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John Schuhmann

The Heat defense swarmed J.J. Barea (center) and the rest of the Mavs' reserves early and often in Game 1.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Heat tighten up defense on Mavs to nab ugly Game 1 win

Posted Jun 1 2011 11:47AM

Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals was ugly. But ugly is how the Miami Heat win games and on Tuesday, their stifling defense trumped the Dallas Mavericks' potent offense in a 92-84 victory.

It was the fourth time in the postseason and the third time in the last five games that the Heat have held their opponent to under 40 percent shooting. They've won five straight games and in doing so have held the Bulls and Mavs to just 417 points on 433 possessions (96.3 per 100).

It was just the eighth time in 98 games and the first time in two months that the Mavs have been held under 40 percent shooting. They're now 6-18 when they fail to score 93 points.

Empty bench for Big D

Particularly bad offensively was the Dallas bench, which averaged 39 points on 46 percent shooting through the first three rounds, but scored just 17 points on 4-for-22 shooting (18.2 percent) on Tuesday.

The 17 points were the lowest output of the season for the Mavs' bench, and 18 percent was easily the worst their bench has shot since they went 1-for-15 on Feb. 20 of last year against the Heat (a game the Mavs won).

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in the days leading up to The Finals that the Heat would have to treat J.J. Barea similar to the way they treated Derrick Rose. In Game 1, Barea got into the paint, but couldn't finish. He took seven of his eight shots from the paint, but made just one of them.

StatsCube: J.J. Barea's shooting in Game 1

Jason Terry, meanwhile, took eight of his 10 shots from beyond 15 feet. That's not all that unusual, but Terry made just one of his three attempts on corner 3-pointers after shooting 17-for-27 from the corners in the first three rounds.

Success around the corner

Speaking of corner threes ... In the conference finals, the Heat were just 1-for-6 on corner 3-pointers in their five games against the Bulls, who were the best team in the league in defending the corners. In Game 1 on Tuesday, the Heat were 5-for-10 from the corners, with Mario Chalmers hitting three corner threes in the second quarter alone.

Two of Chalmers' three corner 3-pointers were against the Mavs' zone defense. Overall, the Heat were 4-for-7 from 3-point range against the zone.

The Heat were 11-for-24 overall from 3-point range, shooting better from beyond the arc (46 percent) than they did from inside it (36 percent). But they aren't exactly a team that lives and dies by the three. They're 12-5 when they make at least 10 threes.

The Mavs are 21-5 when they make at least 10 threes, but came one short in Game 1. They also shot better from beyond the arc (41 percent) than they did from inside it (36 percent).

Neutralizing Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 27 points, but made just 7 of his 18 shots. Somewhat surprisingly, the Mavs were 15-3 before Game 1 when Nowitzki shot less than 40 percent.

Nowitzki flourished from mid-range in the first three rounds, taking 52 percent of his shots from 10-19 feet and making 53 percent of those. In Game 1, he was 3-for-7 from 10-19 feet and just 3-for-8 from inside 10 feet.

Burning up the assists

The Heat are a low-assist team. Their assist ratio of 54 percent ranked 25th in the regular season and they assisted on just 47 percent of their field goals through the first three rounds. But in Game 1, they had 20 assists on 31 field goals, a ratio of 65 percent.

That matched their highest assist ratio of the postseason. They also recorded 20 assists on 31 field goals in their Game 3 loss in Boston in the conference semifinals. They're now 34-9 when they record at least 20 assists.

More notes

• Rebounds were a problem for the Mavs, who allowed the Heat to grab 16 offensive boards and grabbed just six themselves. But the problem wasn't as bad as it looked, because the Mavs actually outscored the Heat on second-chance points, 16-15.

• There was some good news for the Mavs on this night. Their defense was mostly solid and their transition defense, in particular, was excellent. In a game in which Dallas missed 42 shots and five live-ball turnovers, Miami had just seven fast-break points. Overall, it was a very slow-paced game, with each team logging just 83 possessions.

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

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