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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Flash" Scores 42, "Superman" Makes Two Free Throws (!) and Miami Wins a Thriller

Dwyane Wade tied his playoff career-high with 42 points and the Miami Heat overcame a 13 point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 98-96. Dallas seemed to be only minutes away from taking a commanding 3-0 series lead but could not stop Wade down the stretch; he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including 11 in the closing six minutes. Wade also had a career-high 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals and only one turnover. Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. He shot 4-6 from the free throw line but had seven turnovers. Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 30 points and also had seven rebounds. Josh Howard (21 points, five rebounds) and Erick Dampier (14 points, nine rebounds) both played strong games, while game three hero Jerry Stackhouse shot 1-9 from the field and only scored four points.

Miami started the game with a lot of energy, hardly surprising considering that this was the Heat's first home game in the series. O'Neal opened the scoring with a nice turnaround jump shot. After he stripped Jason Terry and passed ahead to Jason Williams for a fast break layup, Miami led 11-7 and O'Neal already had four points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal. At the end of the quarter Miami led 29-21; Wade had 13 points, while O'Neal filled up the boxscore with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

One minute into the second quarter, the Mavericks had made seven field goals and committed seven turnovers. The Heat led 31-21 at that point but several early Miami mistakes kept Dallas in contact. In the first quarter, Wade received a technical foul for hanging on the rim and O'Neal committed a silly foul on a Dampier dunk; in the second quarter, O'Neal fouled Nowitzki on a jump shot and Gary Payton received a technical foul. Dallas made all five free throws that resulted from those plays. There is a tendency to focus on what happens at the end of games but imagine if Miami had lost after basically giving Dallas five free points in the first half. The Heat held on to lead 52-43 at the half. Wade already had 21 points and nine rebounds. O'Neal had 10 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Nowitzki (11 points) and Howard (10 points) led Dallas in scoring.

The Mavericks came out of the locker room firing in the third quarter: Howard made a three-pointer and Nowitzki made a jump shot in the first minute, forcing Heat Coach Pat Riley to call a quick timeout to regroup. It didn't help and the Mavericks took their first lead since the first quarter on Jason Terry's runner with 8:44 remaining. Antoine Walker made two consecutive strong drives to put Miami ahead 60-57 but the Heat faded down the stretch and trailed 77-68 going into the fourth quarter. Dallas outscored Miami 34-16 in the third quarter.

Prior to the start of the fourth quarter, Riley told his team simply, "This is our season." A little over a minute into the period Wade committed his fifth foul after Dampier grabbed an offensive rebound. Riley left Wade in the game, realizing that he could not afford to sit Wade on the bench and give Dallas a chance to pull away. The gamble did not seem to matter when the Mavericks extended the lead to 83-71 at the 8:36 mark.

The Mavericks still led 93-88 with 2:49 remaining, but played very sloppily down the stretch. First, Dallas committed a 24 second violation. Then, Jason Williams missed a jumper for the Heat, but O'Neal shoved Dampier out of the way and corralled the rebound. Naturally, Dallas fouled him to prevent an easy two points. O'Neal made both free throws to pull Miami to within three. Dallas ran down the shot clock but Stackhouse missed a jumper. Wade quickly hit a jumper to pull the Heat within one. Then Jason Terry threw a weak pass to Nowitzki that Udonis Haslem intercepted. Terry fouled Haslem and his two free throws put Miami up 94-93. On the next possession Terry missed a jumper and inexplicably fouled James Posey. Dallas Coach Avery Johnson was quite irate after that, because Dallas was only down one with :47 remaining and did not need to foul. Posey made one free throw but Devin Harris blew by Wade to score a layup and tie the game at 95.

Dallas played good defense on the next Miami possession but Gary Payton pump faked and hit a jump shot with nine seconds left to give Miami a 97-95 lead; Payton had only shot 1-8 from the field in the series prior to that. Dallas called a timeout and Johnson drew up a play for Nowitzki, who drove to the hoop and was fouled by Udonis Haslem. Nowitzki, an exceptional free throw shooter, calmly swished the first free throw but he missed the second and immediately fouled Wade. Wade also made one of two, so Dallas was able to call a timeout with one second left. Nowitzki lobbed the inbounds pass toward the rim, a cutting Howard elevated to attempt a dunk but Wade jumped a little higher and broke up the play as time expired.

So has the momentum of the series turned? Is Dallas now in trouble? Here are a couple things to consider:

(1) The Mavericks' collapse in this game is reminiscent of their 121-118 loss to the Phoenix Suns in game one of that series; Dallas had a 114-105 lead with 3:43 to go in that contest. The Mavericks were so devastated by that setback that they won four of the next five games.

(2) Wade probably played the best game of his life, Dallas had a complete meltdown in the final six minutes and Miami barely escaped with a two point win. If the Heat do this two more times in Miami they still will have to win a game in Dallas. Also, O'Neal had a very good first quarter but then was a complete non-factor for the rest of the game until he hit the two big free throws.

Miami may very well win the next game but I doubt that the Heat will go back to Dallas with a 3-2 lead. Just like Dallas' two strong wins did not convince me that the Mavericks would win in a sweep, Miami's victory in game three does not convince me that the Heat are completely back in the series. All game three showed is why there have been very few sweeps in NBA Finals history.

The Mavericks surrendered most of their large game two lead before holding on to win and squandered a 13 point lead in game three. What happened in both games is that Dallas took command by pushing the ball up the court and exposing Miami's lack of foot speed, poor perimeter defense and inability to guard the pick and roll. Then, after getting a lead, Dallas tried to slow the game down and run time off of the shot clock. If the Mavericks have a fourth quarter lead in game four they should forget about running time off of the clock and just play their game. Miami has no answer for the speed of Dallas' perimeter players and looked completely helpless in the third quarter when the Dallas perimeter players drove straight into the heart of the Heat's defense. The shot clock violation that the Mavericks committed when they were up five should have never happened--either run the right sideline pick and roll with Terry or have Harris take his man off of the dribble and Dallas can get a wide open shot at any time. What Dallas did at the end of the game is the equivalent of an NFL team playing a prevent defense and, as the saying goes, the only thing a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning. The Mavericks have the better, deeper and quicker team and should be playing aggressively to win, not holding on for dear life trying not to lose.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:51 AM


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At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 8:38:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

There are definitely not many sweeps in the Finals. But a few things must be mentioned after watching this game:

Shaquille started great, as previously noted by you, but tires quickly. But he made those 2 key free throws. During a timeout you heard Johnson and Harris saying, "We're not running." If Dallas runs, they will win. They started running and played better by getting the lead. I thought it was over when they got a 13 point lead. Its obvious that running is the key to this series.

They had 85 points with 7 minutes left and still didnt score 100. I was surprised by that because they went away from what got them the lead, which was Howard scoring and running and like you said they played sloppy. Nowitzki missed the free throw, which happens to the best. But I liked how he went to the basket. The change in his game is great to watch.

I also love how Hubie says please when he wants something. When Walker missed that layup, Hubie says, "Would you use the glass, please?" I laughed because I was thinking use the glass or dunk the damn ball.

A win is a win, but Miami barely won. We will see how tired Shaquille is tomorrow night. Dallas can come out tomorrow and really push the ball all game and win tomorrow and Sunday.
The last sentence in your post says it all.

At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:09:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

the other day, you wrote:

"O'Neal had so many more offensive opportunities when he was coached by Jackson and playing alongside Kobe Bryant than he does now. ... As for Miami's younger star, am I the only person who is sick of hearing about Wade's sinus infection? "

Why were you hating on Wade -- his performance in Game 3 easily refutes what you said ... To say that Shaq used to be more productive because he got more opportunities in LA is like saying that MJ wasn't as good on the Wizards, because they didn't have Scottie & Phil -- Shaq is now a shell of his former self ... I know you love Kobe -- and what's there not to love about a guy who wants to win so much that he'll throw elbows into opponents' faces, alienate his own teammates, and sabotage games to prove a point (see, e.g., NBA Finals '04)? But I think your admiration for Bryant has grown out of hand, if it makes you overlook D Wade's brilliance...

At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 3:30:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

I know you are commenting on what David said, alternaviews, but arent you tired of hearing about his infection? Or how he limps around court but then plays later dunks on everyone. I know he hit his knee against O'Neal's but he is really playing his commercial out well.

And Shaq is a shell of a shell; he is letting Erica dominate him.

At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 3:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Game to game predictions are kind of tough, even for "experts." That was my point in my earlier post about "overreaction." So I don't pretend to know exactly which games Dallas will win. I liked Dallas in six at the start, while adding that I would not be surprised if Dallas won in five. Nothing that I've seen so far has changed my mind about that. Dallas had a great chance to go up 3-0 but I don't believe that losing that game will have a big impact on how the Mavericks play in game four.

When Dick Stockton used to do games with Hubie Brown, he also got a kick out of Brown saying "please" and would always add something like, "Well, as long as you say 'please'" and then Brown would chuckle. Walker is not explosive enough to dunk in a lot of those situations but he should use the glass more.

My point about Shaq is in response to his comments about Riley and Wade. HE seems to believe that Riley is a better coach than Jackson and that Wade is better than Kobe, so I was (sarcastically) asking why he is not able to be more productive with those factors in his favor. Of course he is older now and not able to sustain his former level of play. He should have understood that when he was in L.A. (his decline did not just start this week) and deferred to Kobe the way he defers to Wade now. By the way, wasn't it real classy the way Shaq blew off the media after game two? How much heat (no pun intended) would Kobe get if he pulled a stunt like that after a bad game?

My criticism regarding Wade's sinus infection is directed at the people who are constantly talking about it, not him. I don't hear him making excuses. In fact, at halftime of game three he said that he was not playing well. I'm tired of hearing others making excuses for him. He is fun to watch and he had a great game three. My headline mentioned him first and my post said that he probably played the best game of his life. I don't think that I am "hating" on Wade, nor did his performance refute what I wrote; to the contrary, he seems to be in a lot better physical condition than others think. I guess I am "old school" regarding injuries. The football player Chris Spielman once said that if he ever had to be helped off of the field he would retire; he hated seeing guys helped off of the field and then return to action in perfect health five minutes later. He eventually did have to be helped off of the field and he did retire after that.

As for Kobe throwing elbows, it is hard to think of a great player who did not throw an elbow or get involved in an altercation at some point--Kareem, Dr. J, Bird, Magic (versus K.J.), Bird, Jordan and many others. I have previously discussed the whole issue of Kobe "alienating" teammates by pointing out that on the Bulls Pippen was a lot more well liked than Jordan. Kobe's personality is a lot like Jordan's, although he seems to have mellowed a bit this year. The '04 Finals have been misrepresented so many times that it is ridiculous. Kobe hit the big shot at the end of regulation and dominated the overtime in the only game that the Lakers won. Payton had a horrible series. Kobe was definitely not the main reason that the Lakers lost.

At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 5:22:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

I can buy most of what you said...

except that Shaq "should have .... deferred to Kobe the way he defers to Wade now."

Wade is a leader who doesn't punch Samaki Walker in the face on the team bus, or get into a fight with Reggie Miller at the end of a game for reasons never disclosed or knockout Mike Bibby with an elbow to the face ('02 conf finals game 6, no foul called), or make excuses for misses ('02 conf finals game 5 buzzer miss -- Kobe says that his friends left ans machine messages that Bobby Jackson fouled him, when he didnt), or whine to the refs about every call, or publicly comment on Shaq's weight (even if comments are accurate, they should never have been made), to the point that Phil castigated Kobe in his book (& only returned b/c he's with Buss' daughter).

Wade = great player / decent guy
Kobe = great player / not decent dude (hence media reports that he has no friends among his handlers, teammates, etc.)

MJ wasn't that likeable off the court, and tussled with Bill Cartright ... but he wasnt a spoiled brat. A little arrogant? Yes ... But within reason...

Shaq is an essentially cool dude -- and after one Lakers finals game he said Kobe was the best player on the planet. Kobe never reciprocated the goodwill.

Shaq also would've had to leave money on the table to play for LA -- they wouldnt have offered them both max contracts.

Kobe is an immense talent, one of the best ever.

And if Shaq had deferred to him, with his lack of class, that would make Shaq an immense tool, one of the biggest ever.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 3:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews, you are bringing up two (or more) separate issues. Shaq should have deferred to Kobe on the court because Shaq's skills have been declining for several years and Kobe is still getting better--in other words, the very same reasons that Shaq correctly gives for deferring to Wade now. The off-court stuff has nothing to do with what should happen on the court. In baseball circles they used to call it "25 guys, 25 cabs"--when the game is over, everyone may go their separate ways, but on the court players should do whatever needs to be done to help the team win. Pick up a copy of last year's Lindy's Pro Basketball and get Roland Lazenby's The Show--both have excellent quotes from Tex Winter about what it was really like behind the scenes with Kobe and Shaq.

Most of the rest of your comment consists of hearsay--unless you were actually there. I don't know what happened on the bus with Samaki Walker and neither do you. I do know that when they were teammates Jordan punched Steve Kerr and gave him a black eye and that he had at least one on-court physical confrontation with Reggie Miller as well. Jordan said that trying to get around Miller's defense was like "chicken fighting with a woman." I'm not sure why he was fighting Miller or what those comments are supposed to mean, but if you are going to denigrate Kobe there are plenty of examples that show that Jordan was no better.

I don't recall Kobe knocking out Bibby, but NBA basketball is a physical game. Most veteran players have lost teeth, had their noses broken and suffered all kinds of "minor" injuries. If you are saying that Kobe is a dirty player, I don't buy it for a second. Karl Malone was a dirty player. The list of guys who he cheap-shotted is long. If Kobe is not classy because he commented on Shaq's weight, then how is Shaq classy for calling Dampier "Erica" and saying that he could only dominate in the WNBA? Isn't it more significant that an elite athlete like Shaq got out of shape than that Kobe called him out about it? Shaq calling Kobe the best player on the planet was nice but to suggest that Kobe never acknowledged Shaq's greatness is untrue. He has done so many times, including in his recent article for Dime magazine.

It is not exactly true that Shaq would have had to leave money on the table. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak offered Shaq max dollars but not max years, because it was evident that Shaq would not be worth max dollars at the end of the contract. The Heat were willing to give Shaq max dollars and max years. So the yearly amount would have been the same, but the length of contract would have differed--a subtle distinction, perhaps, but important. He could have made a bundle of money and stayed in L.A. to play with Kobe. He chose to go to Miami and we will see whether or not he gets a ring out of it.

Kobe and Wade are both great players. I have no idea if they are good guys or not because my only interaction with them has been on a professional level; it is risky to assume that public figures are good guys--or not good guys--if you don't really know them behind the scenes.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 9:16:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Dampier is not outplaying Shaquille. Thats my mistake, and I cant believe I said that.

Wow an interesting back and forth with Wade and Bryant. It doesnt really matter what they do off the court just as long as they perform for 48 minutes. All players have their moments when they arent classy off the court.

Players are human, and sometimes they do whatever they can to make us remember that they want to be treated as a human. Wade and Bryant are both great, and O'Neal is fortunately to play with three great guards in his career. Being a lifetime Knicks fan I wish Ewing was so lucky. But would it matter? Sorry I went off into another world on that one.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 12:54:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

well, I'm convinced that you've thought it out and are informed...

but...bottom line: you admit Shaq would've had to leave $ on the table to stay with LA, due to max years distinction. ANd he should have left millions on the table to play with Kobe?

MJ was no angel, but he had friends in the NBA, including Oakley, Barkley, Scottie, and others.

I've never heard a report of Kobe having any friends in the league, or among his handlers (agent, bodyguards, etc.), or the media. There was a Newsweek article on this a few years ago.

Off the court has a lot to do with things. Those 25 cabs teams were Red Sox teams that never won -- they only won a title when they had a team atmosphere with guys like Damon & Manny. Read about the Bulls dynasty -- Scottie and others used to work out in MJ's basement, regularly. You don't think that your feelings about your teammates as people are relevant after 120 games together (preseason, season, postseason), spent traveling and appearing in pressure situations together?

Maybe Shaq isn't a great hero behind closed doors and on the weight scales. But you were saying what he should have done for Shaq's own best interests, in deferring to Bryant. There is no question that Shaq did the right thing for his own best interests -- and now is in the Heat of the NBA Finals with Wade, only 2 years later. Shaq lost nothing on the court in going to Miami, and he was able to get max years too.

Wade is a brilliant player. That he is carrying this team, with an old Shaq, and no great rebounders, demonstrates that.

There is no question that Shaq did the right thing by leaving LA for greener pastures.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 4:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Of course, it's easy for me to say that Shaq should leave money on the table--it's not my money. On the other hand, once you've made tens of millions of dollars it would seem that winning a title would be the most important thing. Shaq left a team where a championship level infrastructure was in place to try to win a title somewhere else. The Heat are in the Finals now and may win a title, so maybe he was right. It is my opinion that the Heat will not win a title, either this year or in the remainder of Shaq's career. I still think that he had a better chance of winning more titles if he had stayed in L.A. with Kobe and Jackson. I have no way of proving that, of course. If Shaq does not win a title and then Kobe wins one without him, my argument will look stronger, however.

In terms of who has friends and who doesn't, I don't know any of these guys on a personal level. I've read a lot about the Bulls teams and interviewed some of the players. The Jordan-Pippen relationship is very complex. Yes, they and Ron Harper had the "breakfast club" workouts together and their on-court chemistry was terrific, obviously. Off the court, it is not clear how close they really are. Their relationship has had some ups and downs, according to reports by people who covered the team.

As for Kobe, I wouldn't believe everything that is printed in Newsweek; how would someone who doesn't regularly cover the league have any idea what is really going on? I have covered two All-Star weekends and been able to observe the interaction between players and I don't get the impression that Kobe is quite the pariah that you make him out to be. In any case, there have been great players who had difficult personalities and still won championships--for instance, Rick Barry.

I thought that the 25 players, 25 cabs team was the Oakland A's in the 1970s that won three straight titles, but I guess that phrase probably applied to more than one team. I think that off-court/off-field chemistry is a bit overrated; what matters is the connection between teammates during the games. Shaq and Kobe played well together and won three titles. Riley is a great coach and Wade is a great player, but we'll see if their collaboration with Shaq leads to even one title.

Since Shaq's choice was making $20 million/year in L.A. or making $20 million/year in Miami, he didn't really have a bad choice. Just the fact that the Heat are in the Finals probably "vindicates" his choice in the eyes of many, but I take a long term, bottom line view: Shaq will be defined to a certain extent--and says that he defines himself--by how many titles he wins. I believe that he had a better chance to win more titles by playing his last years alongside Kobe than by playing with Wade.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 4:47:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

as limited as Shaq is now, he still has the occasional great game -- and part of this is because he's fresh and motivated in Miami. Shaq couldnt have become Kobe's vassal without giving up a ton of dignity -- which would have made it tough to play on the court.

Kobe has said in interviews (Stephen A Smith, ESPN) that he wanted to prove he could do it without Shaq -- so this tells you the type of hierarchy Shaq could have expected had he stayed in LA ... How could Kobe have proven himself without freezing Shaq out? Kobe would've tried to make Mihm or Smush higher on the team hierarchy than Shaq -- this is how pecking orders work ... once you're overtaken by the new guy, you're done ... humiliated ...

Kobe & Shaq feuded terribly -- this is not 25 cabs, it's more like "this lockerroom ain't big enough for the two of us" ... That relationship was untenable.

Shaq kept his dignity.

Plus, I'll never buy that "he has enough $ after tens of millions" logic. A lot of money goes to handlers & taxes. Then there is consumption. Shaq has 6 kids. He may also have other friends and family with whom he wants to be generous. Then there are business ventures, charitable contributions, and political possibilities. Ten million more to Shaq means starting a business where he might find more satisfaction than he did on the hardwood. That stuff about wanting to win titles is pure PR -- they all say that, to avoid wrath of the fans, paying high ticket prices towards the salary. No matter how much money you have,you don't turn down a new amount that would be 5% of your net worth, if not more -- look at all of the celebrities who've wasted tens of millions.

Shaq did the right thing, hands down, even if Kobe wins 5 more titles and Shaq zero. Dignity is worth a lot to a famous person, and millions of dollars are worth a lot to the rest of us.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 8:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews, what you are talking about is Shaq's ego (or your perceptions of it). You think that it would be humiliating for him to have deferred to Kobe but that it is not humiliating to defer to Wade--and you are probably right that Shaq thinks this way. That is also why he refused the offer of Hall of Famer Rick Barry to teach him how to shoot free throws better (see my latest post for details). Perhaps you think that this shows Shaq's greatness, but I disagree. If Shaq would have been willing to defer to Kobe and lose weight then the Lakers probably would have offered him max dollars for max years.

As I said, it's easy for me to say that Shaq should have taken less guaranteed money (because of the shorter contract duration offered by the Lakers). None of us really knows what we would do if we were fortunate enough to be offered the choice that Shaq had. In the long run, though, Shaq will be remembered for how many titles he won, not how much money he made.

You say a lot of bad things about Kobe but are basically saying that Shaq left because he would have felt humiliated to defer to Kobe. I don't think this shows Shaq's dignity; it reflects hubris and pettiness. According to your analysis (we don't really know what Shaq is thinking, but your point of view is certainly a plausible representation of his thinking), Shaq understands that he is getting older but is too proud to allow Kobe the status in the game that he has earned and would rather take his chances in a new situation.

Back to an earlier comment of yours about Kobe making excuses in a press conference, at least he showed up. I have never understood why "good guys" like Shaq and Brett Favre get a free pass when they duck the media after they play poorly.

At Friday, June 16, 2006 9:12:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

They get a free pass because of who they are. You know that, David. When they show up they are a great quote, so when they dont they get the benefit of the doubt.

All of the Bryant/O'Neal talk is ridiculous. I know you are just discussing opinions but come on Bryant and O'Neal should have 5 or 6 rings now. Bryant wants to be Jordan. He has to be the main guy to be Jordan. He couldnt do that on Shaq's team.

Off the court doesnt matter at all. Sure it helps if guys get along off the court, but if they dont so what.

At Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:32:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

isn't it weird that with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter and wade has five fouls and is guarding josh howard, and yet avery johnson doesn't go to howard even once during the quarter, except for the last play of the game?

how could you not go at wade consistently in that situation? within minutes he fouls out or else miami breaks down completely on defense.
i haven't seen anyone mentioning this - i think it's a pretty big mistake from avery.

At Thursday, June 22, 2006 4:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Sorry that I didn't answer your comment sooner. I agree that Dallas should have made a more concerted effort to go at Wade. Howard disappeared in the fourth quarter throughout the series but you are right that this is a situation when he really could have done some damage.


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