Dallas Mavericks

Instant Playoffs Recap: Surprising Notes and Observations from NBA Finals Game 1

Josh FuCorrespondent IJune 1, 2011

Instant Playoffs Recap: Surprising Notes and Observations from NBA Finals Game 1

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    MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 20:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat passes over Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks  during a game at American Airlines Arena on December 20, 2010 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Game 1 of what promises to be an epic showdown between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat is in the books. In a hard fought battle between two great teams, the Miami Heat came out victorious. No one can say how the rest of the series will play out, but the the Big 3 have struck the first blow for the Heat. It will be interesting to see if Dallas can bounce back in Game 2.

    The following is a short list of observations based on the first game, and how these various factors may impact the remaining games in the series.

Grind-It-Out, Defensive Tone Set Early

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks to pass the ball to LeBron James as CHris Bosh #1 (R) sets a screen against Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks as Shawn Marion (2nd L) #0 of the Mavericks defends James in Game One of the 2011
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Among the best offensive teams in the regular season, both teams really struggled to get it going against tough defenses. At the half, Dallas had 44 points on 38 percent shooting and Miami had 43 points on 37 percent.

    Both teams came out with a strong defensive mindset to take the other team's star players out of the equation, and did reasonably well in this regard. Not much changed in the second half as the Mavs finished the game at 37 percent and the Heat at 39 percent, respectively. Look for the low-scoring theme to continue as the series progresses.

Lebron James Can be a Lethal Three-Point Shooter When It Counts

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    He came out hot from three and never really cooled down, knocking down his first three attempts from deep. The fourth make was a crazy, off balance backbreaker to close out the third quarter at the buzzer and giving the Heat a huge momentum boost going into the fourth.

    For good measure, James also capped off a brilliant game with two thunderous dunks at critical junctures in the fourth quarter. He is quickly building a reputation as one of the best late-game closers in the league in these playoffs. Once again, the King demonstrated that he can do, with regularity, things that other players can only dream of doing on the basketball court.

The Heat Have Figured Out Dirk Nowitzki

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  LeBron James #6 (L) and Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat look on as they Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks stands between them as they await a free throw attempt in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Heat are the first team to effectively contain Dirk Nowitzki, forcing him to pass. Other than Dirk getting to the free-throw line and getting a few easy shots at the rim, the Heat were able to make his life difficult in the first half by denying him the ball and double-teaming at every chance. They forced him to pick up his dribble and take heavily contested fadeaway jumpers.

    He really woke up at the end of the first half with back-to-back buckets, but the Heat defenders came out with renewed vigor in the second half and shut him down. Although Dirk eventually finished with 27 points, the Heat guarded him as well as they could have and forced him into an inefficient 7-18 showing.

Mario Chalmers Could Play a Critical Role for Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  Mario Chalmers #15 of the Miami Heat attempts a shot against the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Chalmers hit three critical three pointers in the first half. He has been a non-factor at times this postseason for the Heat, but now is as good a time as any for him to wake up and start knocking down shots. He has a history of coming up big in clutch situations, dating back to when he was hitting big shots for the Kansas Jayhawks. Chalmers also managed to hit two clutch free throws with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.

The Mavs' Guards Need to Step Up

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 25:  Jason Kidd #2, Jose Juan Barea #11, Shawn Marion #0 and Jason Terry #31 and the Dallas Mavericks celebrate their 100-96 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playo
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Kidd, Terry and Barea can spread the floor. Terry was especially hot in the first half, hitting three long range bombs, ending up with 12 points. However, Kidd will also be called upon to hit open threes. Even though he is the man to start the ball rotation, he will also often end up with the open shot after the Mavs swing the ball around. If the Heat don't start guarding the Mavs' three-point shooters, I might start hearing Mark Jackson's "hand down, man down" in my sleep.

    Terry was basically invisible in the second half. Barea and Stojakovic really failed to show up for the Mavs at all in Game 1, shooting a combined 1-11 for the game. The Mavs' strength is in their depth, and if the bench is going to be a non-factor like it was today, this will be a short series for Dallas.

The Heat Have Become Great 4th Quarter Closers

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  LeBron James #6 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat react in the fourth quarter before the Heat defeat the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE T
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    While this was previously an issue for the Heat during the regular season, a combination of suffocating defense and the maturation of the Heat stars has proven to be a great formula for them in late situations. No one exemplified this more than Dwyane Wade, who bounced back from a quiet 3-10 showing in the first half to finish with a brilliant 22 points and 10 rebounds. Any doubts about whether Flash will be fully healthy for the series were put to rest tonight.

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