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Friday, May 27, 2011

Miami Versus Dallas Preview

NBA Finals

Miami (58-24) vs. Dallas (57-25)

Season series: Dallas, 2-0

Dallas can win if…the Mavericks minimize their turnovers--particularly live ball turnovers that can be converted into transition scores by the Heat--take quality shots and shoot a very high percentage. Dirk Nowitzki must continue to play at an MVP level but he must also receive timely scoring help from Jason Terry and the other Dallas long range snipers who shot down Dallas' first three postseason foes. The Mavericks must build the proverbial wall defensively in the half court set, forcing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to shoot contested two point jump shots.

Miami will win because…LeBron James is showing no signs that he plans to quit during this year's playoffs. It really is just that simple; James has been the best regular season player in the NBA since 2009 and he has been a very good playoff performer overall but during last year's playoffs he quit in the biggest game of the postseason as his Cleveland Cavaliers were poised to take a 3-2 lead versus the Boston Celtics. I don't know why James quit but I know what I witnessed firsthand--and I know that there is absolutely no indication that James has any intention of quitting now. James is leading the Heat in minutes, scoring and assists during the 2011 playoffs and he is second on the team in rebounding (trailing Chris Bosh by just one total rebound in 15 postseason games). James has repeatedly hit big shots to close out tight games and his suffocating defense made 2011 regular season MVP Derrick Rose completely disappear down the stretch in games four and five of the Eastern Conference Finals, an effort that James punctuated by blocking Rose's three pointer to snuff out Chicago's last attempt to tie the score at the end of game five.

James left Cleveland because he supposedly carried an impossible burden for the Cavs but the reality is that MVP level stars who lead their teams to championships must perform at a high level even when their teams are talented (like this year's Heat) and/or deep (like the 2009 and 2010 Cavs teams that each posted the best regular season record in the league); think about the statistics posted by legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant as those all-time greats led their teams to at least three championships apiece in the past four decades. James averaged 44.0 mpg, 26.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 5.5 apg in the first three rounds of the 2011 playoffs, so "taking his talents to South Beach" has hardly entailed going on vacation and riding the coattails of Wade or anyone else; James is carrying a heavy load for the Heat, just like Kobe Bryant carried a heavy load in the 2008-2010 playoffs when Bryant led the Lakers to three straight Finals appearances and back to back titles. The difference between James in Miami and James in Cleveland is that now James is embracing the idea of doing whatever he has to to do for his team to win as opposed to pouting about supposedly not receiving enough help.

Dwyane Wade has been up and down during the playoffs but even when he has a bad overall game he is still quite capable of making some key plays at either end of the court. Wade is not the best player on the Heat nor is he the team's closer but he is easily better than the second option on any other NBA team--and third option Chris Bosh would be a great second option (and a good first option) for most NBA teams. During much of the regular season, the Heat ran what I colorfully described as a "clown car" offense that consisted of either James or Wade dribbling the ball in isolation while the other Heat players wandered around aimlessly like clowns piling out of a car at the circus; this relegated James or Wade to a spot shooting role for which neither player is well suited and it reduced Bosh from a versatile perennial All-Star to a glorified Horace Grant clone living off of weak side scraps. The Heat's half court offense is still very much a work in progress but the Heat are lethal in the transition game because no team can match their athletic ability, enabling James and Wade to eschew their erratic midrange games in favor of thunderous finishes at the hoop (and/or trips to the free throw line).

Other things to consider: Dirk Nowitzki has supposedly reached a new level and/or reshaped his legacy during this year's playoffs but that is a bunch of media hype. It is certainly true that Nowitzki has played brilliantly during the 2011 playoffs but that is nothing new; Nowitzki long ago established himself as one of the great postseason performers in NBA/ABA history--he is one of just four players with career playoff averages of more than 25 ppg and more than 10 rpg, joining an elite club with Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit and Hakeem Olajuwon. During last year's playoffs, Nowitzki shot higher from the field, three point range and the free throw line than he has so far in the 2011 postseason but his teammates did not perform as well as they have this year and the Mavs were bounced in the first round. Nowitzki has always been great but during this year's playoffs he has received more help than usual from his supporting cast. Nowitzki was clearly the best player in the Western Conference playoffs but he is not better than LeBron James; James can do more things well than Nowitzki can, not the least of which being that James could potentially guard Nowitzki in the final minutes of a close game while there is no way that Nowitzki could guard James.

The Heat were supposed to win 70-plus games this season and then cruise to multiple championships. I said that they would win around 60 games and be a viable contender that would ultimately fall to Boston or Orlando; I was right about the Heat's regular season status but I did not foresee that the Celtics and Magic would effectively self destruct (via trades that backfired) nor did I think that Chicago would emerge as "Boston light" (the Bulls are a tough, defensive minded team in the Boston mold, but a squad that lacks the offensive punch provided by the Celtics' multiple All-Stars). Even when I criticized the Heat--including the article that referred to the "clown car" offense--I also acknowledged the very real possibility that the Heat could figure things out, make it to the Finals and possibly win the whole thing. That seems to be exactly what is happening: the Heat's defense is stifling, they are finally utilizing Bosh offensively and they have yet to run into a team that is disciplined enough to force the Heat to score consistently in the half court set.

After the Heat eliminated the Bulls in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals, Chicago center Joakim Noah offered this very apt description of the Heat: "They're Hollywood as hell but they are still very good, so you have to give credit where credit is due." The Heat prance and preen and strut too much for my taste but they also play ferocious defense and they relentlessly attack the hoop in the transition game--and those latter two characteristics are why they will emerge as the 2011 NBA champions.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:16 AM



At Friday, May 27, 2011 12:37:00 PM, Anonymous JLK1 said...

I also expect the Heat to win the series. They have home court advantage, they have better and younger talent, and their defense is quite good. Of the top 6 Dallas players by minutes played in the playoffs, 5 of them are age 32 or older.

Dallas will have a chance if a few things happen. First, Marion has to contain James and force inefficient shots and limit his passing. Second, Dallas must keep their offense rolling at a very high level. If their shooters can stay on the floor without getting burned on the defensive end, Dallas is very dangerous. Finally, Barea must continue to provide a spark off the bench (he averages 8.9 points in 17.5 mpg in the playoffs). I also think Tyson Chandler will be critical in this series for Dallas given his role in protecting the rim from James and Wade and the size advantage he will have against Miami's centers.

I was also curious to hear your take on the Mike Brown hire. I think he was a good choice for the job and I'm eager to see how the Lakers respond to his coaching and style of play.

At Friday, May 27, 2011 1:17:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Based on Miami's previous rounds, I think it would take a performance of epic proportions for Dallas to pull off the upset. I would put it on the same scale as the Miracle on Ice or Namath's guarantee.

I have stated the reasons in the Miami-Chicago preview and in several other posts, so I feel there is no need to repeat them. Standard analysis is completely useless in situations like this one, as it doesn't account for the elephant in the room.

I see a repeat of the 2006 Finals, only Lebron and Wade will take turns reprising the Dwayne Wade role. Meanwhile, Dirk will be bear-hugged from behind every time he gets the ball with nary a foul call, and shoot poorly as a result - and people will be left wondering why he "choked" in the big moments once again.

I'm sure Cuban will come up with some more colorful quotes after the show is over, and he'll easily draw fines in the six figures. Maybe seven.

I would like to see a different script this season but I'm afraid it will be business as usual.

At Friday, May 27, 2011 1:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think that the ages of Dallas' players will be a huge factor but the Mavs' lack of athleticism (relative to Miami's Big Three at least) will be a problem.

I don't think that Dallas' shooters will be able to effectively check their Miami counterparts and I also think that Dallas will have trouble obtaining the wide open three point shots that they have feasted on so far during the playoffs.

Mike Brown has not been officially hired yet. No contract has been signed and no press conference has been held. After the formalities take place I will provide my analysis--and it will be more in depth than the L.A. Times' "coverage," which has consisted in no small part of quoting from various tweets (and people wonder why newspapers are going out of business!).

At Friday, May 27, 2011 1:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

"Based on Miami's previous rounds," the Heat have a team that is almost impossible to stop in transition and they have yet to face a squad that is willing/able to cut down on wasted possessions (turnovers, bad shots) in order to force the Heat to consistently score in the half court set. However, I disagree that it would take an upset of historic proportions for the Mavericks to win; if the Mavs turn the ball over fewer than 12 times a game and if they shoot a good percentage then they can win the series.

I don't see any "elephants" in the room and I disagree that "standard analysis" does not apply. I don't see any evidence to support the conspiracy theories that you have mentioned explicitly and are now referring to obliquely. Did you watch the Miami-Chicago series? The Bulls shot far too many jumpers on offense and they went for far too many pump fakes on defense; the free throw disparity can be completely explained by "standard analysis."

At Friday, May 27, 2011 2:09:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

You (David) have alluded to it either in an article or one of the comments but no team has yet forced Miami to prove they can beat a team with just their half court offense.

For me the key (sadly) comes down to officiating. Namely how much contact is allowed on Dirk. I picked the Thunder last series because of their physical defense on Randolph and figured it would work just as well on Dirk. But the Dirk lived at the FT line. If contact is allowed on Dirk like it was on Randolph the Heat should be able to force Dirk into long, contested shots (or TOs) while staying attached to shooters.

If Dirk is officiated the same way he was last series I don't see Miami getting the TOs and stops needed to beat the Mavs.

At Friday, May 27, 2011 9:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


he hhas played well haveing wade and james makes a big diffrence for lebron. he always gon play well but doesnt habve to have monster numbers to win. him and wade do have to play well tho. but bosh has been big for them in postseason a second cog thats playin a third cog. i never wavered never jumped on a bandwagon im been here from get go sayin they were goin g to win titles cauise i kno talent prevails ultimately they have the most talent in league.

this is why lebron came to south beach. i think clevland got number 1 and four pick so gud will come to them. at the end of the day it worked for everyone especially lebron james.

At Friday, May 27, 2011 11:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

definitely refreshing to hear it told as it is... lebron is a quitter and only played hard a year later for some reason. Extremely odd behavior but there's no denying that this postseason he's been a different beast.

It would be fascinating to see what happen if Wade somehow did enough to be finals MVP over Lebron.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2011 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering David, but do you consider Wade to be the top SG in the NBA right now after the recent developments? Personally I still believe that Kobe has the edge in skill-set, but Wade is far more athletic.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:48:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Dallas is +160 and Miami -180 on the series. If you had a $100 funny money, where is the value?

I like Dallas at +160. Their versatile offense deploys several effective lineups that will keep Miami thinking and adjusting-- its harder to defend when your mind is calculating and Miami's opponents haven't been as creative as Dallas. Dallas is smart and well coached so one hopes they know to minimize TOs.

Dallas plays good team defense that can funnel into a wall of Chandler & Haywood off the bench. They benefit from a dry run v. a 2 player OKC team (Miami's 2 are better, plus Bosh, obviously, but the defensive philosophy will be the same).

Miami is the favorite with good reason, but Dallas is not a push over.

At Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:51:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Also, Wade could be injured which makes a huge difference.

Miami is helped by the Finals 2-3-2format (instead of 2-2-1-1-1). Neither of these teams will beat the other 3 games in a row, its too hard for closely matched teams. If I'm right, Dallas must win 2 in Miami, which is difficult.

At Wednesday, June 01, 2011 1:04:00 AM, Blogger DRP said...

The Heat defense did a great job tonight, but I think Dirk is going to have to be more aggressive and shoot better than 7 for 18.

I think the Heat will win in 6 or 7, but I'll be rooting for J-Kidd to get his first ring; he really deserves it. Dirk should do what he wants in this series, but I don't think it will be enough for the Mavs to win. The Heat seemed destined to win. If Dirk does win, he will move up the all-time great list, but still not top ten.


At Wednesday, June 01, 2011 5:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not sure what you mean by "recent developments" but I still consider Wade to be the second best shooting guard in the NBA; in my article about this season's NBA awards I placed Kobe on the All-NBA First Team alongside Derrick Rose and I placed Wade on the All-NBA Second Team alongside Russell Westbrook, which is what eventually happened in the official voting.

Wade's team did better than Kobe's team in this year's playoffs but Wade is clearly the second option on his team--Wade is, in fact, the best second option player in the NBA--while Kobe is not only the first option on his team but Kobe had to carry a lot of dead weight during the playoffs (the Lakers had no bench and Pau Gasol mysteriously morphed into a quite ordinary player).

The laws of nature--i.e., the aging process--dictate that Wade will eventually surpass Kobe and that could very well happen as soon as next season.

At Wednesday, June 01, 2011 5:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I realize that you posted your two comments before game one began but I think that game one pretty much confirmed most of what I wrote in my preview article. Yes, this was just one game but in many cases the first game not only sets the tone for the series but actually foreshadows who will eventually win the series. The Heat are hardly a great half court offensive team but the Heat don't have to score a ton of points to beat the Mavs because the Heat's athleticism and energy prevents the Mavs from getting the open looks that they obtained against their previous opponents.

Wade himself said that he is not "injured" but that he is merely "hurt" the same way that most NBA players are at this stage of the season. So, Wade is simultaneously denying his injury while also milking it, much like LeBron did last season with his infamous elbow boo boo.

I'd love to be able to honestly say that I think that the Mavs will win this series but the reality is that the Heat are going to win the title and then their media sycophants are going to try to retroactively justify every stupid thing that LeBron has said and done in the past year or so.

You are right that the Mavs are not a pushover but I did not see anything in game one that changed my mind about what will ultimately happen in this series.

At Friday, June 03, 2011 1:32:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

There's a lot of ball to be played, but for one night the organized, smart and well coached team beat the more talented, less organized team.

This series reminds me of thousands of pick-up games where a team of ground-based old farts plays a bunch of kids who are faster, jumpier and better conditioned. Sometimes the old-farts can out-think and out-teamplay them. Not always, but man its fun.

At Friday, June 03, 2011 3:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that Spoelstra is a good coach, too, but the Heat do not always listen to him; when things get tough, James and Wade revert to the "clown car" offense instead of running Spoelstra's offense.

Game two--or, more precisely, the final portion of game two--was fun to watch. I hope that I am wrong about this series; game two was a must win for the Mavs and they responded well but I remember that last year LeBron had a monster game three when the Cavs faced a similar situation versus Boston. The main reason the Cavs ultimately lost that series is that LeBron quit in game five. I don't expect LeBron to quit this time but it will be interesting to see what happens if Dallas can keep putting pressure on Miami. The Heat have a tendency to be a frontrunning team so if they fall behind in the series we might start hearing more about Wade being hurt and LeBron might start rubbing his elbow again.

I think that the game three winner will probably take the series; the frontrunning Heat will not look back if they again have homecourt advantage, while the Mavs will be in a great position if they force the Heat to have to win three out of four games to take the title.

At Friday, June 03, 2011 11:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


no one ever questioned nowitski talent he is a great player. but in playoffs previous to this season in biggest moment he came up small. this season 3 of the 6 fourth quartes vs portland had at least 14 point big vs lakers yesterday and game 4 vs okc is shedding that now. but heat did good job on him till the last part of game two he was 13-33 before the 4-7.

but heat to me will win series they out played them for like 91 minutes. there not gonna get swept in dallas i dont see dallas winning two in miami it took a miracle to get one. two meaning a second game in miami. so miami still in gud shape got too close out game better both teams are front runners really. mavs gave up twenty four point lead to portland. and miami showed ability to close vs bulls game 5 and celts game 5 wen both of those teams collapsed so both teams melted and have came back.

bron wade will en the end be too much.

At Saturday, June 04, 2011 1:23:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Lebron is faced with two big concerns: not only did Miami lose Game 2, Wade had a monster game with 36 points.

Lebron has a very tough task in front of him - leading Miami to a championship while making Wade (and Bosh) look bad in the process. Unless he does that, he faces real danger of losing out on Finals MVP and having to live with the "LePippen" label for the rest of his career. Of course, if Miami loses in the final he will be called LeChoke, even if it's Wade and Bosh's poor play that results in the series loss.

Under this context it's not hard to understand why Lebron resorted to the "clown car" offense in the final minutes. He either had to become the leading story in a Game 2 victory, or sabotage Wade's efforts by having his career game come to naught. Wade would've gained a big lead on the Finals MVP award with a Heat win, which would have dealt a disastrous blow to Lebron's efforts to build his "brand".

Of course, Wade also was guilty of doing that in the closing stages of the game but he's done that throughout his career, so there was no reason to expect anything different.

At Monday, June 06, 2011 4:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


the heat won that was a thriller newfound respect for dirk u was rite he always had it in him he showin it now.

lebron was rattled played terrible traveling double dribble not confident on shots. this is why he went to miami. wade and bosh could hide his defencies in pressure. ur the best player in nba but not the finals mvp if ur team win? that would go to wade rite now who has played wonderful. miami prob wins series now they got a chance because of format.

dallas shooters terry barea kid have let them down in this series i think. they havent got much from bench, either which was dominant in west playoffs. this go six i like miami could go seven thrillin games so far.

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 8:48:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

Any chance of a mid-Finals report card post? Definitely set for an interesting final three games, best two of three with two games in Miami, but it will be extremely difficult for Dallas if they do not win Game 5 at home. Not seeing them likely to reel off two straight wins in South Beach in games 6 & 7.

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 12:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


lebron james 8 points was intresting he seems not too play well in big moments of late. ever since game 5 vs boston last year he played well the last two series. but he went back to passing and standing in the corner. not getting rebounds not being aggressive offensively makeing moves. not playing d well. this is a bigger problem than quitting and throws out notion he jus quit on cleveland. he now quit on both teams so he has a inner problem he needs to deal wit. he is no kobe or jordan best player in nba defering to lesser players in big moments. if teams win was the third best player on his team in finals. fourth best player in the finals. dirk been best. but lol this is crazy to me this is second straight game he did this he needs big game in game 5.

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 1:35:00 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

"I know that there is absolutely no indication that James has any intention of quitting now."

Did you speak too soon? (see: Game 4)

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am pursuing other interests (achieving a USCF National Master title and teaching my chess students) and thus I no longer update this site daily--but when the Finals are over, I will offer the best series recap available anywhere.

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are wrong; LeBron played well in many late game situations during the Heat's playoff run this season--and then he quit in game four of the Finals, just like he quit last year in game five versus Boston. LeBron has clearly demonstrated how well he is capable of playing when he is interested in doing so, which means that it is hard to rationally say anything about last night other than "LeBron quit." I don't know why he quit, just like I don't know why he quit last year, but I know what I saw. People are trying to dance around the subject by using words like "disengaged" and "disinterested" but those are just fancy ways of saying "LeBron quit."

At Wednesday, June 08, 2011 2:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


There certainly was no indication that LeBron was going to quit this year--unlike last year, when he seemed to be feuding with Coach Brown and had set up the elbow as an excuse before quitting in game five versus Boston--but he did it again.

At Sunday, June 12, 2011 11:26:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Congratulations to Dallas.

They were the better of the two teams and officiating had no bearing on the eventual outcome. Dirk was the best player on the floor and Terry came on late in the series.

As for Miami, Lebron did not play his best but they were absolutely nonexistent on defense the last two games. I don't care if you have Michael Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, Shaq, and Magic on the same team; if you only play on one end of the floor you will get beat.

At Monday, June 13, 2011 2:47:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Apologies to Poe:

See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lebron!
Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! -
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young -
A dirge for he, the doubly dead in that he died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved him for his wealth and hated him for his pride,
And when he fell in feeble health, ye blessed him -that he died!
How shall the ritual, then, be read? -the requiem how be sung
By you -by yours, the evil eye, -by yours, the slanderous tongue
That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?"


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