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12 posts from June 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Champagne soaked

Or was that Bud Light? I'm not sure, but I picked a bad night to wear a decent shirt and tie.

I know that preseason predictions are meaningless, but I did pick the Heat to win the title in our season preview section. Of course, I picked them to beat the Houston Rockets in the Finals, so what do I know.

I didn't think it would be this difficult, though. This team at times looked like it would never get its act together. But when you've got a guy like Dwyane Wade and a presence like Shaq, you're always going to have a chance. I never thought, though, that this team would clinch an NBA title with Shaq scoring just nine points.

Go crazy, Miami. This is pretty huge.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My Cuban angle

This isn't to take a shot at my man Greg Cote, but I wanted to throw out what I saw Mark Cuban do and heard him say after Game 5 ended, because he was standing right in front of me for most of it.
First, I didn't see him direct any of his rant toward commissioner David Stern.
In fact, I think he made it very clear he was yelling at someone walking behind Stern, who I believe to be Adam Silver, who is deputy commissioner. Stern looked bothered by Cuban's behavior, but he wasn't the target of his darts.

Also, the only thing I could make out that Cuban said, again, directed at Silver, was "Tell your guys to do their (expletive) job," which I assume is in reference to the officials, who failed to understand that the Mavs wanted a timeout after the second Wade free throw instead of the first.

So in case anybody cared, there you go.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Man oh man oh...

...man oh man!
That was an absolutely unforgettable experience.
But before I get into anything, I'd like to recommend you watch a lot of Sportscenter rather than read any East Coast newspapers for any recount of what happened on Sunday night. The game ended so late, with deadlines being what they were, it'll probably not make much sense at all.

That said, I do actually remember what happened in the game, and I think there's going to be plenty for the Mavericks to complain about. The first thing they should complain about, though, is their inability to finish out a game. The Mavs were perfect from the foul line through three-plus quarters, and when it matters, Dirk misses on, Dampier misses one, Josh Howard misses TWO. Jason Terry was brilliant through three-plus quarters, but when it mattered most, he missed his last five shots.
And don't tell me Howard didn't call a timeout. I was staring right at him, he called a timeout and started walking toward his bench. I will say this, though. One of the officials could've easily walked up to him and asked, 'Do you want this timeout now or after the second free throw?' and I think it would've been OK with everyone.

Mark Cuban was right in front of me as he was yelling at the NBA officials on their way down from their seats after the game. It was kind of scary to watch. I wouldn't exactly call that a professional work demeanor. He'll get fined, of course, and it won't matter to him.

Lastly, that foul called on Nowitzki for Dwyane's last two free throws was actually a foul. He had his hand on Wade's hip as he was in the air going toward the basket. By league rule, that's a foul. The argument would be the classic, "You can't call that foul there!" debate. But it's a tough discussion to win.

That was incredible. But the Heat will have to play a lot better if it wants to win either of the games in Dallas. Should be fun to watch.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Shift 2.0

(that title's from a Nissan ad)
For those who said I was writing euphoric rhetoric by saying that the Heat still had plenty of room to improve: there you go. I think I've seen enough of this team to know when they are playing poorly and when they are flat out getting beat. And in Games 2 and 3, they were playing poorly, so I figured they would be able to improve by avoiding unforced turnovers and hitting free throws and running their offense better.

Now, that's not to say the Mavericks didn't contribute to Thursday's result, because they were out of character somewhat, and I expect that to change. I think Sunday's game will be the most competitive, from start to finish, of any in the series so far.

I'm going to lay off Jack Nies a little bit, because I think Dick Bavetta had an even worse game Thursday. My goodness, he was just flat-out wrong on a handful of calls, and he made a call on Gary Payton while looking through about four players who were between him and the play. He also missed some calls for the Mavs that were happening right in front of him.

I think Dirk will bounce back for Game 5, not only because he'll make more shots, but he's going to get a lot more calls, too.

Looks like Dwyane's knee's OK, huh? That will only strengthen the idea that Dwyane fakes it a little bit when he gets hurt. I think it's ridiculous to consider that anyone would do that, but whatever.

Looks like Shaq is past the fact that he won't be scoring much in this series and in full "just win" mode. He was great in Game 4, and if the Mavs continue their defensive strategy against him, it'll only get easier for him to dissect.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


(That title sounds like something Jason Jackson would say, or has already said)

I kind of feel bad for calling the Heat a one-man team in my game story because other guys came up big in spots, but man was Wade sick Tuesday. When he hit that three to start the fourth, I saw that he had 30 points and was shocked. It didn't seem like he was having that kind of game.

Some thoughts from the game:

-Jack Nies (father of former 'Real World' cast member Eric Nies) needs to retire, immediately. Not sure how he's so highly thought of that he gets to do Finals games, because I honestly don't think he sees the game anymore. I said this several times during the regular season and earlier in the playoffs. He just reacts to things he thinks he sees. Some of the fouls he called were horrible. And the technical on Dwyane for hanging on the rim? I mean, Erick Dampier hangs on the rim longer every time he dunks (which is frighteningly about as much as Shaq these days).

-The biggest plays of that comeback may have been the free throws from Shaq to keep the Heat within three, and Udonis, who had missed his first four foul shots, hitting two easily to give the Heat the lead.

-Pat showed some smarts by inserting Jason Williams in the fourth when the Heat needed to score, and then putting Payton on the floor with him. I think Dwyane can handle guarding any Mavs small forward, so why not leave Gary and Jason out there together? In both of the Heat's fourth quarter rallies (Games 2 and 3) Jason was on the floor making plays. That's important against a team that's so good offensively like the Mavs.

-Pat might also want to cut down Antoine's minutes by five or so. I mean, he has really struggled in this series (other than some meaningless points in Game 2), and James Posey can spread the floor just as well, maybe better. Only one of those two guys hit a big three Tuesday, and it wasn't Toine.

-Udonis Haslem, eight offensive rebounds. Dallas Mavericks, seven offensive rebounds.

-I know people will say the Heat stole one and it won't happen again, but the Heat played just plain AWFUL in the first 42 minutes, committed 20 turnovers and missed 12 free throws by players not named O'Neal. So there is PLENTY of room for improvement if Miami calms down and plays basketball.

-Lastly, a list of things that won't happen again in this series: Jerry Stackhouse going 1 of 9... Erick Dampier scoring 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting... Shaq committing seven turnovers... Shaq and Udonis picking Jason Terry and Nowitzki, respectively, at the top of the circle... Jack Nies officiating.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What to think

I could come in here and say the Heat is in trouble, but that's too obvious.
I could talk about all the reasons the Mavs are in a dominant position because of the make-up of their team, but that wouldn't do much but get the Heat-fan readers either angry, depressed or make them never visit again.
I could lie to myself and everyone else and say that the Heat has nothing to worry about because the magic of American(no space)Airlines Arena will result in three wins.

But I'm not going to do any of that. I'll just offer what I think the Heat needs to do to give itself a chance. See, that way I'm not saying something obvious, or something that I don't necessarily believe, and it still gives Heat fans hope because I just used the words "a chance."

Pat Riley can't be stubborn and assume he can still use Shaq in the traditional way. It wouldn't have worked against Phoenix, it's not going to work against this team. The Mavericks have the personnel to play a defense that takes Shaq out of the game when he posts up with his back to the basket (not to compare Shaq to any of the Spurs centers, but San Antonio couldn't play its centers against the Mavs, either). So Pat needs to run more plays for Shaq on the move. Pick-and-rolls with either Dwyane or Jason Williams. If he can get the ball on the move going toward the rim, it's the best possible scenario. If that first look to Shaq doesn't work in any given possession, keep moving the ball and running the offense without feeling the necessity to force it to him. If Pat continues to insist that the Heat needs to make the right plays out of the Shaq double-teams, he's ignoring both the new NBA defense and the fact that the Mavs are just that good at playing it.
Then, when Shaq is out of the game (and I would suggest keeping his minutes in the low-to-mid 30s), run all the type of simple pick-and-rolls, isolations and post-ups of Dwyane and Antoine that worked well in the fourth quarter tonight. It looks like simple basketball, but it's basically what the Mavs do successfully, too. The Heat has the talent to run that stuff. I mean, J-Will and Toine ran a pick-and-roll so pretty in the fourth that they should take the tape of it and sell it for instructional videos.
Plus, when Shaq's out of the game, the Heat can't be afraid to run, run, run, then play frantic help defense. At home, that works. They've done it many, many times before.
Add that to the fact that, a) Dwyane Wade will be a different player at home and b) the home court is good for four or five points, and it's enough to keep some hopes up.

So there you go. That's how the Heat will have a chance of making this a series before it gets out of control. It's basically conceding that Shaq can't play his usual game against these guys, but it's also not making him a $20 million waste because you're still incorporating him.

We shall see. I'm just glad there won't be two days between games this time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bizarro Heat

I must have said to myself about 10 times "Why are they in a zone?" as I watched Game 1. I know the Mavs present problems, but they played a true center the whole game, so there was no need for the zone. I think there was some minor foul trouble late, but it was still too strange and, I thought, too completely ineffective.

I guess Antoine Walker and Dirk Nowitzki didn't like each other much as teammates, because they had some nasty words for each other early in the game when Dirk drew a foul on what looked like a flop.

I think the Heat is in good position to win Game 2. The Mavs did nothing that should normally be a problem for the Heat, and as long as Shaq gets more touches and Dwyane gets good rest, I think Miami will shoot close to 50 percent in Game 2. Udonis will have to keep up the D on Dirk, but it won't be what decides the next game.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Too friendly

I know a good-natured battle between two good sports is the way it's supposed to be, but I want to know if things will get a little nasty at all in this series. So far, Shaq is singing the praises of Dirk, is failing to talk trash about Erick Dampier, Josh Howard is kind of backing off his "Dwyane can't shoot" comment, and everybody seems to love everybody. That's just unnatural. I want someone to get mad (my money's on Antoine. He's just mad at everybody most of the time), to make things more interesting.

So the game is finally here, and I keep getting asked who of the Heat's role players will be the X-factor. I think there will be no such thing. If Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal can't dominate, then it'll be tough for the role players to do anything of significance. By that I mean, if Dwyane and Shaq aren't playing at their playoff best, then it doesn't matter what Antoine or Gary or Jason do, because it won't be enough. I think Avery Johnson's decisions will have a lot to do on how this series turns out.

Biggest day in Heat history is here. Any favorite memories prior to the Shaq-Wade era?
I grew up in Miami, so I vividly remember Glen Rice scoring 56 on the Magic in an afternoon weekend game against the Magic. I was also a big fan of Steve Smith's game, so anytime he had a big game, it was fun to watch. I also remember giggling when Harold Miner would break his guy off the dribble and do something nasty. I'm not sure if I was laughing because I thought he could be great, or because it was funny how such a big bust could still show flashes of brilliance.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Is it Thursday yet?

Why does it already seem like forever since the Heat last played a game? And there are still three more days to wait? Come on, man!
I've already been asked 278 times who I think will win, and for no good reason I'm now saying Heat in six. I said it on TV on Sunday night, so now I have to stick to it. My only reasoning now is because I just can't picture the Mavs as world champs (other than Mark Cuban, who I can just see celebrating like a mad man, then getting emotional during the trophy presentation... Holy crap, you think Cuban, blog king, will read this? That would be pretty cool), but I can absolutely picture Shaq, Dwyane and Pat holding up a trophy.

There is one stat that makes me think the Heat could impose their will on Dallas. The Mavs have shot 46 percent from the field for the playoffs, but have allowed teams to shoot 47.5 percent. The Heat's shooting percentage, meanwhile, has improved in each series, from 46 against Chicago to 49 against New Jersey to 51 against Detroit -- three teams with pretty darn good defenses. If the Heat keeps the turnovers down (the Mavs only turn it over 11 times a game while the Heat is at 15-plus for the playoffs), I think the Heat's offense will prevail.
(Mark, if you do read this, I'm not saying the Mavs "CAN'T" beat the Heat. Just that the Heat "CAN" win it all. See, I read your blog).


I think Dwyane and Pat need to cool it on Wade supposedly being the first guy from the 2003 class to win a title. I know Darko doesn't count, but Josh Howard is also a member of that draft class. And while he didn't come with any of the hype that Carmelo and LeBron did, and Dwyane now does, Howard is a hell of a player. All this talk about Dwyane could just make Howard mad and that little motivational speech Riley gave could backfire on him.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Moving on

So many good storylines, so many good moments for this team. Thought it was good that Dwyane didn't steal the show with his flu and have it become an MJ moment, because there were so many other guys that contributed that deserved some attention.
But it all becomes a little less significant if the Heat doesn't finish this off.

And when it gets to the Finals, it'll be a whole different mindset for this team. Either Dallas or Phoenix will force the Heat to think offense, offense, offense. Because no matter how good a defense you play against those teams, you'll need to score in triple digits to get a win. With that in mind, it's probably a good thing that Jason Williams got his offensive groove back in Game 6, and that Udonis has paid so much attention to the details of his jumper.

Looking for things you'll think will be key against either Phoenix or Dallas, whether it be major issues or even minor factors like "jamming the rebounder," which means crowding the guy who gets the defensive rebound so the other team can't get a clean, quick outlet pass to start the fastbreak. What do you got?



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