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Game Night: Mavs Begin Stretch Run Against Miami

by Damian Jackson on February 18, 2014 in Mavs 09 comments

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Dallas (32-22) aims to continue its recent ride of success when they host the Miami Heat (37-14) Tuesday night. The Mavericks are winners of six out of the last seven, the most recent a 81-73 road victory against the Indiana Pacers.

The Game at Hand:

You won’t find many outside the Mavericks and maybe Heat fan bases that feel the still smoldering rivalry between the two squads. There aren’t any worthy extra curricular story lines here, but rather just two playoff teams that know this game holds great significance.

The Mavericks return home for this single game before heading on the road for another three-game trip. Miami continues its six-game roadie in Dallas tonight before finishing it up in Oklahoma City on Thursday. The Heat have won three of four on the current trip and eight of ten overall.

Miami defeated Dallas 110-104 in South Beach on November 15. LeBron James scored a game-high 39 points and Dwyane Wade added 17 points with eight assists and eight steals. Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points in the loss, Monta Ellis added 20 points and Vince Carter dropped 21 off the bench.

Keys to the Game:

 

1. Force Miami into Tough Shots: The Mavs’ defensive focus was on point in Indiana six days ago. Can they replicate such a performance? Miami shoots a league-best 50.8 percent from the field. The Mavs chances greatly decrease if they allow the Heat to meet its average. Both teams have identical opponent field goal percentages (.461).

2. Rebound and Prevent Second Chances: This won’t be the easiest task for the Mavericks, but could be a deciding factor tonight. Dallas hauls in only 40.1 rebounds each game, good for third to last in the NBA. On this night they face the worst rebounding team in Miami who average a league-low 36.7 per game. The Mavs need to defensive rebound the hell out of the ball tonight. Box out!

Matchup of the Night:

Dirk Nowitzki vs. LeBron James

How can you go with anyone else? The best player in the NBA today against the greatest international player in league history. Both players with double digit All-Star appearances. Of course, LeBron played extensively on Sunday night, producing 22 points seven rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. Dirk on the other hand played a game low eight minutes.

In short, All-Star games fit the LeBron mold more so than that of Dirk. Fans get hype off alley-oops slams and highlight reel dribble moves which aren’t the Big German’s style. Dirk may be a little jealous of some Mavs teammates who had more days off to relax than he did, but all in all excited to be back with his guys ready for a strong playoff push.

Looking forward to a battle between two of the games greatest stars. This is an important game to Dirk and LeBron. Most teams have an average of 30 game left and they all matter to those fighting for playoff positioning.

Quotes:

“We played well (in Indiana) and it was great, but it’s over and we have to look forward now to Miami, who has played extremely well. They’ve won back-to-back games in Phoenix and Golden State, which is very hard to do. And they’re coming off the break, too, so it’s an interesting matchup.”

– Mavs Rick Carlisle

 

“Look, his game is timeless. It really is. He’s a great player.”

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra on Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki

 

“I’ve probably taken it a dozen times this year and shooting over 60 percent. I call it The Dirk.”

– LeBron on his 1-legged fadeaway shot

 

When and Where:

The game will tip off at 7:30 CST and will air on Fox Sports Southwest

Go Mavs!

__________________

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Mark Humphrey; Quotes provided by Dwain Price & Inside Report with Earl K. Sneed

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Mavs Game Night: Dallas vs Miami

by Greg Higgins on November 15, 2013 in Mavs 09 comments

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Anytime the Dallas Mavericks (5-3) travel to South Beach to play the Miami Heat (5-3), you can’t help but think about June 2011 when Dirk and company hoisted the championship trophy.

The Game at Hand

The two-time defending Heat are coming off a game in which they absolutely destroyed the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat are led by LeBron James with 25.5 points per game and 7.3 assists.Heat Champions Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have the ability to dominate a game at any point in time as well for Miami.

Both teams average 106.8 points per game so expect this to be a high-scoring affair. Since the Mavericks won the Finals in 2011, the Heat have won all four matchups with Dallas by an average of 14.3 points and scoring an average of 110.0 points per game.

 

 

 

Three Keys of the Night

1)      Contain everyone else: You know LeBron is going to get his points. He has 503 consecutive games with double-digit scoring. He has averaged 28 points per game against Dallas in the last four contests so you know he’s going to get his. The Mavs have to limit the play from everyone else. Stop the role players from coming in and scoring 10 points and you put yourself in a position to win the game.

2)      Win the rebounding battle: Dallas is averaging 43.1 rebounds per game to the Heat’s 34. This is an area Dallas has tried to improve on in the past and they need to dominate the glass against a very good offensive team like the Heat. The last thing you want to do is give them second and third chances on the offensive glass.

3)      Rick Carlisle must be the better coach: Last year Erik Spoelstra outcoached Gregg Popovich in the NBA Finals and they won a championship because of it. During the offseason, the GM’s around the league voted Carlisle the second best coach at making in-game adjustments behind Popovich. Tonight, Carlisle has to be the better coach and will need to make adjustments to counteract the offense of the Heat.

Matchup of the Night

Dallas’ Role Players vs. Miami’s Role Players. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki should probably even out the scoring of LeBron and Dwyane. The game will be won by everyone else. Which bench player can step up and help out the team when they need it?

The Mavericks bench is averaging 35.1 points per game while holding the opponents to 32.1 points. If Dallas can get good minutes and contributions from DeJuan Blair, Gal Mekel, Vince Carter and Jae Crowder, they have a very good chance at ending the losing streak to the Heat.

Quotes:

“We’re getting better each and every game. Our rotations are better. Our individual defense has been better. But just more than anything our help side and our team defense has been better, and it’s fueled our offense.” – Vince Carter

 

“They’re defending champions, so they’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of playmakers, great 3-point shooting and they’re great defensively. They’re solid in every area and they’re dynamic. You’ve got to throw a hard 48 minutes at them, and you’ve got to be real smart and tough.” – Rick Carlisle

How To Watch:

The game can be seen on FSSW at 6:30.

Injury Report:

Dallas Mavericks

  • Brandan Wright PF – Nov 13: Out
  • Wayne Ellington SG – Nov 12: Day-To-Day
  • Devin Harris PG – Nov 12: Out

Miami Heat

  • Udonis Haslem PF – Nov 14: Day-To-Day
  • Ray Allen SG – Nov 14: Day-To-Day

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Mavs Pre-Season 5 Days Away – A Look Back At Josh Howard

by Damian Jackson on October 2, 2013 in Mavs 09 comments

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You can now count the days left with one hand – five days remain until preseason action for the Dallas Mavericks and we continue the countdown with Josh Howard. We know Jason Kidd also wore the #5 in his first Mavs stint, but there’s a sense Kidd will eventually show up as the countdown winds down.

The 1996 NBA draft is likely one of the best in NBA history, but the class of 2003 isn’t far behind. A group that includes LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade will do that and the depth is evident in the fact the Dallas Mavericks selected Josh Howard 29th overall with the final pick in the first round.

Howard was the ACC Player of the Year his senior season at Wake Forest and has his #5 jersey retired by the school.

Josh played his rookie season with tons of energy and used his 23.7 minutes per game to its fullest averaging 8.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and a steal each night. He was rewarded by earning All-Rookie Second Team honors.

Howard’s production and points would improve each of his first five seasons with the Mavs. Just one of eight players from the 2003 draft to make an All-Star game, Howard would get his only selection during the 2006-2007 season in which he averaged 18.9 points and 6.8 rebounds for the 67-win Mavericks.

J-Ho would go on to average 19.9 points and 7 boards the following year in 2007-2008, but this would also be the year in which Howard made some questionable choices off the court.

 

Reports of Howard racing back in his hometown surfaced added to his well-documented radio appearance in which he admitted to smoking weed during the NBA’s offseason in the midst of the playoff series with the New Orleans Hornets. There was the tiff with then head coach Avery Johnson about partying after a playoff loss and of course the video of Howard disrespecting the National Anthem at an Allen Iverson charity event.

After one last productive season in 2008-2009 that saw Howard post 18 points and 5.1 rebounds in 52 games, Howard would start only nine more games for the Mavs before the team sent him to the Washington Wizards with James Singleton, Quinton Ross and Drew Gooden for Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.

Since the trade in 2009, Howard has played in just 76 games for the Wizards, Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves due to suffering a torn ACL twice in that span.

Howard’s best years were wearing the Mavs #5 and it will more than likely remain that way. I’ll always remember Josh being one of my favorite Mavericks in that span and cheering him on to score 30 points or more because it seemed he’d start fast and never eclipse 29.

He finally did score more than 30 points – it was Seats for Soldiers night (December 8, 2007) and he dropped 47 points on the Utah Jazz.

 

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NBA Finals: Storm Brews for MavsNation

by Tony Clayton on June 4, 2013 in Mavs 09 comments

storm

Like a dark cloud on the horizon, it’s upon us, a Spurs/Heat finals.  Not only did Mavs fans have to suffer through a depressing regular season, but now we’re forced to watch an NBA Finals matchup between the two most hated teams amongst the Mavs fan base.  But we can’t just sit idly by and watch the Finals without a rooting interest can we?  Personally, I cannot.  So who should we root for?  Why?  Are we blasphemers for choosing a particular team?  Is there a right choice?

Let me break it down for you.

I’ll be pulling for the Heat in this year’s Finals.  It hurts to type that, I promise. But as a Mavs fan, it’s a must. Here’s why……..

1) By the Heat winning the title, it will make the Mavs the only team to beat the ‘Big 3’ Miami circus in the 2011 Finals.  It will make that title run even more special than it already is.  Yes, I understand that it will be a beating to have to hear about LeBron James and the “Heatles” every five minutes in this ESPN generation. We will be the only team to take down the Heat before the new CBA dismantles them. Imagine the team that would’ve taken down the 90’s Bulls (hypothetically). Not even the Bulls were built with a checkbook like the Heat were/are. I’m selfish…I want Dallas to be the only team to take down the mighty, modern day NBA, cHeat.

2) Do we really want Spurs fans celebrating a fifth title? Not only will they be celebrating their championship over the Heat, but they’ll also gain more ammunition in any future Mavs/Spurs trash talk. Deservingly so, there will be absolutely ZERO rebuttal we can make for that. We’ll lose every bit of bragging rights we gained from 2011. Is that what you want, Mavs fans?

3) Texas Schmexas. I could care less that the Spurs are a “Texas team.”  It doesn’t make it OK to root for the Spurs because of their geography. If this logic is acceptable, then I can’t wait to see the entire Longhorn fans root for the Aggies this year.

4) Look at it this way. We’re NOT rooting for the Heat; we’re only rooting against the Spurs. Just keep telling yourself that. It will help you sleep at night. A Heat title will not put LeBron in the “Jordan” category if that’s what you’re concerned about. No matter how well they play, LeBron will always have the advantage of other superstars on his team. LeBron lost all of that “Jordan” credibility when he sold out and went to Miami.

It’s important that you all recognize something here. I dislike the Heat as much as you do. I hate that the Pacers laid an egg in Game 7 and put us in this position, I really do. I realize the evil of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and all they represent to today’s NBA. But this is about basketball, not personalities. The way I see it, win or lose, LeBron will always be talked about and blown up in the media. He’ll always be relevant. If Miami wins then he’ll be the best “ever”, if they lose the talking point will be what LeBron didn’t do.  It’s a lose-lose.

So for the sake of basketball related points, and in the BEST interest of the Mavs; I’ve made my rooting interest decision.  I dislike both teams with a passion.  But my disdain for the Heat is .00000001% less than my disdain for the Spurs.  So by default, go NOT THE SPURS!

MFFL

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Mavericks Blueprint Changing?

by Ryan Wilson on August 24, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

The long-range plan is to keep the powder dry and wait out a superstar. It’s why when Deron Williams chose Brooklyn over Dallas, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson didn’t get in a bidding war for a player such as Goran Dragic but rather targeted players either on the last year of their current deals or who were open to a one-year contract.

Check out the current roster. Of the five players acquired this summer — excluding the three rookies that give Dallas eight new faces on the 15-man roster — all are on one-year deals. O.J. Mayo‘s reduced-rate contract is technically for two years, but the second year is a player option that he will almost certainly exercise.

One-year deals allow the Mavs to easily create cap space for next summer to chase marquee free agents. But with the 2013 “big fish” free agency class threatening to be a dud with Dwight HowardAndrew Bynum and Chris Paul all with good reason to stay put, could the Mavs’ philosophy be moving away from the rent-a-player approach of these last two offseasons?

After all, how do you sell player jerseys of guys that won’t be around but eight or nine months?

“I’m not a big believer in rent-a-players, not in your top seven or eight guys anyways,” Cuban said during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben & Skin Show. “I want these guys to stay and develop because they can be a great, young nucleus. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know in basketball, particularly when you have an infrastructure that hopefully can continue to develop these guys. That’s the goal and we still have flexibility then to do sign-and-trades, potentially sign a free agent; just see where it takes us.”

Cuban’s great, young nucleus comment is in reference to 24-year-old guards Darren Collison, penciled-in to start at point guard, and Mayo, who will start at shooting guard. Collison will be a restricted free agent next summer and can entertain offers from other teams with the Mavs being able to match. Mayo, with a strong year, could get the payday he hoped for this summer. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand will be seeking to play their way to multiyear deals as well, either with Dallas or somewhere else.

The Mavs might be the team to give it to one or all of them, but likely only after they are convinced that none of the superstar free agents will be available to any team but their current one, which can offer one more year and millions more than other teams. And they’ll also keep an eye on the bottom line for the summer of 2014, when the Mavs will have no players under contract and could chase multiple potential free agents such as LeBron JamesDwyane WadeKobe BryantChris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.

“The blueprint is to say, like a Jet (Jason Terry) scenario, or even Josh Howard’s first year, Marquis’ (Daniels) first year, where it’s not apples to apples, it’s like wow; we want these guys to develop into a D.C. and O.J. tandem that can be a foundation for years to come and we keep them together and we improve and we grow with them and have the ability to continue to add players,” Cuban said. “So the optimum scenario is everybody plays great.”

And then perhaps instead of gutting the club to chase a Dwight Howard, the team-building focus turns to re-signing their own and chasing, say, a Josh Smith and cohesion.

Jeff Caplan

ESPNDallas.com

Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Rangers and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Heat Celebrate In Victory Parade

by Ryan Wilson on June 26, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

The NBA championship trophy was center stage, bathed in white light and sitting on a pedestal. And each Miami Heat player offered it a different greeting.

Mike Miller bowed. Udonis Haslem kissed it three times. Chris Bosh hugged it, and LeBron James strolled past before waving at the crowd.

Dwyane Wade did something different. In a nod to his preferred postgame fashion style throughout the playoffs, he emerged with a pair of faux eyeglasses and slipped the frames onto the neck of the trophy. Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team managing general partner Micky Arison all donned the black spectacles as well at various points during the party.

The glasses were fake. The sentiments were all real.

And with that, two years after Wade, James and Bosh opened their time together with a celebration, they got the party they really wanted on Monday. An estimated 400,000 people filled the streets of Miami for the Heat championship parade, and then 15,000 more got into the arena afterward for a long, loud reception for the NBA’s new kings.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. … This was my dream, right here, to be able to hoist that Larry O’Brien Trophy up, hug it, grab it, never want to let it go,” James said.

During the parade, players and coaches were on double-decker buses with friends and family, most of them taking photos and video of the crowd. Other Heat staff were on flatbed trucks, as confetti fell and horns blared every step of the way. Wade cradled the championship trophy in his arms for much of the ride.

“I appreciate all our fans for sticking with us,” said the now two-time NBA champion Wade, adding, “Best fans in the world.”

And then the party moved inside, with a similar setup to the event that welcomed James and Bosh to Miami to play alongside Wade in July 2010. Music blared for nearly an hour as fans danced for joy, before the arena went dark briefly — and the trophy was sneaked onto the stage.

For nearly 90 minutes afterward, the Heat relived so many aspects of the season, from Haslem’s flagrant foul against Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough in the Eastern Conference semifinals (“the greatest flagrant foul in team history,” Heat broadcaster Eric Reid told the crowd) to countless highlights from the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, the Heat left few stones unturned.

Juwan Howard – the first member of Michigan’s Fab Five to win an NBA title — did the Cabbage Patch dance, as teammates broke into absolute hysterics, waving their arms in time with him. Mario Chalmers was asked about why Wade and James yell at him so much on the court, as a montage of some of their more fiery moments played on the giant video screens. And the Miami natives, Haslem and James Jones, got perhaps the loudest ovations of anyone outside of the finals MVP.

“Feels great, man,” said Haslem, who along with Wade is the lone holdover from Miami’s 2006 championship club. “Changing my name from Mr. Miami to Mr. Two-Time. I ain’t Mr. Miami no more. I’m Mr. Two-Time. … It never gets old. But this one is more gratifying because of the way last season ended.”

Spoelstra had a similar sentiment, talking to the crowd about the team’s commitment, especially after Miami lost last season’s finals to Dallas.

“People from the outside, they criticized this group, this team,” Spoelstra said. “They counted this team out. But they never estimated how close this group was as a family. Every single one of these players had to sacrifice something, either money, opportunity, minutes to be a part of this dream. And it was all for a moment like this.”

After the celebrating was done, there was business. Wade reiterated that he would seek medical advice before committing to play with the Olympic team. Bosh — who missed nine playoff games with a strained lower abdominal muscle — said he was “all in, for now” on being part of the London Games. And Miller, who was hobbled by back and foot issues, said on Twitter he planned to meet with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green on Tuesday, presumably to get checked out and discuss options.

Miami won the title by defeating Oklahoma City in five games in the NBA Finals. It was the second title for the Heat and the first for James, who nodded and pointed to fans for much of the parade. James came to Miami after seven years in Cleveland, and after he and the Heat fell in the finals a year ago, he’s finally a champion.

“It’s good being around other people who support LeBron,” said Doug Mead of Toledo, Ohio, who came to the parade with his family. “They really don’t like him in Ohio. They celebrate when he loses.”

Everyone was celebrating in Miami on Monday. Arison snapped and tweeted several photos during the parade. Riley shouted “Thank you” to fans over and over, as his wife, Chris, stood to his left and led “Let’s go Heat” chants.

Some fans began lining up for spots along the parade route Sunday night.

“I’ve been a fan since `89. For me personally I feel like I’m part of the Heat family,” said Dexter Pace of West Palm Beach, Fla. “I’ve been through the goods, the bads, the losses, the trades, and now it’s like someone in my family has accomplished something. …. It’s going to mean a lot for the city of Miami, winning the championship.”

As the event ended, Bosh thanked both the fans inside the arena and those outside, saying that without them, nothing would be possible for the Heat.

“It feels right,” Bosh said. “This is how it’s supposed to be … and I would like to do it all the time.”

Associated Press Writer Jennifer Kay contributed.

Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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Credit Mavericks For Lebron's Finals Improvement

by Ryan Wilson on June 22, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

 

Can the Mavericks get a little credit for LeBron James’ failures in last season’s Finals now?

Maybe, just maybe, the Mavs had more to do with James’ pedestrian performances than the pressure of the moment.

In hindsight, after LeBron followed up with a historic playoff run to his first championship, that certainly appears to be the case. And it’s foolish to think King James suddenly developed the mythical clutch gene or the mental toughness required of a playoff hero over the last year.

Never mind all the times he carried the Cavaliers to playoff wins. How about him dominating crunch time in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls? You think he suddenly got scared of the final five minutes of games in the Finals?

“That’s a complete insult to us,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said during his Friday morning appearance on ESPN’s First Take.

Or do you think the Mavs’ coaching staff came up with a phenomenal plan and the Dallas players executed it excellently?

“It’s amazing how nobody wants to give the Mavs credit for playing some amazing defense last year!!!” Shawn Marion tweeted after listening to some of the talk before last night’s Finals clincher. “We earn that ring!!!”

Reached Friday, Marion said he didn’t need to elaborate on the subject, adding only that his championship ring is really heavy.

Marion, perhaps the most underappreciated defender in the league, earned his ring in large part by giving LeBron precious little room to work. Same goes for DeShawn Stevenson, the defender LeBron saw most often after Marion.

As well as Marion and Stevenson played, they didn’t stop LeBron one-on-one. They thrived with the support of their on-a-string teammates with Tyson Chandler serving as the backbone in a complicated concept designed by Rick Carlisle, Dwane Casey, Monte Mathis and the rest of the Dallas coaching staff.

“Are we in a zone? What type of zone are we in? How are we matching up? What kind of rotations are we in?” Cuban said, describing the thought process James had to go through every time he touched the ball. “Making him think made them pass the ball around the perimeter, which gave us a chance to adjust.

“Now they’re smarter, they’re a better team. They deserved to win this year. But that’s the way we played it. So it wasn’t just LeBron. LeBron actually played it right more often than not. He made the right pass to the right guy, who didn’t make the right play. And that’s exactly what we wanted. We wanted to get the ball out of their hands and into the hands of somebody else.”

If you insist on just chalking James’ ’11 Finals failures up to him choking, feel free to continue ignoring the facts. Just don’t forget to call the Dallas team that defended him so well champions.

Tim MacMahon

ESPNDallas.com

  • Joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009
  • Covers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks
  • Appears regularly on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM

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Heat Hold Off Thunder

by Ryan Wilson on June 15, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

LeBron James has seen his share of great starts turn into faulty finishes.

So with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh providing the help he needed, he wasn’t letting another one get away Thursday night.

James scored 32 points, got a disputed big stop on Kevin Durant and the Miami Heat held off a furious fourth-quarter rally behind their three All-Stars to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96, tying the NBA Finals at one game apiece.

“We had played too well in the first 36 minutes to try to let this one slip away from us,” James said. “We just wanted to make one more, two more plays than they made and come out with a victory and we were able to do that.”

Wade rebounded from a poor opener to add 24 points and Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who snapped a four-game Finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year.

“It’s been so long since we’ve had them all together,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “They played like the All-Stars that they are and that’s the effort that we need.”

Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don’t have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again — not to mention all their critics — if they win all three.

Miami blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and seemed headed toward a repeat of the second game of the Finals last year, when it blew a 15-point edge on its home floor.

Not this time.

“This is a good team and we didn’t want to be down 2-0,” Bosh said. “We know in order to accomplish our goal, we have to win on the road. We’re a good road team. We’ve done it before. They posed a great challenge because they haven’t lost up until today. But we felt that we let one get away and we felt that we could play a much, much better game in Game 2.”

Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder but missed a short jumper with 9.9 seconds left after appearing to be bumped by James. The basket would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way.

Oklahoma City’s explosive point guard Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but shot 10-of-26 from the field.

James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn’t come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during their worst first half of the season.

“That was the game. We can’t start off down 18-2,” Durant said. “We can’t go down that much, especially at home. We’ve got to correct it.”

It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1.

James had what was his career high, 30 points, in the opener, but afterward said Wade needed to be Wade — All-Star, Olympic gold medalist and finals MVP.

In Game 1, Wade was 7-of-19. He wasn’t sharp in the last round and continues to hear reports that something is physically wrong with him. He was all but asked Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he’s not far from the top of the game.

Wade bounced back in a big way, not quite at the level he was as the 2006 Finals MVP, but certainly good enough with the help around him now for the Heat to win another one.

“Just know that I’m always going to keep coming back until I don’t play this game no more,” Wade said. “I know my abilities, I know what I’m capable of and it was good.”

He spun into the lane and found Bosh for a dunk that seemed to have the Heat safe at 98-91 inside the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Durant cut it to 98-96 with 37 seconds left. After James missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball into Durant, who appeared to be knocked off balance by James as he missed the baseline shot attempt.

Durant said only that he missed the shot, saying he would have to watch the tape to see if he was fouled.

James then sank the insurance free throws — finishing a 12-for-12 night at the line — as fans booed loudly over the no-call.

Bosh started after coming off the bench in every game since returning late last round from his nine-game absence with a strained lower abdominal muscle. The Big Three joined Battier and Mario Chalmers in the lineup, the first time Miami had gone with that first five all season.

It sent the Heat on their way to a terrific start, and Battier matched his surprising 17-point performance in Game 1 by going 5-of-7 from 3-point range, providing all the help the superstar trio needed.

James had his fifth straight 30-point game, breaking Wade’s franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds. He defended Durant early in Game 1 and helped put the league’s scoring champion in early foul trouble, just one of the problems the Thunder had early.

Another loud, blue and white crowd tried to inspire them to rally, but the team could just simply never get close enough to until the final minutes.

For most of the first three quarters, the home team would get the deficit to around 10, and James would get himself into the post or drive powerfully into the lane to score or set up a teammate.

Durant nailed a 3-pointer and drove into the lane to throw down a dunk over Battier that cut it to 82-74 with 8:22 remaining. His 3-pointer from the wing trimmed it to 90-86, and the Thunder got it all the way to 94-91 when Westbrook dunked Durant’s miss with 1:48 to go.

James answered by banking in a jumper for his first basket of the final period, as the Big Three combined for all but one of Miami’s seven field goals in the fourth quarter.

The Thunder missed 11 of their first 12 shots, and when James capped a run of 13 straight Miami points with a basket, it was 18-2 with 4:51 remaining in the period.

Coach Scott Brooks had talked to his team about its poor starts — this was three straight games with a double-digit deficit — and told the Thunder during a first-quarter timeout that the Heat were playing harder than they were. The Heat kept it up, pushing it to 25-8 on Wade’s jumper with 2:39 left.

“We kept missing good shots,” forward Serge Ibaka said. “We can do better.”

 

Game notes

The Heat used their 25th different lineup in their 86 games this season, including seventh of the postseason. The most frequently used lineup in the regular season, with James, Wade, Bosh, Chalmers and center Joel Anthony, has not opened a game in the postseason after going 27-10 during the regular season. … Reserve James Jones checked in for the Heat in the first quarter after missing Game 1 with a migraine. … Former Oklahoma star running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was at the game. … A powerful storm knocked out cable in many South Florida homes, keeping Heat fans from seeing the entire game.

 

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Heat Face Hard Truths

by Ryan Wilson on June 13, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

There are a few truths the Miami Heat will have to come to terms with in these Finals and perhaps it was best to confront them right away.

They are playing a team that is deeper than them, both in terms of energy and bodies. They are facing an offensive force they are not accustomed to seeing in the Eastern Conference. And so far as Dwyane Wade, well, it’s not 2006.

The Heat were the underdogs in the Finals for a reason, and it was evident in the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s 105-94 win. It’s not to say the Heat can’t figure out ways to overcome these issues, but this first outing certainly displayed the Thunder’s advantages.

It is common in all Heat losses, especially in the playoffs, for observers to define a culprit and assess various amounts of criticism. Sometimes this is fair, sometimes it’s excessive and sometimes it misses the point. Finding a goat in this one is going to be challenging because the Heat are obviously facing the most complete opponent of the playoffs thus far.

The easiest target is Wade, who shot an inefficient 7-of-19 for 19 points. He did have eight assists but seemed to spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands in the second half, as the Heat’s overall offensive effectiveness ground to a halt while the Thunder zoomed past.

 

It’s been common this postseason when Wade doesn’t have superstar performances to question what might be wrong with him or his health. The reality, however, is that Wade is who he is now. He has flashes of brilliance, as he did for the three-game stretch against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but he’s simply not the same player he was a few years ago, even if he’s still held to that standard.

He’s 30 years old with a troublesome left knee — getting it drained in the Pacers series was a temporary solution and also not the first time he had to have it done this season — and he’s played like it for months. Wade averaged the fewest points since his rookie year during the regular season, and he missed 17 games with various ailments including time when he was getting what the Heat called “maintenance” on his knee. It’s not that it’s badly hurt, it’s just that he’s limited, something that is unlikely to change in the short term.

Even with all that, Tuesday was a subpar game from Wade. There was a period in the second half when the Thunder turned up the pressure with transition offense and Wade responded by falling into a funk where his top priority looked to be trying to bait defenders and officials into putting him on the foul line. That’s never a sign he’s playing his best.

But judging Wade by past years’ standards is probably going to leave you disappointed. This postseason he’s averaging 22 points per game — same as he did in the regular season — and shooting 47 percent, slightly below his mark in the regular season. And that does include that three-game stretch against the Pacers when he averaged 33 points and shot 55 percent.

“Sorry man. You know, it’s the Finals. I’ve been doing it all year and I’m going to continue to do it,” Wade said, describing his offensive game which hasn’t been as aggressive or as potent as in the past. “One night I’m going to have a big night scoring, some nights I’m going to have a big night doing other things. Just doing whatever it takes to win the ballgame, not necessarily sitting up here worrying about scoring 30 points.”

Wade is being honest and a tad defensive. The thing is, however, the Heat do need the scoring. The Thunder average 102 points per game in the postseason. So Game 1 was only a slightly above average performance, even if the numbers — 56 points in the paint, 52 percent shooting, a 24-4 edge in fast break points — suggested otherwise.

The Heat will focus on some defensive lapses that allowed the Thunder to score a whopping 48 points on shots from inside five feet of the rim, but thinking the Thunder won’t find ways to get near triple digits every night is probably flawed logic. The 105 points were the most the Heat have allowed in regulation during the playoffs.

“They keep on coming, they’re relentless,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They beat us at their game.”

The Heat got the requisite 30 points from LeBron James, though they could always use more and naturally more will be expected. Getting just 29 points combined from Wade andChris Bosh (10 points) probably will never be enough against the offense facing them in this series. The Heat recognize they’ll have to be more adept at slowing the Thunder’s fast break and that Bosh, who touched the ball only 26 times Tuesday, needs to be more involved.

In short, though, the Heat will likely need more points. They got a combined 29 points on 16 shots from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, not something you’d expect to see again. The Heat really need Wade to come alive again like he did in the Pacers series but there’s also the reality that they may have to get offense elsewhere.

“This first game, as in every series, is always just a game to see,” Wade said. “Now we make adjustments.”

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

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Thunder? Heat? Allow Us

by Ryan Wilson on June 13, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Call yourself a Mavs fan?  Then root for the Heat.

Some of your minds are blown, I know. But just bear with me…….

Here’s an example that might clear it up, assuming you know anything about baseball and you’re a Texas Rangers fan.

In 2002, The SF Giants faced off against the Anaheim Angels.  The hated Barry Bonds vs. the Rally Monkey Angels.  Remember? I’m sure at the time, some Ranger fans were rooting for the Angels.  What was the harm right?  A lesser known team of scrappy ball players was making a run in October.  Plus most of you all loved to root against Barry Bonds.  But looking back, how dirty does it make you feel for rooting for the Angels in 2002?  Now that the Rangers/Angels rivalry is heated up, I despise the fact that the Angels fan base has ammo in a sports talk battle.  The dreaded, “We have a ring, how ‘bout you?”

What’s your point, Tony?

My point is that Lebron James is playing the part of Barry Bonds in these NBA finals.  Hated and despised for their own separate reasons, but hated none the less.  The OKC Thunder are the sweet little team that peaked a little earlier than planned like the 2002 Angels.  80% of Mavs nation is pulling for the Thunder.  I’ve cleverly come up with “80%” based solely off text messages and tweets.  But there is a healthy majority of Dallas Mavericks fans that are rooting for OKC simply because of their hate for the Miami Heat.  The hate is deserved and warranted.  But it’s misplaced.

My warning to you today is that in a few years when the Mavericks/Thunder rivalry reaches the level of Mavericks/Spurs, you’ll REGRET ever pulling for the Thunder.  You’ll despise the fact that they have as many championships as our Mavericks.  You’ll hear the Thunder’s new found fans talk trash and I guarantee you’ll hear this; “OKC has only been around for 4 years and we already have as many rings as Dallas.”  (Although we all know they were the Supersonics before moving to OKC so the 4 years thing is a little skewed.  But we wouldn’t expect a fan base like OKC’s to be clever enough to take that into consideration.  Ouch! SHOTS FIRED!).  Not to mention the fact that OKC has had minimal hardships on the way to the Larry O’Brien trophy, if they happen to win it.  Look at our precious Mavs, YEARS of torture and heartache.  Do we really want to see a young, cocky, brash, streaky shooting team from Oklahoma win a title?  So easily?  Nope.

Also, another reason to root for Miami is rather simple.  By the Mavericks beating the Heat last year, it will make our title look even better.  Miami would’ve taken down the favorites, OKC.  The Mavs would be the only team to solve and conquer the 3 headed Miami beast.  Our trophy will be shinier for this.  Just trust me.

Mavs fans, think this through and root against the Thunder.  Your future self will appreciate it.

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