Wade.  Also look for the Mavs to use their matchup zone quite often to disrupt James and Wade from attacking the rim and force them to into settling for perimeter shots.




Since: May 30, 2011
Posted on: May 30, 2011 11:04 am
 

Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

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olivermayfield
Since: May 30, 2011
Posted on: May 30, 2011 10:00 am
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Since: May 30, 2011
Posted on: May 30, 2011 2:38 am
 

Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

i'm a mavs fan , and this is not true at all! the big 3 is our bigest nightmare. our only option is that dirk wont choke up, like he did in'06. i have much respect for the heat on how they turned around things. so really we are the underdogs here, and dirk will be our savior and no one else.



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: May 30, 2011 2:21 am
 

Miami Heat: 2011 NBA Finals nightmare scenario

For starters, Dallas boasts the best overall offensive efficiency, the highest effective field goal percentage and the highest true shooting percentage.
This is impressive but sadly, untrue. For the year 2010-2011, Dallas scored 109.7 per hundred posessions while Miami (3rd in the NBA) scored 111.7 per hundred posessions making the Miami offense 2 full points per 100 posessions more efficient. As for effective field goal percentage Dallas had .525 while Miami was .524 not a significant advantage to either team. But wait - in allowing opponents effective field goal percentage Dallas allowed .488 while <iami was significantly better at  .475. In true shooting percentage Dallas shot .565 while Miami was better at .573. So none of these premises are correct according to basketball-reference.com.

The clear advantage that Dallas has is indeed if Miami needs to double team Dirk. However that happened all year from every opponent (except Lakers) and Miami was still more efficient. This strategy depends on Dallas shooters hitting wide open shots. As we have seen in the playoffs so far, Miami closes out on shooters very fast. The tone of this article seems to be hoping for results which are not supported statistically.

On the other side of the ball using Peja to guard LeBron is not going to be pretty. Asking Kidd or Terry to guard Wade - that is not going to be pretty. Can Dallas' aging players keep up for a physical 48 minutes against younger legs? We are about to find out because they need Kidd and Peja to shoot with tired legs in fourth quarters.

While not a Heat fan, I see little to stop this series from echoing the 2006 series assuming Dallas can win two.


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