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Tag:NBA Playoffs
Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:04 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 6:00 am
 

NBA Finals: Carlisle's tinkering pays dividends



Posted by Matt Moore

Rick Carlisle looked befuddled at a certain notoriously bombastic reporter's question if he had coached "a hell of a game." 

"Who is this guy?" Carlisle asked with a laugh. "Next question."

Truth be told, he would have been right to say he had.  In the NBA Finals, neither team wants to blink first. Both teams want to assert their dominance over their opponent and have things played on their terms. Rick Carlisle talked all week about "playing [their] game." But he was the first to blink, the first to crack, the first to make a substantial adjustment, and doing so might have just saved the Mavericks from the brink of elimination, and allowed them to regain momentum.

Carlisle switched his rotation on Tuesday night in Game 4, inserting J.J. Barea into the starting lineup, shifting DeShawn Stevenson into reserve small forward, removing Peja Stojakovic from the rotations, and going to Stevenson down the stretch instead of Marion. Marion was a huge part of the Mavs' success on both sides of the ball, but had also put in heavy minutes trying to score consistently, make plays, and defend LeBron James full-court. It was a strategy that Rick Carlisle said he had to adjust.

"I knew we had to take Marion's minutes down. He can't play 43 minutes."

Instead of balking or sulking at being removed from the starting lineup, Stevenson said he was more than happy to come in and close the game, helping to shut down his long-time nemesis LeBron James (even if Stevenson is not LeBron's). Marion admitted that he wanted to be in the game to close the Heat out but played the "We got the win" card. Having so many guys willing and able to contribute is a luxury for Carlisle, who used it to make a strategic adjustment.

The Heat never adjusted, didn't know how to adjust, and when what they do didn't work, they just tried doing it more and doing the same things harder. Effort goes a long way but you've got to be smart. And while Carlisle deferred and said that what the Mavericks are doing isn't complex, in reality, it's those adjustments that make the difference. They did in Game 4.

And they might end up being the difference in this series.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 2:10 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:53 am
 

NBA Finals: Are Mavs in the heads of the Heat?



Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- It wasn't supposed to work. They're the less talented team, down 2-1, after losing the first game of the three-game set at home. They're older, wiser, and the other team has all of the superstars save the Big German guy. So all the trash-talking and verbal barbs the Mavericks threw at Miami over the past two days weren't going to work, right?

Right?

For starters, Jason Terry's talk about LeBron James proved accurate. The focus will be on James not producing enough offense, but defensively during the Mavericks' furious fourth-quarter rally, Terry took James to the rack four times. On a key possession he pump-faked and blew right past the former-MVP, having his shot blocked by Joel Anthony, but on the recovery, Tyson Chandler was left wide open for a put-back dunk. In the ensuing timeout, Dywane Wade expressed his frustration, clapping and glaring at his superstar teammate.

DeShawn Stevenson's talk about the Heat "being dramatic" wasn't supposed to change anything. Instead, the Heat complained less to the officials Tuesday night, even as the Mavericks' free throw advantage swelled to 110-89 in a series that's as tight as it can be. The Heat were notably less upset with the officials.

James said after Game 2 that "no one can guard me one-on-one" and that in Game 3 he was playing well defensively. In Game 4, Shawn Marion guarded him one-on-one and JET blew by him. And on Dirk Nowitzki's key final layup, there was James in the corner, watching without helping, as Nowitzki blew by him to ice the game and tie the series.

Neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade would take the bait about the comments, with James simply saying JET is a "great player for them."

Maybe it was just an off-night. But with all the intensity on James and Co. from the media, and now the added daggers of the Mavericks through the press, and after their second fourth-quarter collapse in this series, the question has to be asked.

Where is the Heat's mind right now?

Posted on: June 8, 2011 2:10 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:53 am
 

NBA Finals: Are Mavs in the heads of the Heat?



Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- It wasn't supposed to work. They're the less talented team, down 2-1, after losing the first game of the three-game set at home. They're older, wiser, and the other team has all of the superstars save the Big German guy. So all the trash-talking and verbal barbs the Mavericks threw at Miami over the past two days weren't going to work, right?

Right?

For starters, Jason Terry's talk about LeBron James proved accurate. The focus will be on James not producing enough offense, but defensively during the Mavericks' furious fourth-quarter rally, Terry took James to the rack four times. On a key possession he pump-faked and blew right past the former-MVP, having his shot blocked by Joel Anthony, but on the recovery, Tyson Chandler was left wide open for a put-back dunk. In the ensuing timeout, Dywane Wade expressed his frustration, clapping and glaring at his superstar teammate.

DeShawn Stevenson's talk about the Heat "being dramatic" wasn't supposed to change anything. Instead, the Heat complained less to the officials Tuesday night, even as the Mavericks' free throw advantage swelled to 110-89 in a series that's as tight as it can be. The Heat were notably less upset with the officials.

James said after Game 2 that "no one can guard me one-on-one" and that in Game 3 he was playing well defensively. In Game 4, Shawn Marion guarded him one-on-one and JET blew by him. And on Dirk Nowitzki's key final layup, there was James in the corner, watching without helping, as Nowitzki blew by him to ice the game and tie the series.

Neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade would take the bait about the comments, with James simply saying JET is a "great player for them."

Maybe it was just an off-night. But with all the intensity on James and Co. from the media, and now the added daggers of the Mavericks through the press, and after their second fourth-quarter collapse in this series, the question has to be asked.

Where is the Heat's mind right now?

Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:58 am
 

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Miami Heat forward LeBron James disappears in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver

lebron-james-hide

DALLAS – Shrinking implies attendance. To shrink, one must first show up.

To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable.

After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career -- had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career.

He declared earlier this week that no single Mavericks player -- nor any single player in the league -- could guard him. He promised that he would be in “attack mode.” He scolded a columnist who questioned his late-game performance in Game 3 for focusing too much on the box score. He lauded his own defensive abilities and reminded everyone to check the tape.

And then he came out, played 45 minutes and laid the egg of his life.

James finished with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. His eight points marked the first time he has failed to score in double digits in 90 career playoff games. He finished with less than half of his regular season low point total: 17. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field, making just one field goal that wasn’t a dunk.

In the fourth quarter, James scored zero points, and had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (1). The last points he scored came with 1:17 left in the third quarter. He didn't take a shot in the game's final two minutes and, on the final possession, the Heat's fate rested in an errant jumpshot by reserve forward Mike Miller

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said, delivering the understatement of the playoffs. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season.

“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attempted to fall on the sword, trying to shoulder some of the burden for his massive small forward.

“We’ll have to look at the film,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously we would like to get him involved. He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him next game.”

The performance was so out of character that Spoelstra was asked directly whether there was something wrong with James.

“He’s physically fine,” Spoelstra said.

Rather than serving as reassurance, the words inadvertently hinted at a more serious, problematic explanation. If there’s no physical ailment, then surely the malady must be mental?

To James’ credit, and to the surprise of some whispering reporters, James didn’t duck out of his postgame press conference, showing up to face the music. Once he sat down, looking composed in a green suit, but clearly dejected, reporters openly questioned his confidence level.

“I’m confident with my ability,” James maintained. “It’s about going out there and knocking them down.”

The performance was as confusing as it was shocking, leaving both James and those tasked with stopping him unsure why he performed so far below par. James said it wasn’t because of any new defensive looks that Dallas was throwing at him.

“They haven’t changed their coverages on me,” James said. “Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.”

The Mavericks did switch their starting lineup by inserting J.J. Barea for DeShawn Stevenson, which did impact the players who were guarding James slightly. Stevenson was in the game late, drawing the assignment on James along with his usual matchup: Shawn Marion.

"I don't know,” Stevenson said when asked to explain James’ night. “He's a great player. I don't know why he's struggling.

"That's not him. Cleveland days, he was attacking.”

 Marion, who James said over the weekend couldn’t guard him one-on-one, was happy to claim the credit.

“We did a great job,” Marion said. “I think our defense has been working pretty well. We just have to make him take tough shots. You keep him from getting those transition breaks and breakaways, and having to take tough fadeaways.”

“Phenomenal,” guard Jason Terry said of Marion’s defense. “[James is] having to facilitate a lot of times for his teammates and get them involved. But we’re just trying to get our hands up, distract him a little bit and when he puts his second hand on the ball, we’re trying to be there to distract him.

James would only point specifically to his inability to make better use of his touches in the low post.

“I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double teams,” James lamented. “I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two to the ball. I still got to make plays for my team, but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.”

If the night left him without explanations, it also left him upset.

James said that he was most angry because it happened in a loss. “That’s all that matters to me," he said. "If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied."

As he departed, James offered a promise: “I’ll come back in Game 5 and do the things that need to be done to help our team win.”  

All week, and especially in the aftermath of the Game 3 criticism, those traveling with the Heat have marveled at James’ ability to resist folding under the immense pressure. On Tuesday night, he didn't fold, he burst.

The rest of this Finals series will hinge on whether he can put the pieces back together.


Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 5:58 am
 

Accused of shrinking, LeBron James disappears

Miami Heat forward LeBron James disappears in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver

lebron-james-hide

DALLAS – Shrinking implies attendance. To shrink, one must first show up.

To say that Miami Heat forward LeBron James shrunk in Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals would be inaccurate. To say that he was invisible, absent and inconsequential in an 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks would be closer to the truth. To pin the fact that the Finals series now stands at two games apiece on his shoulders is not only fair, it's unavoidable.

After stating Thursday morning that he was “starting to taste” his first NBA title, James -- the NBA’s most dominant force playing in the most important game of his career -- had the worst game of his season and made the smallest offensive impact of his playoff career.

He declared earlier this week that no single Mavericks player -- nor any single player in the league -- could guard him. He promised that he would be in “attack mode.” He scolded a columnist who questioned his late-game performance in Game 3 for focusing too much on the box score. He lauded his own defensive abilities and reminded everyone to check the tape.

And then he came out, played 45 minutes and laid the egg of his life.

James finished with eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four turnovers. His eight points marked the first time he has failed to score in double digits in 90 career playoff games. He finished with less than half of his regular season low point total: 17. He shot just 3-for-11 from the field, making just one field goal that wasn’t a dunk.

In the fourth quarter, James scored zero points, and had more turnovers (2) than field goal attempts (1). The last points he scored came with 1:17 left in the third quarter. He didn't take a shot in the game's final two minutes and, on the final possession, the Heat's fate rested in an errant jumpshot by reserve forward Mike Miller

“Definitely didn’t play great offensively,” James said, delivering the understatement of the playoffs. “I got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game.”

Content to dribble around the perimeter, hide off the ball and defer to both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus Miami’s role players, it was a performance unlike any we’ve seen from James this season.

“He struggled,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “Point blank, period. He struggled out there.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra attempted to fall on the sword, trying to shoulder some of the burden for his massive small forward.

“We’ll have to look at the film,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously we would like to get him involved. He’s a very important piece to what we do. So we’ll work to help make it easier for him next game.”

The performance was so out of character that Spoelstra was asked directly whether there was something wrong with James.

“He’s physically fine,” Spoelstra said.

Rather than serving as reassurance, the words inadvertently hinted at a more serious, problematic explanation. If there’s no physical ailment, then surely the malady must be mental?

To James’ credit, and to the surprise of some whispering reporters, James didn’t duck out of his postgame press conference, showing up to face the music. Once he sat down, looking composed in a green suit, but clearly dejected, reporters openly questioned his confidence level.

“I’m confident with my ability,” James maintained. “It’s about going out there and knocking them down.”

The performance was as confusing as it was shocking, leaving both James and those tasked with stopping him unsure why he performed so far below par. James said it wasn’t because of any new defensive looks that Dallas was throwing at him.

“They haven’t changed their coverages on me,” James said. “Me just being more assertive, that’s what it’s about.”

The Mavericks did switch their starting lineup by inserting J.J. Barea for DeShawn Stevenson, which did impact the players who were guarding James slightly. Stevenson was in the game late, drawing the assignment on James along with his usual matchup: Shawn Marion.

"I don't know,” Stevenson said when asked to explain James’ night. “He's a great player. I don't know why he's struggling.

"That's not him. Cleveland days, he was attacking.”

 Marion, who James said over the weekend couldn’t guard him one-on-one, was happy to claim the credit.

“We did a great job,” Marion said. “I think our defense has been working pretty well. We just have to make him take tough shots. You keep him from getting those transition breaks and breakaways, and having to take tough fadeaways.”

“Phenomenal,” guard Jason Terry said of Marion’s defense. “[James is] having to facilitate a lot of times for his teammates and get them involved. But we’re just trying to get our hands up, distract him a little bit and when he puts his second hand on the ball, we’re trying to be there to distract him.

James would only point specifically to his inability to make better use of his touches in the low post.

“I got the ball in the post a few times, and I [saw] double teams,” James lamented. “I can’t let that stop my aggression when they bring two to the ball. I still got to make plays for my team, but also make plays for myself to keep me in the rhythm of the game.”

If the night left him without explanations, it also left him upset.

James said that he was most angry because it happened in a loss. “That’s all that matters to me," he said. "If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied."

As he departed, James offered a promise: “I’ll come back in Game 5 and do the things that need to be done to help our team win.”  

All week, and especially in the aftermath of the Game 3 criticism, those traveling with the Heat have marveled at James’ ability to resist folding under the immense pressure. On Tuesday night, he didn't fold, he burst.

The rest of this Finals series will hinge on whether he can put the pieces back together.


Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:48 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:21 am
 

Was Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near the Flu Game?

Posted by Royce Young



It was an inevitability. As soon as word came out that Dirk Nowitzki was battling a triple-digit fever in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you knew someone out there was going to connect the dots.

Wait, Dirk's sick in the NBA Finals. And he played well and his team won. Just like Michael Jordan's Flu Game! What a great story!

A "perceptive" reporter caught on and asked Jason Terry if this was Dirk's "Flu Game" and Terry gave just about the most perfect answer.

"A Jordanism, really? I don't know about that."

Yeah, I don't know about that. Let's compare.

Michael Jordan's Flu Game
44 minutes, 13-27 from the field, 2-5 from 3, 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals

Dirk Nowitzki's Fever Game
39 minutes, 6-19 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 21 points, 11 rebounds, one assist

Yeah, I don't know about that. Actually, I do know about that. Not even close to comparable. Dirk was impressive, no doubt, considering the circumstance. Playing with a bum finger on your off-hand is one thing, but beating the Miami Heat with a fever of 102 is another. That's impressive. That's outstanding.

But Jordan's performance was on another level. It's hard to compare sickness levels here, but visibly, Jordan's illness was a notch above. He had the lasting image of Scottie Pippen carrying him off the floor, the ice pack on his neck on the bench, the obvious exhaustion -- and yet he walked on to the floor and just kept coming and coming and coming.

And one other big, key difference: Jordan's condition was well known prior to the game and it was a question as to if he'd play at all. With Dirk, we only found out at halftime and really judging by the way Dirk was playing and handling himself, you really wouldn't have known. Maybe that speaks a bit to Dirk's toughness, but in terms of story, it didn't drum anything up.

The Flu Game was legendary. It was historic. It's something that's in the pantheon of NBA greatness. It's the type of thing that you'll never, ever, ever, ever forget.

Dirk's Fever Game? It was good, yes. He had two big driving layups late in the game and grabbed a few timely rebounds. But unless you're a Mavs fan, you'll probably forget all about this game in a few years. Jordan, on the other hand, had the huge hanging jumper in the lane and the 3 with the game tied at 85-85 with 30 seconds left as he dragged his near-lifeless body back down the court. It was... unbelievable.

Only two things really link these two games: 1) They were both in the NBA Finals and 2) both guys were sick. Other than that, trying to place Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near Jordan's Game 6 in 1997 is just silly.

But don't ask Scottie Pippen about it. I'm afraid of his answer.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:48 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:21 am
 

Was Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near the Flu Game?

Posted by Royce Young



It was an inevitability. As soon as word came out that Dirk Nowitzki was battling a triple-digit fever in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you knew someone out there was going to connect the dots.

Wait, Dirk's sick in the NBA Finals. And he played well and his team won. Just like Michael Jordan's Flu Game! What a great story!

A "perceptive" reporter caught on and asked Jason Terry if this was Dirk's "Flu Game" and Terry gave just about the most perfect answer.

"A Jordanism, really? I don't know about that."

Yeah, I don't know about that. Let's compare.

Michael Jordan's Flu Game
44 minutes, 13-27 from the field, 2-5 from 3, 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals

Dirk Nowitzki's Fever Game
39 minutes, 6-19 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 21 points, 11 rebounds, one assist

Yeah, I don't know about that. Actually, I do know about that. Not even close to comparable. Dirk was impressive, no doubt, considering the circumstance. Playing with a bum finger on your off-hand is one thing, but beating the Miami Heat with a fever of 102 is another. That's impressive. That's outstanding.

But Jordan's performance was on another level. It's hard to compare sickness levels here, but visibly, Jordan's illness was a notch above. He had the lasting image of Scottie Pippen carrying him off the floor, the ice pack on his neck on the bench, the obvious exhaustion -- and yet he walked on to the floor and just kept coming and coming and coming.

And one other big, key difference: Jordan's condition was well known prior to the game and it was a question as to if he'd play at all. With Dirk, we only found out at halftime and really judging by the way Dirk was playing and handling himself, you really wouldn't have known. Maybe that speaks a bit to Dirk's toughness, but in terms of story, it didn't drum anything up.

The Flu Game was legendary. It was historic. It's something that's in the pantheon of NBA greatness. It's the type of thing that you'll never, ever, ever, ever forget.

Dirk's Fever Game? It was good, yes. He had two big driving layups late in the game and grabbed a few timely rebounds. But unless you're a Mavs fan, you'll probably forget all about this game in a few years. Jordan, on the other hand, had the huge hanging jumper in the lane and the 3 with the game tied at 85-85 with 30 seconds left as he dragged his near-lifeless body back down the court. It was... unbelievable.

Only two things really link these two games: 1) They were both in the NBA Finals and 2) both guys were sick. Other than that, trying to place Dirk's Game 4 anywhere near Jordan's Game 6 in 1997 is just silly.

But don't ask Scottie Pippen about it. I'm afraid of his answer.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 1:41 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 2:23 am
 

NBA Finals: Mavs hard D stifles Heat 'athletes'



Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- Dirk's "flu" game. LeBron James wilting in the biggest moment of his career. Wade not being enough. All those storylines, and do you want know the real reason why Dallas is right back in this series and we're going to seven games?

They played the best defense you're ever going to see on a LeBron James- and Dwyane Wade-led pick-and-roll attack.

They attacked the passing lanes and were successful. They made life hard for a Heat team that seemed taken aback at how difficult it was.

"We have to get into the ball," DeShawn Stevenson said. "They don't want to play a tough game."

Let's say you don't like numbers, that you don't trust them. Watching the game it was evident that the Mavericks were so far into the Heat's pick-and-roll, so deep into their movements shutting off angles, attacking the dribble and creating majestic failure after majestic failure, you don't need a calculator or video evidence to recognize it. Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, and even, perhaps especially, DeShawn Stevenson, not only kept their position, but attacked relentlessly on the pick-and-roll. Often, they battled it all the way out to mid-court, and created abject chaos. Again, there's no screencap necessary to see that, no calculation needed as proof. The Mavericks drove the Heat offense, which seemed unstoppable after Game 1, into the ground. They buried it, and stuck a tombstone on it that read "You're athletic. We're many. We want it more tonight."

Let's say you do want the evidence, that you're fully prepared to embrace the facts, since they are inescapable. Synergy Sports had the Heat clocked at 34 possessions resulting in a shot or turnover from the ball-handler or roll-man. Of those 34 possessions, the Heat scored just 17 points. So, every time they went to the pick-and-roll in Game 4, they scored just .50 points on each possession, a half a point every time they ran it. They had eight, count 'em, eight turnovers out of those sets. They turned the ball over out of the pick-and-roll, then they scored.

How did they do it? Stevenson said it was a matter of getting "into the ball."

"We pushed the ball out further," Stevenson said after his best game of the series on both sides of the ball, despite being removed from the starting lineup. "And (we) stayed into the ball. We can't let them get into free space, they can split the screen. We have to stay into the ball."

Tyson Chandler who had a monster game controlling both sides of the glass, scoring, and helping all the way out in those situations said it was necessary with the kind of athleticism the Heat are throwing at them.

"They put so much pressure on you," Chandler said, noting how Dwyane Wade's dribble hesitation really created problems. "But we did a better job tonight of kind of stringing them out and making the rotations."

In a series where every possession is crucial, and with so few of them to go around ... With the defensive pressure so high, and every game living and dying with the final moments, it was the Mavs ability to turn the "skirmish" tables on the Heat and blow right by them. Coach Rick Carlisle isn't crediting any sort of great defensive scheme for the successes.

"We've got a team system, and the schemes we're using aren't very complex. It's just all about hard play."

Hard play and toughness. You know, the type of game that, in Game 4, the Heat wanted no part of. Now the series is tied, and we get to see what the Heat are made of.

We know what Dallas is.
 
 
 
 
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