NBA Finals 2011: Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks Game 5 Report Card
Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the game that LeBron James called the biggest of his life, has just concluded. As has occurred throughout his career, especially in the playoffs, James was virtually a non-factor in the last quarter. Despite a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat 112-103 to take a three games to two lead and send the series back to South Beach.
Overall, it was a phenomenal game. Both teams played their best down to the wire, and the better team came out on top in the end. In fact, this just might have been the best game of the entire 2011 NBA playoffs.
As much as I've hated on Miami in the past, I've got to hand it to them. They were astounding tonight, but their old ways just kept them from going home with a game up on Dallas. That being said, let's grade both teams on all facets of tonight's game.
On paper, the defensive battle goes to the Miami Heat as they out-rebounded Dallas 36-26. At times, the Mavericks were forced to take bad shots and committed some sloppy turnovers as Miami once again made a push in the fourth quarter. Yet, let's look at the defense in a grander scale.
While Dallas might have lost the rebounding game, they still only had 11 turnovers compared to Miami's 16. Plus, 38-year-old veteran Jason Kidd had three steals as he looked more like a 28-year-old on defense. Including those of Kidd, Dallas had eight steals on the game.
Yet, what ultimately gives Dallas the edge on defense is the performance of Tyson Chandler. He had 13 points and seven rebounds, but he also had a clutch block on Chris Bosh in the final minutes. This play was easily the game-defining moment as the Mavericks used it to widen the gap between them and Miami even more.
Thus, while Miami might have controlled the inside game, Dallas ran the table in the half-court game, and it was that which led them to a Game 5 victory.
Dallas Grade: A-
Miami Grade: A-/B+
Three-Point Shooting and Shot Selection
In terms of offense, this game was a dog fight until the very end. Dallas shot 56.5 percent from the field (68.4 percent from three-point range) while Miami shot 52.9 percent (40 from long range). On paper, this is a close matchup to call.
Still, I have to give the better grade to Dallas, primarily because of coach Rick Carlisle's decision to switch up the starting lineup. Instead of putting DeShawn Stevenson at shooting guard, Carlisle started struggling reserve Jose Juan Barea and the results speak for themselves. Barea finished with five assists and 17 points on 6-11 shooting (4-5 from three-point range). And, of course, let's not forget about Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 29 points as he once again took it upon himself to make clutch shots with a hand in his face.
While Miami also looked great on offense, they just weren't aggressive enough when they needed to be. In the fourth quarter, the Big Three once again struggled with driving to the basket and drawing fouls and instead opted to go with long range and perimeter shooting. On top of that, they once again struggled with key free throws late in the game. The team put in a fine effort on offense, but it just wasn't enough as they were on the losing end of the scoreboard at the final buzzer.
Dallas Grade: A
Miami Grade: B+
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Basketball is a team game and if a team wants to win a championship, they must have talent that stretches beyond the starting five. Thus, effective bench players are a necessity on any team good or bad.
Both Dallas and Miami's benches were amazing in Game 5. Miami finished the game with 40 bench points as guard Mario Chalmers shot 4-6 from three-point range and finished with 15 points. Mike Miller was his usual electrifying self from long range and finished with nine points and even rarely used veteran Juwan Howard had six points.
Dallas finished with 32 bench points, but their reserves won the bench battle simply because they made more clutch shots down the stretch. In a sense, former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry came off the pine and put the team on his back as he finished with 21 points (3-5 from long range) and six assists.
While Miami's bench may have done better on paper, the reserve players were simply not utilized enough in crunch time as the Big Three once again tried to shoulder most of the load and once again failed.
Dallas Grade: A-
Miami Grade: B
I know I'm going to get a lot of hate for this, but Erik Spoelstra isn't that good of a coach. Yes, his team is competing in the NBA Finals, but look at who he has playing for him. Anybody could coach this team into the Finals.
On top of that, as they have throughout this series, Spoelstra's squad is having problems finishing games. They'll build up a big lead in the fourth quarter, but then Dallas will erase it in just a couple of minutes.
It is because of this that Rick Carlisle is a great coach. Against Miami, his team has not lost confidence once. Even if the Mavericks are down by double digits, Carlisle finds a way to put five guys on the hardwood who can close the gap and even win the game down the stretch.
In a sense, Rick Carlisle is the epitome of a great playoff coach. He has built a squad around one superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, and lets the others play off of him. Since Dallas is currently up 3-2, it's hard to criticize this system.
Spoelstra has done a good job with the Big Three but until they do a better job in the fourth quarter, this battle goes to Carlisle.
Dallas Grade: A+
Miami Grade: C
As I said before, Game 5 just might have been the best game of the 2011 NBA playoffs thus far. Both teams played phenomenally and despite the outcome, Miami deserves at least a pat on the back for their effort. Still, it cannot be denied that at this point, it looks like Dirk Nowitzki and company are the favorites to take that championship trophy home.
Still, Miami has a shot at forcing Game 7, especially on their home court. As much as I hate on that team, there's no denying that they're a good squad.
However, in this series, Miami has just looked lost in the fourth quarter. In order to force Game 7 and ultimately win that trophy, the team simply must be more aggressive on offense throughout the game. Putting up impressive shots is all well and good, but the only way to win the Finals is to use the fourth quarter to drive to the basket and draw fouls, essentially beat Dallas at their own game.
The Miami Heat certainly have the talent to play the game that way. It's just a matter of them actually doing it and relying less on forcing turnovers. Otherwise, LeBron will once again be labeled as a player who can't come through in the playoffs.
Dallas Grade for the Game: A-
Miami Grade for the Game: B