In Game 4 the Dallas Mavericks' hardiness was on display once again as their unwillingness to quit enabled them to mount a nine-point hole with a furious 21-9 run over the final 10:12 to knot the series at two games apiece. Their 2-3 zone stymied the Miami Heat offense, holding it to an anemic 5-of-15 shooting and six turnovers.
History dictates that teams that triumph in Game 5 of a series deadlocked at two go on to win 77 percent of the series. So just who will take this pivotal series-altering contest?
Dallas Keys to the Game
1. Floor Spacing
Dallas may have only shot 39.7 percent from the field and made 4-of-19 triple attempts in Game 4, but in the fourth quarter it got numerous open looks with its infallible ball movement and spacing, stretching out Miami's smothering defense. The Mavs will need to duplicate that tonight in order for Dirk to have room to operate and get quality jumpers.
In Game 4 Dallas snatched 12 offensive boards, and more importantly held Miami to six the remainder of the game after allowing nine in the first quarter. Tyson Chandler was the MVP of Game 4 with his inexhaustible vivacity. He balled like a monstrous savage, scoring 13 points and yanking 16 boards, including nine offensive rebounds. The Mavs will need a similar effort tonight from their defensive anchor.
3. Bench Mob
After posting substandard numbers the Dallas bench showed its combustibility. The Mavs reserves scored 28 points in Game 4, led by Jason Terry backing up his audacious slick talk with 17 points and DeShawn Stevenson busting three large trifectas after being removed from the lineup in favor of Jose Barea. Dallas bench must supply scoring punch in Game 5.
4. Protect the Rock
Dallas only committed 11 turnovers in Game 4. That's critical because when the Mavs limit turnovers they abrogate Miami's ability to get quick run-outs resulting in instantaneous bangs for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. That lets the Dallas defense get set and use hard traps on LeBron and Wade in the half court, disrupting Miami’s rhythm. It's imperative Dallas values possessions and gets back in transition.
5. Support the Germinator
Dallas' supplementary pieces came up huge in Game 4 as four players scored in double figures. Shawn Marion has been re-enlivened hoopin' like the “Matrix” again, averaging 15.5 PPG on 52 percent from the floor. Marion has done a great job driving hard on 'Bron’s hard closeouts, making runners and elusively scoring in the post on other Heat defenders.
Marion, Terry, Chandler and Barea enabled Dirk Nowitzki to have more room to operate and score, with Marion blazing Miami for 10 third-quarter points after missing 10 of his previous 11 shots. A devitalized Nowitzki showed humongous determination down the stretch hindered by a fever and sinus infection. If the Mavs can effectively score they’ll reduce the attention on Dirk allowing him to face more single coverage.
Miami Keys to the Game
1. Free Throws
The Heat made a living bludgeoning opponents at the charity stripe. Miami outshot Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago 446-303 on free throws; however, in each of the Heat’s two losses they’ve attempted fewer free throws than the Mavs. Free-throw attempts are a barometer of aggression for Miami. They need to take 25-plus free throws and score over 40 points in the paint, not becoming overly perimeter-oriented. In Game 4 Miami went an abysmal 2-of-14 on threes.
2. Ball and Man Movement
Each of Miami’s two defeats can be attributed to a lack of ball and man movement. In Games 2 and 4 the Heat’s half-court offense became horribly disjointed and languid due to predictable high pick-and-rolls leading to blitz traps by Dallas and ultimately difficult shots under duress.
LeBron and Wade can’t pound the pill for lengthy periods of time and whip the ball around in order to maintain Miami’s continuity and fluidity. Particularly to expose the permeable parts of Dallas' 2-3 zone. This also allows Bosh, who had a good 24-point Game 4 to get more open pick-and-pop jumpers, creating more driving alleys. That will eliminate Miami’s languorous offense.
In Miami’s two wins Dallas has averaged 16 giveaways, leading to 20-plus points per contest. The Heat must use their swift, tigerish defense to induce turnovers, challenge Dallas shooters, compress Dirk and get out in transition.
4. LeBron and Wade
Wade continued his phenomenal play in Game 4 with 32 points. The 2006 NBA Finals MVP has exhibited once again why he’s the closest thing to a young Jordan with his ability to constantly get into the paint finishing with mesmerizingly acrobatic shots.
In Game 4 'Bron scored only eight points. James will definitely look to redeem himself from that anomalous outing. The Chosen One must be a methodical, malicious merchant. He should delegate gift baskets, but James must also fervently soufflé Kidd, Marion and Stevenson with definitive, quick moves on isolations and pick-and-rolls. 'Bron has also only attempted 3.5 free throws a night in the Finals, compared to nine trips to the line the first three rounds.
It will be another nail-biter, but in the end the Heat will narrowly pull out another scintillating barn-burner, 91-89, led by a huge game by LeBron.