NBA Finals: The Miami Heat vs. Mavs' attrition
Posted on: June 8, 2011 7:56 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 6:03 am
Posted by Matt Moore
DALLAS -- It's bugging them. That's pretty obvious. They're not downhearted about it. It's more a matter of it being as amazing to them as it is to the rest of us. With each game of the 2011 NBA Finals a matter of just a handful of possessions, the Heat are in a dogfight night after night, with every single play of absolute crucial intensity. The fact that the two teams have a total scoring differential of five points through four games has the pressure at an all-time high.
Winning the Finals is stressful. This series is pure heart attack material.
So it should be no surprise that the Heat admitted that it's frustrating being so close in each game and watching leads evaporate in half of them.
"It's a little frustrating," Udonis Haslem said Wednesday, "because we've got a chance to effect the outcome of these games. Having double-figure leads, and the letdowns we've had. Last night, we had a nine-point lead and had a letdown. We didn't expect a sweep, though. They're going to play like champions."
Those comebacks are what the Mavericks have lived off of. In reality, there would be a question if the Mavericks could continue to come back time and time again, except for the fact that they've come back time and time again. The comebacks and consequential collapses by the Heat are a product of how close each game is and how they've come down to only a handful of possessions. The Heat had 34 possessions (via Synergy Sports) in Game 4's first quarter. They had just 24 in the fourth and scored just 14 points off them.
Forward Chris Bosh said it was less frustrating to him and more just a product of how incredible and "strange" this series has been.
"It's not frustrating," Bosh said. "It's just amazing that's what it's coming down to. You look at the stat sheet and you're like, 'I don't know how we won that game.' Then you look at last night's and you're like, 'I don't know how we lost that game.'"
Bosh began to point to the infinitely small set of possessions that resulted in a tied series. But when he started going, you start to get a picture of the number of things the Heat have failed to control against the Mavericks.
"You look at the film, it's a handful of possessions. Loose ball here, loose ball there. Executing in the stretch. Maybe in the first quarter, you've got a turnover or we weren't concentrating."
Bosh sighed. "It just makes you have to focus a lot more. You can't let up at any time. You have to be ready the whole 48 minutes. It's encouraging, but it's exhausting."
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle talked extensively before Game 4 about the offensive "lulls" the Mavericks would go into, allowing the Heat 7-0 and 9-0 runs. He stressed the need to avoid those. When the Mavericks went into one during the fourth quarter of Game 4, they managed to do the same thing to the Heat. With the game ground to a halt, the Mavs converted just enough possessions to close out the Heat.
For Miami, the reality is starting to turn to face them. DeShawn Stevenson said after Game 4 the Heat "don't want to play a tough game." And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra echoed what this series has turned into as it has progressed: a war of attrition.
"It is a mental and physical test of endurance all the way to the last possession," Spoelstra said.
Miami simply hasn't had the fortitude to hold onto leads since Game 1. Even their Game 3 win, which seemed so impressive just days ago (as Mike Miller said, "that's how this thing goes"), now looks like more of an example of the Heat barely hanging on to another blown lead rather than closing out.
But if the Heat had managed to defend Dirk the way they did in Game 3, everything would be different. The pressure, the media approach, the impression that they're collapsing. Instead, even with the series tied, the alarm is starting to sound about the Heat. They have an opportunity in Game 5 to set the tone once again. The question will be if any Heat player is tough enough to step up and take control of the series, or if the Heat can get back to the collective approach that led them to the gates. If the Heat don't have those answers, the war of attrition that is these NBA Finals will take its toll.
And it will only get worse from there.
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