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NBA Playoffs: Miami’s defense lets them down

Jun 10, 2011, 4:18 AM EDT

Dirk face on joel

When something goes right for the Miami Heat in these playoffs, something else invariably goes wrong. When Wade is on his game, James seems to be off of it. When James and Bosh are making music on the pick-and-roll together, Wade seems to be stuck dribbling into traps and firing up ill-advised jumpers. When the team attacks the paint effectively, the role players fail to knock down threes. When the role players are hitting threes, the team forgets to attack the paint. The Heat managed to get to the Finals and take a 2-1 lead without ever seeming to play a gorgeous game of basketball, a game that forced everyone to sit back and watch with their mouths agape at just how dominant the talent Pat Riley collected can be.

On Thursday night, the Heat finally got their offense to hum. James didn’t score much, but he was anything but passive, putting pressure on the defense, forcing double-teams, and making the right pass time after time. When Wade wasn’t in the locker room nursing his hip, he was just as dominant as he’s been all series, slicing into the Maverick defense and making the simple pass or impossible shot with equal amounts of confidence. Bosh attacked both the paint and the offensive glass with vigor, and had as good of a game as can be expected from a tertiary option. The role players knocked down three after three to keep the Dallas defense honest, with Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers going a combined 7-10 from downtown. It was the kind of offense we’ve been waiting to see from the Heat all playoffs.

Naturally, all of that occurred as the Heat played their worst defensive game of the playoffs and ended up losing by a final score of 112-103. Dallas shot a ludicrous 13-19 from downtown, with many of those threes being either contested or off-the-dribble, can’t be blamed entirely on Miami’s defense, but there’s no doubt that Miami’s swarming, suffocating defense failed to show up.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry were allowed to dribble into shots that they make with the frequency that most players knock down layups. Nowitzki continued to play whoever was guarding him like a violin and got himself to the line for 10 free points. Tyson Chandler was allowed to roll to the rim and dunk with impunity. Some of Dallas’ threes were the kind of shots you simply must admire and move on, but a good portion of them were unguarded.

If Miami had played anything resembling the brand of defense they’ve made a priority since Day 1 of training camp and have played throughout these playoffs, they’d be going back to Miami with a 3-2 lead. Instead, they will have to win two in a row to avoid infamy. Of course, it could also be said that Miami would have been on the wrong end of a shellacking if they’d played the type of offense they have played throughout the playoffs. Such are the oddities of perspective.

Even with Dallas making everything they sent towards the basket, Miami once again had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter when they led by four points with four and a half minutes left to play. However, they once again failed to close the game, with three empty possessions from LeBron James and 9 points on three-pointers from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry swinging the game and the series to Dallas’ favor.

What does Miami have now? A lot of things they do very well, and no more margin for error in putting it all together. If Wade and James can continue to be aggressive and work off of each other, Miami will be effective offensively. If Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers can keep hitting threes, the paint will continue to be open. If Chris Bosh can continue to be effective and attack off the dribble, life becomes easier for everybody. If Miami can play their brand of defense without letting their offense devolve into AAU basketball, they should have no trouble dominating the Mavericks from wire to wire. If they hadn’t blown a double-digit fourth-quarter lead in Game 2, they’d still be undefeated at home this postseason.

And if Miami fails to put everything together one more time in these finals, they’ll go home without a ring and with the knowledge that they let a golden opportunity to win a championship slip through their fingertips.

  1. purdueman - Jun 10, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    Fear not, Heat fans. Le Bum will come out later today and proclaim that Sunday’s game will be “the most important game that’s he’s ever played!”. Unfortunately talk is cheap and so are the wages at Taco Bell!

    Look for the next Heat excuse for losing being that big bald headed goofball aging ring chasing stiff of theirs who has yet to get into a game this series. Just looking at the guy would scare the bejesus out of even Hermann Munster or his twin brother Kevin Mc Hale!

  2. diablito0402 - Jun 10, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    “this is the biggest game of my life” “its now or never” words from lechoke before the game and has a pippen like triple double with 2 uncontested points in 4 th quarter. What a. Choke job whatta you gotta say once again lebron fans, whats the excuse today, or yall still waiting for next game hell play good. Admit it, he is not the player yall thinks he is, its not in his DNA to handle these pressure situations.

  3. andyhr17 - Jun 10, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    Lebron certainly is better than Jordan. I remember in Jordan’s day he would always have NBA Finals games where he would score 8 points in the game, or have a game where he scored 2 points in the 4th quarter. Yeah, Lebron and Jordan are certainly on the same level.

    • philtration - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:50 AM

      This was the biggest game of his life.
      He even sent himself a twitter comment just to make sure he knew it too.

      Must have forgot to check his messages I guess.

    • thtsrit - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:45 AM

      you cant be more wrong..

      Jordan never had a playoff game with less than 22 points.. LOOK IT UP…

      There is NO comparison with Jordan.. NONE..

      LeBum has no drive like Jordan had.. Jordan willed his team to win by doing whatever it takes…

      LeBum wishes he had more talent around him so he can win.. see the difference?!?!!?

      • andyhr17 - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        dude…calm yourself. My post was oozing with sarcasm and non-truths. Would it help to put a winky face after it to really hammer the fact home that I’m not serious? I don’t need to look up the facts you rattled off. I watched the games. I know. There’s no comparison.

    • andyhr17 - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      Too all the people who gave this thumbs down….look up sarcasm in the dictionary.

      To those who disagree with my sarcastic comment and truly believe that Lebron is better than Jordan….I feel sorry for you.

      • thtsrit - Jun 10, 2011 at 1:20 PM

        sorry man!!! my apologies!!!

  4. drmonkeyarmy - Jun 10, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    Why is it about the Miami Heat? There is another team in the series, give them their due. 80% of the article talks about what the Heat didn’t due, instead of what the Mavs did. You read articles on this blog and the implication in them is that it is fluky that the Mavs haven’t lost the series already. Maybe, just maybe the Mavericks are the better team. People seem to forget that if not for the Dirk injury, the Mavs would have had the best record in the league. I mean seriously Kurt, if you are your cronies are going to masquerade as journos then maybe you guys should start writing with a modicum of impartiality.

    • andyhr17 - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:10 AM

      It is unfortunate. If the Mavs win, people will only talk about it as the finals that the Heat choked. People will forget that the Mavs had a great team.

      • philtration - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:53 AM

        Always remember….
        The Mavs will not win this series.
        The Heat can only loose it and since they have already held a championship rally this season actually playing the games is just a waste of time.

        Remind me of why so many fans are sick of this team after one season together again.

    • savocabol1 - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:30 AM

      Wow couldnt have said it any better drmonkey. For this site more than others, it is 100% all about the Heat. The writers on this site have been sleeping with Miami since the minute the decision was over.

    • pl4tinum514 - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:49 AM

      That’s what the article was about dude… there’s another article talking about what dallas did right.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:59 AM

        It’s not just this article. It is the totality of their coverage. I’m an unbiased observer here too. I am neither a Mavs fan or a Heat detractor.

  5. davidly - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    The sports urinalists are scratching their lice-infested heads and have questions, oh-so many questions:
    – Now that the Dallas Mavericks have had 15 games handed to them on a silver platter by four different astronomically superior basketball teams — teams which spanked Dallas a combined 4 times, displaying definitively just how how inferior the Mavericks team is — will the Miami Heat fail to win another game against the luckiest and least talented team in the history of this or any other parallel universe?

    – If this Miami team again fails to fulfill logical sports prophesy, will the Larry O’Brien Trophy be renamed “the trophy for the team that didn’t lose”?

    • joseph3002 - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      Im glad you said something,I was about to.even ESPN is doing the same thing.its completely biased because Miami was expected to win it all with the allstar team they have.it seems like everyone has forgotten about that Mavs team that swept the 2 time defending world champion laker’s,or the Mavs team that has made 6 come from behind victories in the playoffs,or the 7′ german who scored dallas’ final 9 points with a 101 degree temp/torn tendon in his left hand to win the game.cause it doesn’t matter how much talent you have,you can’t teach heart,something Miami is clearly lacking.why don’t they talk about that?

      • purdueman - Jun 11, 2011 at 8:08 PM

        joseph… I couldn’t agree with you more. The really sad part is that Dallas can’t win this series; Miami though can lose it as far as the biased East Coast media are concerned.

  6. nightmangler - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    theres alot of haters on here. records speak for themeselves.dallas is not lucky at all they are in the finals because they never give up they keep going and play wih heart to the end . give credit where its due. they have beaten some dominate teams . aint that much luck in the world

  7. heathavoc - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    for those looking for an article on what Dallas did right be patient, is only 9:30 am. Or you can probably find one at http://www.dallasmavericks/please ignore the facts and tell me how good my team is.com A team shooting 66% is a team that is not being defended well period. I am a Heat fan. but i can recognize fault and problems with the team. Wade does gamble in defense at time. because he hangs around the paint to help a a timid rebounder in Bosch and even Anthony who both get boxed out by seemingly anyone at time.
    Miller is just in sync defensivly, providing “and one” opportunities to a Mav performing a wide open two hand dunk.
    Chalmers seemed to be a lucky “Chalrm” for anyone he was defending or not defending, depending on your perspective. while Terry is good off the dribble and creating his own shot, he made wide open 3’s while Chalmers slept. Switch off to Barea, and Chalmers gave him all the time he needed to shoot.
    Even James at times was caught watching a play develope instead of breaking it up.
    Yes Dallas played well, they outplayed thr Heat most of the game. But like John Barry said, ‘they have to be concerned, shooting 66% and only up by 3 at half time, they cant play much better than this.
    Dallas gave a good one two punch, playing their best game in my eyes. But they did so against a sleeping defense of Miami…

    • almzor - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:19 AM

      Krolik’s been hanging on LeBron since Cleveland, it shouldn’t be all that big of a surprise that he got the Miami spin article. Rob put up the Dallas spun one up (also fittingly, since he runs a Mavs blog.)

  8. delius1967 - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    “If Miami had played anything resembling the brand of defense they’ve made a priority since Day 1 of training camp and have played throughout these playoffs, they’d be going back to Miami with a 3-2 lead.”

    Sure … and if Dallas had played the level of offense that they have since Day 1 of training camp, the series would already be over. What’s your point?

    It is simply incredible to me how people continue to position this series as what the Heat do or don’t do.

  9. passerby23 - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    The thing that has to worry the Heat is that Dallas has figured out how to attack the paint more with Barea and Terry especially, which has opened up their offense. Watching this series, I can’t help but think how much better Dallas would be with Caron Butler, a big defensive stopper who is not an offensive liability like DeShaun Stevenson. If they re-sign Barea and Chandler, this is a dangerous team next year too.

  10. lucky5934 - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    I am not going to celebrate yet, but it doesn’t look good for the Heat. Yes I know they are at home, but the Mavs are in their heads now. Only team to beat them at home in the playoffs. Only team to notch consecutive wins against them in the playoffs. Now Wade has a bruised hip, and Lebron fades away in the 4th quarter. In fact, he has put so much pressure on himself now that I am not sure if he can relax for the last two games. Sure the Heat could have won the series by now and been in a parade by the end of the week (Which also goes for the Mavs). Yes they can pull a 2010 Lakers and win the final 2 games at home to win the series 4-3. But I just don’t see it. The Heat are not learning from their mistakes. They continue to blow late game leads by settling for jumpshots instead of driving the lane and earning the foul.

  11. SmackSaw - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    The Mavs have a great team. I know. I’m a Lakers fan.

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