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The Mavs and Heat dominated the playoffs with offense and defense, respectively.
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StatsCube: Mavs, Heat more similar than they appear


Posted May 27 2011 12:13PM

In anticipation of the 2011 Finals, we turn to NBA.com's StatsCube to break down some key numbers.

Only four players on the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat remain from the 2006 Finals, which the Heat won in six games behind Finals MVP Dwyane Wade's 34.7 points per game. Both teams are better now than they were five years ago, with the Heat infusing itself with top-line talent last summer and the Mavs building an experienced core over time.

The Heat and Mavs each lost three games on their way to these Finals, and they're now playing their best basketball at exactly the right time. But they've done it in different ways, each typical of the conferences they've conquered.

The Mavs have been ridiculously efficient offensively in the playoffs, scoring an estimated 111 points per 100 possessions over their 15 games. The Heat have been incredibly stifling defensively, allowing just 98 points per 100 possessions in their trip through the Eastern Conference.

Late-game execution

There is one thing that the Heat and Mavs have had in common in these playoffs: incredible success in late-game situations.

In "clutch" situations in the postseason, the Mavs have outscored their opponents 97-42, while the Heat have outscored their opponents 98-55. Neither of those totals encompasses the complete comebacks by Dallas in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals (when the Mavs rallied from 15 down with five minutes to go) and Miami's effort in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals (when the Heat came back from 12 down with less than four minutes left).

Clutch situation = Last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with a score differential of five points or less

Dallas has been the best offensive team in clutch situations, scoring an estimated 148 points per 100 possessions. Miami has been the best defensive team in clutch situations, allowing just 69 points per 100 possessions.

LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki have been the playoffs' two leading scorers down the stretch of close games.

James has scored 43 points, shooting an impressive 15-for-31 (48 percent) and 5-for-10 from 3-point range in clutch situations. Nowitzki, meanwhile, has done most of his clutch work at the free-throw line, hitting 24 of his 25 attempts and only needing to go 7-for-15 from the field (2-for-3 from 3-point range) to total 40 points in clutch situations.

StatsCube: LeBron James' postseason numbers in the clutch | Dirk Nowitzki's postseason numbers in the clutch

They've each had some help. Chris Bosh has scored 23 points in clutch situations, shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 13-for-13 from the line. Dallas' Shawn Marion has incredibly made six of his seven shots from the field in clutch situations.

Prepare for slow starts

Somehow, both of these teams are 12-3 despite rather unimpressive starting lineups, especially on offense.

Erik Spoelstra's original postseason starting lineup was really bad, so he replaced Zydrunas Ilgauskas with Joel Anthony in Game 4 of the conference semifinals. His new lineup of Mike Bibby, Wade, James, Bosh and Anthony hasn't been all that great, either, scoring just 90 points per 100 possessions while getting outscored 202-196 in the seven games since the change.

Overall, the Heat have been the worst first-quarter team in the playoffs.

StatsCube: Dallas and Miami postseason lineup comparison

Rick Carlisle's starters have been even worse than Spoelstra's. The Mavs' lineup of Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler has scored just 92 points per 100 possessions. And it's been outscored 272-261 in 159 minutes together.

The Mavs tend to recover from their slow starts late in the first quarter, but both teams have been at their best, especially offensively, in the second.

Dallas' postseason efficiency, by quarter
Quarter OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
1 99.7 8 101.8 14 -2.1 9
2 122.8 1 110.0 11 12.8 4
3 105.5 3 95.1 4 10.4 3
4 117.3 2 108.2 7 9.0 2
Overall 111.2 1 103.4 9 7.8 1
Miami's postseason efficiency, by quarter
Quarter OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
1 89.1 14 102.1 15 -13.0 16
2 120.5 2 94.8 2 25.7 1
3 105.5 2 102.6 9 2.9 8
4 100.9 12 94.2 1 6.7 3
Overall 104.2 4 97.7 2 6.5 2
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
A jump-shooting series

Neither the Heat nor the Mavs score a lot of points in the paint. Just 37 percent of Miami's points and just 35 percent of Dallas' points have been scored in the paint. Those are the fifth-lowest and second-lowest ratios of the postseason respectively.

Both teams have managed to score in other ways, obviously. The Heat have scored 25 percent of their points at the free throw line, the second highest rate of the postseason. And the Mavs have scored 27 percent of their points from 3-point range, also the second-highest rate of the postseason.

Percentage of postseason points scored
Team PITP Rank Mid-range Rank 3PT Rank FT Rank
Dallas 34.9% 15 17.7% 13 26.7% 2 20.7% 9
Miami 37.4% 12 20.5% 6 17.0% 11 25.0% 2

Interestingly, both teams have been best at defending the same area where they flourish offensively. The Heat have outscored their opponents 436-303 at the line (a margin of 8.9 per game), and the Mavs have outscored their opponents 399-201 from beyond the arc (a margin of 13.2 per game).

Percentage of postseason points allowed
Team PITP Rank Mid-range Rank 3PT Rank FT Rank
Dallas 47.0% 16 17.7% 6 14.5% 3 20.8% 8
Miami 39.7% 9 19.9% 9 23.1% 14 17.2% 2
Do head-to-head meetings matter?

The results of the two regular season games between the Heat and Mavs are rather meaningless now. Carlos Arroyo (waived by the Heat in March) and Caron Butler (lost to a knee injury in January) each started the two games, which both took place in 2010.

Both were offensive victories for the Mavs, who scored an estimated 110 points per 100 possessions over the two games, with Butler shooting a rather efficient 13-for-24. But neither Dirk Nowitzki (17-for-44) nor LeBron James (11-for-36) shot well in the two games.

In fact, James shot worse against the Mavs than he did against any other team in the regular season. He was particularly bad near the rim, making just four of his 13 shots within five feet of the basket.

There was at least one interesting set of head-to-head numbers from the regular season: Wade vs. Stevenson. Wade took only three shots in 30 minutes with Stevenson on the floor, as opposed to 30 shots in 50 minutes with Stevenson on the bench.

StatsCube: Dwyane Wade vs. Dallas with DeShawn Stevenson on and off the floor

What's even more fascinating is that James was just 1-for-9 in Stevenson's 30 minutes. With Stevenson on the floor, 34 of Miami's 46 shots were taken by Arroyo (3-for-9), Bosh (9-for-17) and Ilgauskas (3-for-8).

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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