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NBA Finals: Miami endures, wins Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead over Dallas

Jun 6, 2011, 1:23 AM EDT

Screen shot 2011-06-06 at 12.07.46 AM

Game 3 of the 2011 NBA Finals was a 48-minute spectacular. It was a heartbreaker and a series changer. It was valiant, defeating, and entertaining, and it was decided by an incredibly slim margin. With a single bucket — a Chris Bosh baseline jumper, to be exact — Miami topped Dallas, 88-86, in a riveting game between well-matched foes that no self-respecting basketball fan could soon forget.

Yet as we try to explain the game’s final, uncompromising two-point differential, attention will naturally be drawn to items of similarly minimal magnitude. One could — and surely will — argue that the difference in the game was a foul call, an errant game-winner, or a single costly turnover. The truth is none of the above, or really, all of the above and more. The Heat won Game 3 because of a flurry of convoluted, interrelated factors that go far beyond the scope of a single play, and extend outward from player rotations into just about every aspect of team play.

“This series is turning out to be an absolute series of endurance, mental and physical,” Erik Spoelstra said. “We didn’t expect anything less than the competitive physicality of this game tonight. Our guys really competed. At times it was a little uneven, but we found ways to make plays on both ends of the court, to grind this game out in a very enduring win.”

That Spoelstra placed so much emphasis on endurance is fascinating, and fitting. Play-specific strength isn’t important; without longevity and consistency, the Heat would have been in no place to win this game, and the Mavericks would have been in no place to compete in it. Dwyane Wade‘s fantastic performance didn’t come in a quick burst, but started with a pair of amazing finishes and ended with a well-executed 2-3 pick-and-roll with LeBron James some 46 minutes later. Wade may not have been brilliant for every second he was on the court in between, but his continued impact was undeniable, and to reduce his performance to anything less than the fantastic sum that it was — for the sake of creating a small, manageable talking point, no less — would be a damn shame.

The same is true of the entirety of the performances of both teams. It wasn’t just Chris Bosh’s ability to hit the game’s final made shot that put the Mavs away, but Spoelstra’s willingness to run James and Wade in a pick-and-roll, their ability to execute it, Udonis Haslem‘s fantastic screen to free Bosh for the jumper, and the incredible medley of factors that led to that point. The Mavs defended that 2-3 pick-and-roll in a particular way for a particular reason based on the complexion of the game and all that had happened up to that point, and to isolate that particular sequence as a sole determinant for the game’s verdict is disingenuous considering the context that created it.

You have to look at it all and weigh it all when coming to terms with why Miami won this game, and took a 2-1 series lead.

Weigh Dallas’ turnover problems, and the defense that caused them. Jason Kidd began his evening with some big shots, but also a few careless passes; Kidd had two giveaways by the end of the first quarter (in a low-possession game, mind you) and finished with four. J.J. Barea matched Kidd’s four turnovers, and Dirk Nowitzki contributed three of his own. As a result, Dallas had a pretty horrible turnover rate for much of the game, and their poor (but less horrible) final turnover rate of 16.9 is only such because of a stretch of careful play.

Weigh the free throw disparity in what can only be considered an oddly officiated game. Loose ball fouls galore helped to send the Mavs to the free throw line 27 times, while the Heat attempted just 15 free throws. Dallas needed the respite of the free throw line; Miami’s half-court defense was downright oppressive, and to be able to score without expecting a rotation was invaluable for the Mavs.

Weigh Dwyane Wade. He was that good, and Dallas had no counter for his post-ups, his isolations, or even his three-pointers.

Weigh the absence of Brendan Haywood. Ian Mahinmi played eight minutes as the Mavs’ back-up center, and acquired five fouls in the process. His single-game plus-minus was a -6, in part due to Mahinmi handing out free throws and generally looking lost on defense. It’s no real fault of Mahinmi’s; he tried (sometimes to his detriment, or as Rick Carlisle said: “I thought Mahinmi’s energy was good. At times, [he was] maybe a little too energetic, but that was expected.”), but he’s just not the caliber of defender, rebounder, or finisher that Haywood is. The Mavs missed the luxury of having a reliable center behind Chandler, and while the effects of Haywood’s absence are most conveniently measured in what Mahinmi did or didn’t do, we also can’t neglect the impact of fatigue and foul aversion on the play of Tyson Chandler.

Weigh Chalmers’ work as a spot-up shooter, and the indirect influence that his mere presence had on the development of plays. Weigh the Mavs’ incredible team defense against LeBron James, anchored by Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler. Weigh the injury to Chris Bosh’s eye, which may have played a part in him missing a handful of jumpers and scoring opportunities. Weigh Jason Terry‘s tendency to fire up quick jumpers under duress, likely in the fear that shots wouldn’t be coming his way all that often against this particular defense. Weigh Joel Anthony containing Nowitzki one-on-one, until Nowitzki again proved that such a thing impossible.

Weigh all of these numerous individual elements and then some, and never lose sight of the fact that huge, interrelated factors and themes decide the outcome of any game — even one decided by a single made basket. Bosh’s jumper wasn’t the difference, even if it did provide the ticks on the scoreboard that brought Miami to a “good enough” 88 points. It was all of it. All of this, all of Wade and Dirk and LeBron and Ian Mahinmi and all of everything. That might not make for the same compelling narrative as a spotlight on a single play, but such storylines betray the endurance that makes great games great.

  1. thetooloftools - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:30 AM

    Hi, LeBron James here.
    I will polish my ring with my old CAVs jersey … I am Mrs. Wade.

    • edweird0 - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:50 AM

      Haha, at least you know hes getting the ring. You wouldn’t believe how many people out there still believe the mavs are gunna win this series.

      11-0.

  2. edweird0 - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:02 AM

    Great article Rob, couldn’t have articulated it better myself. I’m glad someone noticed the disparity in fouls called.

  3. 305phinphan - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    This was the worst called game I have ever seen. Those refs were favoring the Mavs BIG TIME and the Mavs still lost. I have never seen so many loose ball fouls against one team like that. The Refs tried to hand that game to the home team and the Mavs still failed to win. This series should be 3-0 with a sweep on Tuesday. The Heat are the better team and I can’t wait for Lebron to show off that nice ring to all of the haters out there that said there was no way he would EVER get one in Miami. Sorry Cavs fans maybe if you didn’t have such an ignorant owner Lebron might have stayed. Great game Wade, Bron, & Bosh you guys might as well start celebrating now because this series is over!

    • purdueman - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:06 PM

      I don’t buy it at all. Since the NBA progressively implemented the new video reviews for the refs to use, refs don’t win or lose games… teams do.

    • edweird0 - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      Hahaha yea dude you know its bad when the refs can’t even beat the Heat.

  4. purdueman - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:24 AM

    Well, it took until the 4th quarter of the third game of this years NBA Finals to FINALLY see some championship caliber basketball played! OMG! The ball was actually going through the hoop!!! I’d forgotten after watching the first two games what that was like.

    Two things:

    1) For a team that finally figured out that you could afford to put James on Rose defensively in the 4th quarter of games (because no one else on the Bulls can put the damned ball through the hoop), I was floored to see Wade trying to guard Nowitski in the 4th quarter; and

    2) Doesn’t the Heats boy coach look a lot like a chipmunk? All he needs is a little hair on his lip, but that will come in time once he finally goes through puberty.

    • phintasm - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:49 AM

      Bitter much, Bulls fan?

      • purdueman - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Nope. Not bitter at all, fella. I’m a realist; the Bulls achieved FAR more than ANY Bulls fan could have ever dreamed for this past season. They’re still very young and have a lot of time to grow and add the pieces that they need to move forward.

        Regardless of who’s in the finals, my stance hasn’t changed and that’s simply that the NBA drags out the playoffs at least two weeks too long. The season should already be over. I’ve grown so tired of the over analysis that occurs because of the ridiculous delays between games and series that I just wish Stern would hand the O’Brien trophy over to Miami, pull the plug and call it a day.

    • crenfroe45 - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      Wade on Dirk was a switch. It wasn’t intended to be consistent. After Dirk hit the shot over Wade, the defense set itself properly on the next possession.

      • purdueman - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        Once again the commentary on sport talk radio today centers around teams needing at least two, but no more than two, complementary stars in order to win an NBA Finals. Only one Pistons team in the mid-’80′s has won an NBA Championship since 1976 without 2 or more stars.

        JMO, but Dallas is just a different Chicago in that both teams only have one legit star at this point (Bibby was considered one a decade ago, but no longer at 38 years old), and both teams live and die offensively based on only one player.

        Miami didn’t need Bosh to win this title or likely any title in the future. What would have been interesting would have been to see the Bulls sign the younger, more athletic Bosh and the Heat sign Boozer instead of the other way around. The Heat still would have been better, but at least it would have made it a true dogfight in the last playoff round.

        And no, I’m not dissin’ Bosh; he’s won me over with his clear work ethic, but more importantly his humility (as he never runs his mouth or makes excuses for a bad game). Point being that Miami will be next years Eastern Champion again unless Chicago can add a star shooting guard (which I frankly don’t see happening due to the cap and lack of impact free agents coming up).

        Dallas is also in trouble next season in the West, as Bibby’s not getting any younger and both Memphis and the Thunder are coming on and are both fast, young teams who will only get better. Dallas too needs a star guard to add to their mix, but like Chicago I just don’t see one out there right now.

    • chargerdillon - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      With 3 minutes to go in the game i was nearly pulling my hair out. For virtually 12 quarters they had let the players play and with the third game winding down it looked like the refs were going to give the Mav’s as much home court love as they could.

      The amount of loose ball fouls called is mindblowing. Lebron was taking shots in the face not being called followed with any effort being made on Miamis part for a rebound being called as a foul.

      Make no mistake about the final outcome. If the Mav’s had managed to win that game with the way the ref’s were calling things, you’d have a bigger issue on your hands with a flurry of people calling it a fix.

  5. david8726 - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:05 AM

    I’m glad someone mentioned the foul disparity too. 27-14 tonight in favor of Dallas, I think it was.

    The first two games had great officating, I thought. Not so much tonight.

    • hnirobert3 - Jun 6, 2011 at 7:50 AM

      The foul disparity stat is very telling considering the difference in styles of play between the two.

    • barkley4life - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      No way in the world that Tyson Chandler who contests every basket should only have two fools midway through the 4th qtr…officiating was awful last night.

    • purdueman - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:05 PM

      NBA basketball is a very fast game played by very physically large individuals on a playing surface that has the same dimensions that it had way back in the day when white guys 6’7″ or less who couldn’t jump were the best centers in the league.

      The refs/umps in any sport are easy column fodder for disgruntled fans, but I think that the NBA’s progressive use of instant replay had largely eliminated playoff games being decided by the refs. The one thing that still clearly exists though is star power, as refs are more reluctant to put the leagues stars into foul trouble so they still get a few more non-calls a game than they often should.

      This series though really has had little to do with the refs and everything to do with who’s able to put the ball in the damn hole! Obviously good defense plays a bigger role too, as I can’t remember an NBA finals that’s had more 24 second shot violations, traveling calls and bad passes heaved out of bounds resulting in turnovers.

      The human element that refs/umps bring to sports hopefully will never be replaced by computer calls, and I truly believe that over the course of a series and over time pretty much even themselves out.

  6. dbick - Jun 6, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    If Miami fans start complaining about foul disparity my head will explode.

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 6, 2011 at 9:19 AM

      Im a Heat fan and the foul disparity was rediculous, at one point I though the whole team would foul out. Chris Bosh literally had his eye poked out.

      There you go dbick!

      • dbick - Jun 6, 2011 at 9:48 AM

        my head has exploded.

    • barkley4life - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      You don’t know the game if you think the Heat get calls more then most…they are the most aggressive team in basketball going to the rim. Basketball 101 if you attack the basket good things will happen…if you live by the jumpshot you will die by the jumpshot. Outside of Dirk who on the Mavs gets anywhere near the rim…creates off the dribble etc….

      If you say J.J. Barea MY HEAD WILL EXPLODED lol

  7. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Thank god for wade, now i know why lechoke chose miami so wade could get him that ring he always wanted, wade what a great player……

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Lechoke huh?

      17 pts 9 assists 6-14 shooting. Thats just under .50.

      Average for LeBron, great for most others.

      Also the final assist. Can’t score 30 pts all the time. Ask Rose what it feels like to have the best record, have home field advantage throughout and still lose 4-1.

    • phintasm - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      Lebron had 4 assists in the 4th Quarter (none to Wade) and played stifling D on Jason Terry. Also, Miami wouldn’t even be in the Finals if it weren’t for Lebron since Wade sucked against Chicago.

      BTW, this is coming from someone who is a much bigger Wade fan than a Lebron fan, but I think that the idea he’s choking is ridiculous.

      • southbeachtalent - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:13 PM

        Not rediculous it’s HATE. Get used to it, embrace it.. I have.

        The idea that some people would say that LeBron (arguably the best player in the league) is a choker is rediculous and ubsurd to say the least. That’s like when people say Peyton Manning is a choker. It’s rediculous and asinine and extremely inaccurate. I equate that to my grandfather asking me “why don’t they dunk it all the time?”.

        I will start it here. Dirk is a choker, he missed an easy shot to tie the game and take them to OT. He choked last time (2006) against the Heat and is doing the same this series.

        Derrick Rose is way over-rated! He shot 6% from the field when “the choker” covered him. I can go on and on but you get the point. Or maybe not?

    • barkley4life - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:02 AM

      yeah your right because he didn’t carry the team through the Boston and Chicago series…the Chicago series where DWade averaged under 20…but your right…lmao IDIOT

  8. silk32 - Jun 6, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    I know the Shock Exchange pokes fun at Lebron a lot but dude earned my respect when he “mushed” that reporter last night http://clicky.me/5XLq . Not in a million years would a reporter have asked Barkely something this ridiculous.

  9. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Le bum is good at the regular season and playoffs, but is also smart enough to step aside and let the big boys bring it home in the finals where it matters dumbass.

    • southbeachtalent - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:03 PM

      So he almost gets a double-double yet he stepped aside? They win an extremely difficult game on the road after “colapsing” thanks to no “hero ball” and this is what he gets. So if he shoots he’s playing hero ball and if he passes he is shrinking in the moment… My head’s about to blow up like dbick’s!! Oh yea almost forgot DUMBASS..

    • edweird0 - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:12 PM

      Lol he plays amazing individual BB and hes a loser. He plays great team BB and hes a loser? Theres just no winning with you guys huh

  10. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    Dude i saw a stat THIS year where lechoke was like 3 for 18 in game ending shots to tie or to win with 8 secs to go. Southbeach fan should know that if hes a true fan look it that. I dont recall jordan of bryant pull off those numbers for being the best player in the league according to some bandwaggon front runners.

  11. icu84bs - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    I doubt if any posters bitching about officiating have ever done any real officiating of their own. It is a lot more difficult from the floor level as a real referee sees it than it is watching (often in super slow motion) from the omniscient point of view looking down on the play from above as the TV audience sees it.

    I have watched every NBA Finals since 1972 and not one of them was decided by the officiating. I suspect everyone playing in those series (whether they were on the winning or losing team) would tell you exactly the same thing. The winning team deserved to win, simple as that.

  12. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I agree icu84, good stuff

  13. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    As far a lebum im gonna get off his back,,,, but not until they stop putting him in the company of jordan. Lbj is a nice decent player whos sky is the limit, but give him time to write his history, because of right now he aint done crap aight. Hell he might quit in 2 years to design clothes or something, or even cut hair, you never know with these divas now a days

    • edweird0 - Jun 6, 2011 at 5:01 PM

      You hate on him because OTHER people compare him to Jordan? Thats a new one…. Hes never once said he was better as good as Jordan, let alone BETTER. You ex gfs are always so resentful…

  14. diablito0402 - Jun 6, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    Your name suits you well. Ed weird you are weird, im not hating on him just trying to get through the people that put him on a pedastal and justify all the bad games and seasons he had wigh the cavs.

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