Posted by Royce Young
MIAMI -- The Heat opened the 2011 NBA Finals with a solid 92-84 win over the Mavericks. LeBron James was terrific, Dwyane Wade hit some big shots and the Heat's defense pretty much suffocated the Mavericks for 48 minutes. A lot of other stuff happened, so here are some notes on the sights and sounds of Game 1.
- The word before the game was that it wasn't sold out up until about 30 minutes before the tip. That just fuels the "Heat fans are bad!" story, but they were loud and into the game from the tip. I guess that's to be expected since, you know, this is the NBA Finals and all, though. Still, I don't think the rap they get is entirely fair. They stood, they cheered and they were loud in spurts. Not the greatest crowd ever, but in terms of atmosphere, it was good.
- David Stern held his annual pregame press conference right before tip off of Game 1. And it was nearly interrupted by a screaming man on a microphone on the court and then cheerleaders running by the room yelling. Stern, as you might expect, pressed through, unfazed. I bet he didn't even hear the outside noise.
- Stern, pregame talking about looming CBA negotiations: "I told the players and owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach." Har har, Commish.
- The Heat are part of the bandwagon of having seemingly unlikely people dance to music on the court. Their catch? The elderly. The Heat deployed a group of older men and women to shake their things on the court during a timeout. This is a fad that's popular in a lot of cities, but a fad that I wouldn't mind being written out of the NBA in the new CBA.
- Kind of intriguing that DeShawn Stevenson started the game on LeBron instead of Shawn Marion. With their past history, maybe it was Rick Carlisle trying to play some mind games?
- Did you know: The winner of Game 1 has won the Finals 73.4 percent of the time, including 10 of the past 12 seasons. One of those seasons that wasn't true of course was in 2006 were the Mavs took the first TWO from Miami.
- J.J. Barea defended LeBron one-on-one in the first quarter. Result? LeBron, miss. I think we found our stopper, people.
- It's Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Crazy atmosphere, lots of excitement, tons of media in town observing everything that happens in your arena. So surely a nifty halftime show is in order, right? Nope. The Heat pretty much had a promotional video for some Gloria Estafan music video that's coming out soon as the halftime entertainment. Red Panda, it was not.
- Juwan Howard played a grand total of seven minutes and 37 seconds and didn't really impact the game much at all. But when he went to the line late in the third quarter, a section of Heat fans chanted "M-V-P! M-V-P!" as he shot. Is this some kind of inside joke I'm missing?
- Chris Bosh screwed us out of an awesome LeBron alley-oop in the third quarter. That's just so Chris Bosh.
- The Heat have won 10 straight home playoff games. Impressive.
- Jimmy Buffet was shown on the big screen and got a huge cheer. That was sort of random to me. Also courtside, but not shown: Serena Williams.
- Michael McDonald formerly of The Doobie Brothers sang the National Anthem and let me tell you, it was rousing.
- Miami's public address guy isn't my favorite. He basically just made noises for two hours.
- The visiting locker room in Miami is pretty much the smallest thing ever. It's definitely not suited for hundreds of media members trying to talk to giant men.
Notes from Matt Moore
Heat have big room to dress, where no one dresses
The Heat locker room was a ghost town before the game. It is the nicest locker room I've been in, with a giant championship rug that says "Champions" on it (most of the place is a shrine to the 2006 team), in a big oval shape. It kind of reminds you of the grav-a-tron ride from the carnival, except with more Juwan Howard.
Anyway, pregame, almost no one from the Heat was available. Players entered just long enough to get dressed to the bare minimum, then bolted for the trainer's room. I'd love to tell you the attitude or sense of the locker room, but no one was in there except beat writers laughing at the Heat waiting everyone out and confused Chinese media.
Dirk Nowitzki just casually dropped the fact that he's got a torn tendon in his finger and went on answering questions, dismissing it completely. LeBron James noted it's not his shooting hand, so he'll be fine, "he'll be Dirk." It's crazy how accepting both teams were of the injury. If you tore a tendon in your left hand, you'd probably miss a day or two, right?
You could tell Miami players genuinely were not comforted by the injury to Dirk. They know he can score one-handed, or no-handed.
The King doesn't need help
A reporter asked postgame if Wade or Haslem talked to James about playing in a game of this magnitude, despite James having been in the Finals in 2007. James replied they had not, that it had been "left unsaid." Mostly because I'm pretty sure James would have killed anyone who tried to tell him such things with his bare hands.
James also sheepishly joked that Wade had come up to him postgame and congratulated him on his first Finals win. You can tell James was embarrassed by the gap between the two captains, and he was glad to have regained that measure of respect. James really has won one of the biggest games of his life. Now he just needs to win three more.
Remember Chicago destorying Miami in the fourth quarter of Game 1? Remember that before you start jumping on or off bandwagons. This series is going to be close, it's going to be nasty, it's going to be intense, and it's going to come down to a number of plays. The key will be adjustments. Rick Carlisle spoke a lot before Game 1 about playing "their game." The Mavs will say they did not, with the rebounding disadvantage. But in a lot of ways the Mavericks got what they wanted. They just couldn't convert. that's a bad sign for Dallas. Adjustments need to be made.
I do not feel the rhythm of the night.
Gloria Estefan had a video play about the making of her music video at halftime, followed by the music video. That's right. The entirety of halftime was Gloria Estefan. That's twenty minutes of my life I'm never getting back.