Blog Entry

NBA Finals: Miami adjusts to stop Dirk

Posted on: June 6, 2011 12:56 am
Edited on: June 6, 2011 5:56 am

Posted by Matt Moore

You asked the question after Game 2. We asked the question after Game 2. Everyone asked the question after Game 2.  Why didn't the Heat double Dirk Nowitzki on the final play of the game? You have to double Dirk Nowitkzi there. That's what you do. He's Dirk Nowitzki

And on the second-to-last possession for the Mavericks, it looked like the Heat had learned their lesson. They doubled Dirk with 30 seconds left and the result was a turnover, a bad pass as Shawn Marion cut instead of being in the corner.

Great adjustment, right? 

Except that with the game on the line after a missed LeBron James 3-pointer, the Heat had Dirk Nowitzki with the ball at the elbow, his sweet spot, with four seconds remaining.


Flashback to Saturday's practice when I asked Udonis Haslem if they would double Dirk Nowitzki if in a similar situation. His response? "I don't know if we'll double or not."

Apparently not.

Haslem played Nowitzki in the post, where Haslem is at his strongest, slid his feet, contested the shot, got the miss. Afterward, Haslem took pride in the job he did.

"He's a tough cover. I"m a competitor, he's a competitor, and we both probably look forward to those opportunities."

Haslem was straightforward about not being confident when Nowitzki released from the elbow. Shooting from a spot he hits from more than he misses, regular season or playoffs.

"An awkward shot for somebody else is a good shot for him. When he got it off, I held my breath."

Haslem's return to the lineup from injury continues to make the Heat a completely different team. His work on the final play exemplifies that, and his teammates definitely had confidence in him. Mario Chalmers definitely did. 

"I knew it was off. UD had great pressure on him, he didn't get a clean look. Even though that's a shot he takes a lot, it's still a tough shot to get off."

Dwyane Wade, Haslem's oldest teammate in Miami, said he had total confidence in Haslem holding the Big German one-on-one, just a day after talking about needing team defense on Dirk. "I was very confident in [Udonis], understanding he wanted that challenge in the last game, and he wasn't able to be put in that position. Put him back in that position this time. I knew he was going at least to make it tough. If Dirk makes that shot, at least do his job and make sure he takes a fadeaway at the end."

And that's pretty much exactly what happened. 

Nowitzki's decision to go to his left will likely be analyzed. Nowitzki had admitted the only concern he had with the wrap on his brace hand was his dribble going left. When Nowitzki pump-faked, Haslem didn't fall for it, instead he kept his off hand high in case he needed to contest, and stayed locked to the floor. When Nowitzki leaned in to brace for the fadeaway and get space, Haslem went straight up, then forward to get a hand in his face. It was about the most perfect defense you can play on Nowitzki one-on-one. Which is why so few people elect to do so. But they got the job done ... or, the shot was no good, in any case.

Haslem was defensive Saturday about the play and the questions of rotations, and it was clear Dirk's Game 2 winner bothered him. This time, there was no straying from the formula, no diversion to an alternate course. Udonis Haslem -- not Chris Bosh, not Joel Anthony, and not LeBron James. No, Haslem is the one to defend Dirk. 

Head coach Erik Spoelstra ducked around the question of whether to double Dirk or not after the game, but the subtle difference was a trust in Haslem's abilities to guard Nowitzki straight up, something Chris Bosh, the hero of Game 3, was unable to do in Thursday's game.

"That was a very similar situation to what we saw the other night. Had a different matchup. That's a makeable shot, even for [Dirk]. But [Haslem] did a great job of keeping his chest in front of him and forcing him into a fadeaway."

Spoelstra admitted that shot was about as terrifying as it gets for a coach in that situation, a mid-range fadeaway from one of the greatest offensive players the league has ever seen, from his comfort zone. "That shot hung up in the air about as long as it was in between Game 2 and Game 3," Spoelstra said. "It was a very good offensive play, and a good defensive play. And he happened to miss." 

And as a result,  the Heat just happened to have taken the advantage in the series, retaken home court advantage, and locked up what many considered the pivotal game of the series. Back in the driver's seat, thanks to great defense, and a defensive adjustment from Erik Spoelstra. Now we get two days to wonder again ... will they double Dirk next time?

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: June 6, 2011 1:24 am

NBA Finals: Miami adjusts to stop Dirk

What a game, as far as I could see Miami did not adjust to stop Dirk as he steamrolled them in the 2nd half....Wade was awesome too!

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