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NBA Finals: Heat, Mavericks five keys to victory

May 27, 2011, 6:04 PM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat Getty Images

Miami always seemed like they had a chance if they just came together — and they did at the right time.

Dallas has been a surprise. We all knew they were good but we had been conditioned to expect them to fall flat in the playoffs. Instead Tyson Chandler gave them defensive toughness and Dirk Nowitzki has been playing the most efficient basketball of a Hall of Fame career.

This is going to be one interesting finals with a lot of questions to play out. Here is what each team needs to do.

Five Keys For Heat

Slow Nowitzki. Dirk Nowitzki has flat out been the single best player in the playoffs, not only scoring 28.4 points per game on but also doing it while shooting 51.7 percent and 51.6 percent from three. He is too good a scorer to stop, but they have to make him less efficient. A lot of that may fall to Udonis Haslem — who was able to hound Nowitzki into being just good during the 2006 finals — but look for Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh and LeBron James to get shots, too. The Heat have to work to deny Nowitzki position, front him and generally just make him work. Nowitzki is a more complete player now and better at getting his spots on the floor than he was five years ago. The Heat have to find a way

Bosh on the perimeter. If this meeting is anything like the regular season games, Tyson Chandler will be assigned coverage of Chris Bosh. Look for the Heat to use Bosh to set high screens for Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and everyone else, then have him pop out for the shot. Chandler has to respect Bosh from the midrange and stay out on him, pulling him away from the basket. And when he’s not blocking shots at the basket and that falls to Dirk Nowitzki the Mavs defense is far less threatening. Look for the Mavs to counter with zone.

Wade at end of games. The Mavs bring Jason Terry off the bench to providing scoring that few teams can contain. Then Terry stays out on the court during crunch time and will be asked to guard Dwyane Wade. That is a matchup where Wade is taller, stronger and more athletic. Dallas coach may try to hide Terry on defense by having Jason Kidd on Wade, but Wade is far quicker. Either way, Miami needs to exploit that matchup in end game situations.

Get transition points. There is no more fearsome sight in the open court than LeBron James bearing down on you. Just ask Kyle Korver. Maybe second on that list is Dwyane Wade. The Heat are nearly unbeatable if they get easy points in transition and are in full attack mode. They need to get the turnovers and run on the older Mavericks off misses. They need the easy buckets.

Get to the free throw line. This is twofold. For one thing, this is like transition points in that if the Heat can get easy points off fouls they become difficult to beat. Second, you tend to get those fouls when you are attacking. The Heat need to attack — they won Game 5 against Chicago because Wade and James hit jump shots late, but they cannot play like that all series.

Five Keys For Mavericks

Get shooters open looks. Like Chicago, Dallas really only has one guy who can create his own shot any time he wants. The difference is what is around him — Derrick Rose had no consistent shooters around him, allowing the Heat to trap him in key moments. Dallas is loaded with shooters — Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd. Miami is an athletic team that recovers quickly, but either Nowitzki has to make them pay for not doubling or quick ball movement and knockdown shooters have to make them pay. The Bulls could not do it, but the Mavs have been much better at it.

Zone defense. The Mavericks defense this playoffs has been average, but they are about to run into the best team they have faced and it has to be better than that. Because Chris Bosh presents matchup issues that could pull Tyson Chandler away from the basket, look for the Mavs to use their matchup zone at key moments. Wade and James struggled against the Mavs zone in the regular season, but this is a much better Heat team. Miami will figure out how to attack it, but the Mavs may be able to get key stops out of it for a while.

Do not foul — especially you, Tyson Chandler. If Miami gets easy points the Mavericks cannot beat them. Not turning the ball over is part of that. But if you let the Heat make a parade to the foul like you have done the same thing. Dallas did a poor job of this against Oklahoma City, they must do better here. Chandler in particular has to stay out of foul trouble, the Mavs defense is much worse when he sits.

Crashing the boards. During the regular season, Dallas was a good defensive rebounding team, eighth highest percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed in the league. They have not been nearly as effective in the playoffs. The Heat are not usually a great offensive rebounding team, but this goes back to the “do not give up easy points mantra” the Mavs need. They have to control the glass – and get some offensive boards themselves, Chandler is not somebody anyone on the Heat can contain. The Mavs need to recreate Game 1 of the Bulls series, when Chicago dominated the glass and won.

The J.J. Barea factor. The diminutive guard has become a cult hero in the playoffs with his curving cuts through the Lakers and Thunder defense. It is the kind of bench scoring the Mavericks must have, and his high pick-and-roll with Nowitzki has been very deadly. Against Miami Barea and the Mavs will run into the most athletic and active set of big men they have seen. Dallas still needs to get those points if they are to win.

  1. randysavage4ever - May 27, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Only keys to victory are…

    Is Dirk going to keep the hot shooting?

    or

    Is Lebron going to keep the clutch shooting?

  2. Basketball Artistry - May 27, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    If the Mavs keep moving the ball so well, they have a good chance of beating the Heat. JJ Barea can play a big part in that if he’s able to break down the Heat defense

  3. randommofo - May 28, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    I just don’t see how Dallas can trot out a Kidd and Terry backcourt and expect not to get burned in crunch time

  4. trueballs - May 28, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    It’s hard to stop Nowitzki when he’s hot, but I think Bosh, LeBron, Haslem, and Anthony will be more effective than Perkins, Ibaka, Collison, and Durant. I still feel that Chandler is the biggest threat to Miami.

  5. davidly - May 28, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    I’m not sure I agree. Slow Dirk down for one of the games maybe. But my recollection of such series involves a scheme which concentrates on stopping everyone else and allowing Dirk to be as prolific as he wants. This kind of thing has worked on teams with great players in the past. And the fact that Nowitzki is a shooter, not a ball mover, should make that easy.

    If Miami’s big two can smother Kidd and Barea, as well as slowing Terry and keeping Stojakovic in check, they’ll be fine. But Dallas is the first team they will have met in the playoffs who won’t feel the need to keep anyone in for 38 minutes and more per. Can the Heat continue to play so shallow and win against a team with the Mavs’ depth?

    Time will tell.

  6. sdmfla - May 28, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    He says Dirk “has flat out been best player in playoffs” ??? Maybe offensively, but Lebron has been doing way more (defensive player of the playoffs)on the defensive end plus has been big time offensively especially in key moments!! Its funny how so many writers like to ignore this and just look at the scoring, but alot of guys can score.

  7. 1historian - May 28, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    1) score
    2) more
    3) points

    my work here is done

    • Andrés Garcia - May 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      Good thing you’re not a coach.

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