A TV feature on Norris Cole. Looks like not just a good player but a good person, which is always important to the Heat.
A TV feature on Norris Cole. Looks like not just a good player but a good person, which is always important to the Heat.
Some nuggets from Pat Riley's press conference Wednesday morning that weren't included in the story for the paper...
Riley said he didn't like hearing that the Heat "gave away" the Finals to Dallas, nor did he agree with the concept that the Mavericks played more like a team than Miami.
"They beat us, they took it, that's what title teams do," Riley said. "Every championship team that I've been involved with, it's fashionable to say that somebody gave something away or somebody lost something, or we coulda, woulda, shoulda. But somebody takes it, that's all there was to it. Dallas played extremely well.
"The one thing that I, as a former coach, get upset with is we were a team. I mean, it's fashionable to say that the other team was more of team than we were. That is B.S. We would have never gotten this far without really sacrificing and playing roles and those veteran players accepting rotation responsibilities up and down. We were the epitome of a team."
As for LeBron James' shortcomings in the Finals, Riley was predictably protective of his biggest star. But he acknowledged LeBron can improve his individual game.
"I think you have to take a hard look at it on film and then have a discussion with him about it and then specifically from a coaching standpoint he says, 'this is what we want you to do,'" Riley said of LeBron's play in the Finals. "But you don't have an easy answer for that right now. That's become sort of the flashpoint of this whole thing and I think it's wrong, it's absolutely wrong to lay it on him and it just started to continually compound itself."
As for improvements the Heat could make, Riley said he doesn't really anticipate his team paying to move up in the draft because, from what he hears, nobody wants those picks in the 20s because they come with salary commitments to players who aren't significantly better than anyone he can get at 31.
Riley said he believes Mario Chalmers is a starting caliber player for this team, and he would put priority on adding interior size.
"We would like to get size," he said. "We would like to get length. Joel Anthony has done an incredible job and he will get better. But we'd like to get size that we can put in there, in the middle. I don't know if you're going to get a back-to-the-basket player, but we'd like to get size and things of that nature inside that might be a little bit more athletic with great length.
"We are good enough, we have enough but we're going to continue to try to make this team better. And move forward with that, that's what our job is this summer."
Riley also said he never "really" considered moving any members of the Big Three, even early in the season when it appeared they struggled to play together, and won't consider moving them.
Let's start with this: The Mavericks are an amazing team, winning with jump shooters like no other team in recent history. Dirk Nowitzki is a nightmare for defenses and the best shooting big man this league has ever seen. Jason Terry is one heck of a shooter and doesn't get enough credit for being as fast as he is and destructive to a defense in the halfcourt. J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd are both so different but have such an impact in games. And Tyson Chandler is one of the most disruptive forces in the paint, defensively.
"When are people going to talk about the purity of our game?" Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's what's special."
For starters, of course, there is LeBron James. Anyone who says it wasn't obvious that LeBron's nerves got the best of him either wasn't paying attention or didn't want to see it. James himself addressed it after the game, but it wasn't entirely convincing. Certainly not as convincing as what everyone saw happen on the court. There were clanked free throws, hesitant drives, horrible misses within 12 feet and a lot, lot more.
"Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't," LeBron said. "That was the case in this series.
"Once you get to the playoffs, every game is pressure. It doesn't matter which round it is, once you get to the postseason, every possession counts."
Sounds like a reasonable explanation, but not true. Pressure's greater in this series, especially since he's never really been in this place. He has never been in the Finals expected to win it.
Dwyane Wade looked like it was a bit too much to ask for him to carry the team again, with the series on the line. He was spending his energy arguing with refs. He was committing mindless turnovers. He never got on a run that you'd expect him to go on at home.
Chris Bosh never got enough of an opportunity to make an impact in the game. He needed just nine shots to score 19 points. That was the story of his season. If he didn't force himself into the action, he wasn't going to get enough looks. In this one, with both Wade and LeBron not being themselves, it was probably up to Erik Spoelstra to get Bosh more looks, but that never happened.
"I was frustrated," Bosh said. "I would've liked to get more inovled. But I was just playing the game as it went. Looking back at it, I had it going a little bit. I was in a good place for the game.
"I just don't know what to say, man. Yeah, I should've shot the ball way more."
Probably the most damning quote from any of the Heat players was this from Wade:
"Their resolve was stronger than ours in this series."
For those wanting a reason not to be upset, to put this loss in a happier perspective, there are these words from Udonis Haslem.
"We haven't accomplished what we're going to accomplish," he said. "This just wasn't our time. Look back from where we started. We were complete strangers to one another on and off the court. To get to this point is a pretty good accomplishment."
Here we go.
Kind of an easy breakdown to this one, but let's start with this: LeBron James' performance is not all about his two points in the fourth quarter. Offense wasn't the issue with this team the entire game, and that was also the case in the fourth quarter.
The Heat shot 56.3 percent in the fourth. The Heat had seven assists on nine field goals in the fourth quarter, with LeBron getting four of those assists.
But overall, 17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and a blocked shot is a good performance. Not great. Not ideal because it came with four turnovers and only featured two free throw attempts, but to start calling him out or blaming him for this one is kind of dumb. He also played a good portion of the game either without Dwyane Wade (who only played 34 minutes) or without a completely healthy Wade. And in that stretch, he kept the team afloat despite being the single focus of the Mavericks defense. James also appeared to get fouled at least twice on shot attempts and those fouls weren't called.
"Triple double," Chris Bosh said of LeBron. "We just didn't win the game."
Now, to the rest of this one.
The defense wasn't terrible. It was bad long enough in the beginning to get the Mavericks into a rhythm. But overall, Dallas had one of those shooting games that they were capable of having. Jason Terry hit a couple shots with a defender in his face, particularly the last three that essentially sealed the game. Kidd made three threes. Dirk Nowitzki hit that one rainbow three-pointer with a hand in his face and the shot clock expiring. And the ultimate killer, J.J. Barea was an absolute menace, not only hitting four of five threes, but getting to the lane for a pair of scores.
Basically, the Heat would expect to win any game in which it scores 103 points and shoots 53 percent. The Mavericks were just a better offensive team in this one. And that's not how the Heat normally plays. Trying to outscore a team isn't in the way Miami operates.
Finally, it was the Heat's turnovers. Miami committed 18 turnovers that resulted in 21 Mavericks points, and the Mavs managed a 14-11 fastbreak points mostly as a result of those Heat turnovers.
The turnover breakdown goes like this: Four for LeBron, which is understandable given how responsible he was for creating offense and given he had 10 assists. Four for Wade, which is probably one or two more than you'd want given that he played a few less minutes than usual, but overall not that bad. Four for Bosh. That's too much for him. One of them, granted, was a terrible offensive foul call on the fastbreak (Kidd was absolutely moving on that play), but he still can't be careless as he was with the ball on a couple possessions in games that are this close. The other six were scattered, including a pair of 24-second violations.
Some of those things might change at home. But then again, the pressure of being one game from elimination might also affect the Heat players.
When the Mavericks are capable of shooting like this, it must make the Heat kick itself for essentially giving away Game 2 and not being up 3-2 right now.
Here's where the LeBron James - Dwyane Wade friendship will be truly tested.
Because Wade has every reason to be upset with LeBron for that performance. And LeBron has to be able to accept the criticism and play much HARDER in Game 5. It doesn't have as much to do with scoring -- although he could've gone 0-for-6 in the final minutes and it would've helped his cause -- as much as it has to do with simple effort.
When you've got Wade playing as hard as he was from everywhere on the floor, it looks bad when LeBron is not coming close to matching that effort.
For about 40 minutes, LeBron was doing everything right, even without the shot attempts. He was playing within the offense, he was piling up the other numbers, rebounds and assists. But when the Heat needed him to score the way he scored late in the Boston and Chicago series, he was nowhere to be found.
If he had decided to launch at five or six shots down the stretch and missed them all, at least he would've looked like he was trying to be that guy he had been. In that scenario, he could at least say his shot just wasn't falling.
In this scenario, he has no excuse. Because it just looked like he put himself to sleep. It looked like he was content with watching Wade attempt to save the Heat again.
He wasn't blocking shots. He wasn't disrupting the Mavs offense. He wasn't doing much of anything offensively.
Wade had to be asking him "What the (expletive) are you doing!!!"
If LeBron is anywhere near his usual self in that fourth quarter, the Heat is holding a 3-1 lead in this series.
As it is, the Heat is tied in a fantastic series that now appears to be anyone's to take.
Here's one encouraging part of this performance. The last time he had a playoff performance anywhere near this bad -- that would be the quit game against Boston -- he responded with a game that was all effort.
He shot poorly and turned the ball over in that Game 6 last year against the Celtics, but he managed to put up 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists.
If he does something close to that on Thursday, the Heat will leave Dallas one win away from a title.
It's probably a waste of energy to get upset over a column that is not only a blatant attempt at grabbing attention but is frankly uninformed nonsense, but sometimes you just can't help it.
A certain writer for a national sports website wrote a column about LeBron James "shrinking" (it's not even worth linking to, but feel free to look it up) in these Finals. You might have seen the writer ask LeBron the question about "shrinking" in the Game 3 postgame press conference.
At this point it's almost expected for those to pile up on LeBron based on limited evidence and less knowledge. But there's just something about the timing of this one (and also because it included a ridiculous dig at The Miami Herald) that got me going. It got a lot of people going here in Dallas. As in, "Good lord, that was awful."
The crux of it is this: LeBron has been average in the Finals, especially in these last two games. The idea of LeBron not even being a superstar was thrown around in there, too.
It's convenient to choose now to be critical of LeBron. He's always going to be the whipping boy if the Heat lose, the way it did in Game 2. And he'll even be a target when the Heat win and someone else is doing most of the damage, which was the case in Game 3 with Dwyane Wade doing most of the scoring throughout and at the end.
But it's absolute nonsense to suggest LeBron has been anything but great in this run. And to say that he's "shrinking" in the Finals because it's the Finals is just the case of a writer jumping on an already loaded bus with about two minutes left in the ride.
Not only was LeBron playing the role he was better off playing in Game 3, a facilitator who picked up nine assists and displayed confidence in Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh, but he continued to be the best defender in these playoffs.
One game after Jason Terry helped the Mavs come back from 15 down by scoring eight of Dallas' final 22 points, LeBron shut down Terry in the fourth quarter. Terry was scoreless, leaving Dirk Nowitzki to carry the team on his own. If LeBron keeps this up in next regular season, he'll very likely supplant Dwight Howard as league's Defensive Player of the Year.
Throughout these playoffs, LeBron has shown an ability to come up huge in big moments. If there was a conference finals MVP, LeBron would own that trophy. If there was a playoffs MVP, LeBron would own that trophy, regardless of how the rest of these Finals play out.
So to suggest he's anything less than a superstar is utterly ridiculous. He might not have gotten to the line but four times in Game 3 after promising to be aggressive, but the main reason for that is that Dallas simply failed to foul him enough as he was attacking the rim. James set the tone for Miami's approach in that game, injuring the rim with some of his finishes. That was aggressive.
It just so happened Wade has his scoring touch going a bit more, and it resulted in him having the bigger game and the bigger finish.
LeBron had four turnovers, yes. One of those was a travel call that actually wasn't a travel (check the replay), another was an offensive foul call that comes from being aggressive, one was a bad pass and the last was a double-dribble call that he will defend forever because the ball was knocked out of his hands initially.
That's basically one turnover where a coach would say was a mistake. The rest were flow-of-the-game type of errors from a guy who's called upon to do much of the initiating of offense.
The rest of the criticisms come from idiotic ideas, like questioning whether he should've passed the ball to Bosh in a critical situation when Bosh was struggling. Well, Bosh was open, LeBron found him with a difficult pass, and the shot went in. Any other superstar who does that, he's playing unselfish, brilliant basketball.
Heck, people have been begging Kobe Bryant to do that for years in those situations.
The whole conversation is just ridiculous. So what if LeBron doesn't win the Finals MVP this time. He'll have a few more chances, that's for sure. And the Heat might not even be here right now if it wasn't for LeBron in the first place.
Actually, LeBron had the perfect answer today when asked if he feels like he can't win even when his team does.
He said, "I did win."
Heard another interesting point from a respected colleague today. If people keep going over the top with these unfair criticisms of LeBron, eventually he'll turn into a sympathetic figure. One with plenty of rings, too.
That was about as intense an NBA Finals game as you'll see.
Superstars performing (one of them, Chris Bosh, when you least expected it), defenses ratcheted up, the game tied three times in the final 2:30 and a road team coming out victorious.
There were so many reasons the Heat was able to recover and win this game following that crushing Game 2 loss. But the most telling sequence happened, fittingly, at the end.
With the score tied at 84-84, it was Dwyane Wade who was chosen for closing duties. He had been the more effective offensive player throughout the game (his defense and rebounding wasn't too shabby, either), so unlike Game 2 when LeBron James was initiating the offense, Wade started the play.
That said a lot about Wade and his aggressiveness, as well as LeBron's willingness to step aside in the big moment, even in the Finals.
After Dirk Nowitzki tied the game, the Heat lulled itself to sleep and had a 24-second violation. But the next possession, after a Jason Terry miss, the Heat turned that around entirely.
Miami ran a screen-roll with Wade and LeBron, something the team hadn't done all game. The initial option wasn't available because the Mavs bigs were more than willing to help and clog the paint. So Udonis Haslem set a screen to free up Bosh, who hit the game-winning shot on a pass from LeBron.
It was execution at its best, even when the first option wasn't there. It was exactly what the Heat hadn't done in Game 2, and it's what the Heat struggled with midseason when it kept losing close games.
The fact that it was Bosh who hit it after a fairly bad first three quarters only adds to the Heat's confidence level going forward. This moment isn't too big for him, either, regardless of what his stat lines have said.
On the next Mavs possession, the Heat defense that was absent for the final 7:14 on Thursday showed up again. Fittingly, it was Wade who forced Nowitzki into a turnover with a hard double-team as he made his move against Udonis. Dirk, stuck in the air and fearful that Wade would block him if he shot it, threw a ball to the corner intended for Shawn Marion. But Marion was cutting to the basket, giving the Heat the ball.
Of course, Haslem's defense on Dirk in the final four seconds was plenty good enough to force the miss, and the Heat came out with a crucial Game 3 win.
Just those last two minutes told the story of a team that wasn't going to make the same mistakes it did in Game 2.
The rest of the game showed plenty as well, from LeBron attacking the basket to the Heat defense forcing 14 turnovers and Miami scoring 40 points in the paint compared to Dallas' 22.
Wade, though, was the difference maker both with his numbers, his effort and his leadership. He wasn't afraid to tell anyone what he was thinking, and that includes LeBron and Bosh.
"First and foremost, he pushed himself," Bosh said of Wade. "He played spectacular basketball. He was aggressive and took good shots. He set the tone for us.
"When a guy like that is really getting on you and demanding more, that’s what team is all about."
What this game also showed is that the Mavericks are going to fight every step of the way. If the Heat's going to come out victorious in this series, it will take this type of consistent effort from start to finish. If there are anymore lapses like the one that cost Miami Game 2, Dallas is more than ready to pounce and steal this series.
After watching the end of Game 2 again, it's actually true what the Heat said following the game.
The real breakdown came defensively, not necessarily offensively.
Yes, the offense could've used more movement on a few possessions. And, yes, Chris Bosh would've been better off not dribbling the ball off his foot. And, yes, Dwyane Wade, had a wide-open lane and a foul-plagued Tyson Chandler in front of him when he settled for a three-pointer with eight seconds left on the shot clock.
But for the most part, the failures came defensively down the stretch, and not just on Dirk Nowitzki.
A few of Dirk's open looks came on poor pick-and-roll defense when the Mavs ran multiple, quick screen-roll action. Bosh was particularly at fault on that Dirk three that gave the Mavs a three-point lead.
And Mario Chalmers' defense on Jason Terry wasn't very good, either, as Terry scored eight of those final 22 for Dallas.
So, if it's defense the Heat has to tighten up, there's enough of a sample size in these playoffs to assume the Heat can do that.
Surely, the screen-roll defense will be a primary point of emphasis. And chances are the Heat will attempt to shut down JT with LeBron James.
Combine that with James' determination to get to the rim, or at least the foul line, that he spoke about Saturday, and it would seem the Heat is in position to rebound from that loss.
That's not even mentioning a potential bounce-back from Bosh, who had a horrendous Game 2.
Of course, the Mavericks will be even tougher on their home floor. But when you watch Game 2 over again, you recognize there were very fixable elements that cost the Heat the game.
When Dwyane Wade hit that three-pointer with 7:14 left to put the Heat up 15, the Heat was in celebration mode. At least the offense was. Because there was no flow to it after that.
It was nothing but ground-and-pound, and NOTthe kind that Erik Spoelstra talks about.
After so many successful close-outs in this postseason, surely one of those plays would result in something good. Surely, the Mavericks couldn't make up 15 points in seven minutes. Surely Wade, who had 36 points to that point, would finish with at least 38 points.
Nope. Just standing and watching. Just shooting and missing. Just confusion and staring.
And then there's the very end. The Heat did nothing right in defending Dirk Nowitzki on the game-winning bucket.
First, why Chris Bosh? Dirk had scored seven points in the fourth to that points and 22 overall. That would be considered a quality defensive performance. Yes, Bosh played him some during the game, but Udonis Haslem is supposed to be the best option. Not sure what changed for that final possession.
Even Dirk expected a foul to come.
"We talked about, they had a foul to give, so I actually drove a little earlier than I would have," Nowitzki said. "The foul never came, so I was able to get to the basket and lay it in."
Finally, even though there was only 3.6 seconds left and the Heat was without a timeout, both Wade and LeBron James made poor decisions in getting that last shot off. LeBron probably should've hit Chalmers, who was a few steps ahead of Wade, for what would've been a decent look at a 30-footer.
But that game shouldn't have come down to that final sequence. The Heat offense should've gone through Wade more often in those final minutes. The Heat offense shouldn't have been so confused, so stagnant, so BLEH in those final seven minutes.
"Our offense, I think, was inefficient enough to spark them and give them some easy baskets," Spoelstra said.
Added LeBron: "Offensively, we just weren't in a good rhythm. We've been out of rhtyhm before. At the end of the day, we hang our hat on our defense."
That's fine to say and all, but the Heat knew it needed to hit another basket or two to win. Everyone in the arena knew it for about five minutes of basketball, because the Mavs were making a run.
So to say it's a defensive letdown, that's only partially true.
As for that "celebration" among Heat players that supposedly sparked the Mavericks run, Wade had a perfect response to it.
"Every team in the league, when they go on a run, they do something," Wade said. "Celebration is confetti. Celebration is champagne bottles. That wasn't a celebration.
"Don't make nothing out of that celebration, like you did in the Boston series. It's just being excited about the moment."
Moving on, it might not be the worst thing for Miami to be reminded how bad the offense can be. Because, as LeBron said, "We'll be back to square one and figure out a way to win that game."
When this team has a setback, like it did in Game 4 in Philadelphia or in Game 1 against Chicago, it tends to recover well.
How will Miami recover this time?
"Only time will tell," Wade said. "Obviously we gave them and they gave themselves life. We had an opportunity to put a little doubt in their minds.
"This is a big challenge for us. We're going to have to live up to the challenge."
For those who believed this would be a high-scoring, free-flowing, fastbreak series, take THAT!
Two teams shooting less than 40 percent, no one scoring more than 27 points AND Juwan Howard getting eight minutes and MVP chants.
Not exactly how the prognosticators had this one playing out.
But if you'd watched the defenses the Mavs have played against these playoffs, you had to assume they'd struggle against this athletic Heat defense. And such was the case.
Chris Bosh said the defense that kept the Mavericks to 37.3 percent shooting, that "limited" Dirk Nowitzki to 27 points and the Mavericks vaunted bench to 17 points was pretty much par for the course.
"It's a normal night," Bosh said. "I think we can do better. I think we can play much better offensively and defensively."
It wasn't all great for the Heat, of course. Dwyane Wade looked like the same Wade from the Bulls series through two-plus quarters. It wasn't, really, until the fourth quarter that he looked confident and in rhythm. You would assume that could transfer to the start of the next game, but Wade finished Games 4 and 5 against Chicago strong as well, but it didn't continue in the next game.
Wade should be able to score on either Jason Terry or Jason Kidd, but he seemed oddly hesitant several times.
"He's such an explosive offensive player, he spoils you a little bit," Bosh said of Wade. "He's a major part of this team's offense. Anytime that he's going, it's great."
Nowitzki's night was uneven, at best. He did his best work in the fourth, with 10 points, but he never got into a consistent rhythm, either. Udonis Haslem was his typical good self defending Dirk, but so was Joel Anthony. LeBron James didn't defend Dirk, as many projected, and if the bigs do this kind of job against him, that probably shouldn't change.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle gave UD credit for denying Dirk.
"He's got to be denied the ball virtually everywhere on the floor," Carlisle said. "Haslem is a guy that has the wherewithal to do that. And they're going to play him aggressively, and we know that.
"We just to keep playing our game, keep getting him the ball and giving him opportunities to create."
By the way, Dirk has a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand and is wearing a splint, while Mike Miller left the locker room with his left arm in a sling. He obviously has a shoulder injury, but no one's really acknowledging it.
Back to the Heat offense for a second. Heat can't rely on LeBron hitting four of five threes, even if a couple of them were so open he had to shoot a commercial first. Wade needs to be more consistent, Bosh needs to be less clumsy against that zone and more assertive with his jumper, and LeBron needs to shoot more than two free throws.
As is, Shawn Marion believes the Mavericks did exactly what they needed to do to win.
"It was a completely halfcourt game tonight, and they prevailed," Marion said. "You hold a team to 38 percent and 92 points, for us, that's normally a victory."