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Steve Aschburner

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Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs haven't been able to put their veteran savvy to use in The Finals.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Experienced crew not serving Mavs well so far in Finals


Posted Jun 6 2011 10:54AM

Several members of the Dallas Mavericks admitted late Sunday that they have yet to play a good 48 minutes in these 2011 NBA Finals.

Trouble is, the series is 144 minutes old. Neither The Finals nor the Miami Heat is waiting for Dallas.

The Mavericks, like everyone else involved in, focused on or, for that matter, ignoring this championship chase, are getting older. But they already are old enough. They are the savvier, more experienced team. They are the group that has been together, learned together, grown together. The timeline of Heat's development and history still can be captured on one flimsy academic-year calendar; the Mavericks' stretches back seasons and years.

But they sure aren't showing it. Now, time really is not on their side, down 2-1 in the series after the 88-86 loss in Game 3. Miami doesn't even need to win again at American Airlines Center, with Games 6 and 7 back in Florida. If this shifts back there at all.

Dallas' homecourt edge began and ended Sunday, a split of the first two games giving the Mavericks a chance -- now gone -- to win their first NBA title by taking the middle three at home. Then again, they left a bunch of tasks undone on their To-Do list:

The Mavericks started poorly.

How many times did Miami tell the world what it's game plan would be for Game 3? Well, how many times did reporters shove microphones and cameras in the faces of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra?

Everyone knew the Heat were determined to attack the basket, to take their talents inside, to put pressure on both the Dallas defense and the referees' whistles. So what happens? The Mavericks know exactly what's coming and can't do a thing to stop it. James and Wade push inside for seven field goals in the first quarter -- six of them are layup or dunks and the seventh is a running 10-footer.

Chris Bosh adds a dunk and a layup. So 16 of the Heat's 29 points in the quarter come in the paint. Which was exactly what they said they would do. (One vow Miami did not make good on was shooting more free throws than 3-pointers, either in the quarter or in the game.)

Dallas, meanwhile, did not start like a team happy to be home or ready to flex that advantage. It fell behind quickly, led for a total of just 5:11 through the first 12 minutes, dropped into a seven-point hole by quarter's end and stayed down there well past halftime.

The Mavericks pressed their luck.

We know they've become the Comeback Kids in these playoffs. We even laid that out a couple of times in no uncertain terms, here, here and here. But that's Evel Knievel stuff, flirting with disaster, leaving no margin for error and it pinched Dallas badly in this one.

Having the Heat go up by seven after one quarter was bad. Letting the deficit balloon to 14 points in the second quarter -- and grow to double digits on three separate occasions -- was worse. Dallas trailed 55-42, then put together a 17-3 run from the 9:51 mark of the third quarter that, seven minutes later, gave them a 59-58 lead, their first advantage since being up 14-13 in the first quarter.

Then they promptly gave up the next six points.

"We can't go down 15 all the time and battle back," Dirk Nowitzki said. "You can get, like, a five-, six-point swing here and there. We can't always get in a deep hole like that."

One of the clichés about NBA games is that a team that has to claw its way out of a huge hole typically burns so much energy just catching up that it has nothing left to finish the job. The Mavericks, after a series of stirring comebacks so far in this postseason, turned themselves into a cliché in Game 3.

Just imagine if they put their energy to better use, opening up and maintaining an early big lead.

The Mavericks were reckless with the ball.

Cutting down on turnovers ranked high on Dallas' To-Do list as well. That's something that, with Jason Kidd -- the Yoda of point guards -- responsible for much of the ball handling and backup J.J. Barea having a breakthrough, contract-boosting postseason, should have been cleaned up.

Nope. In the first two games, Dallas gave up 43 of Miami's 185 points (23.2 percent) via its 31 turnovers. In Game 3, the Heat cashed in for 19 of their 88 points (21.5 percent) thanks to 14 Dallas turnovers. In the series, the Mavericks are minus-8 in turnovers, minus-19 in points scored off them.

Miami didn't even score after Nowitzki got hung up in the final minute between shoot and pass and threw the ball where Shawn Marion no longer was. It didn't have to.

"Make or miss shots, you can't just give these guys easy layups on the other end," Kidd said. "That's what they're doing to us right now."

The Mavericks got a road performance from role players.

Actually, getting helpful contributions from backups or bit players at home is a trait of younger, less-savvy teams. Wily vets are supposed to be able to perform wherever, whenever. But after four quarters in Dallas, the Mavericks still were searching for offensive help for Nowitzki, who had to score his team's final nine points in Game 2 and its final 12 Sunday.

Jason Terry missed eight of his 13 shots. Ditto Marion, who took 12 and made four. Peja Stojakovic was on the floor for six minutes and shot 1-of-2, while otherwise looking like a fat, juicy steak defensively to the Heat. Meanwhile it was Mario Chalmers stepping up for Miami with 4-of-6 from the arc and 12 points.

"We didn't give him much help, and I take a lt of that on my shoulders," Terry said. "That's two out of three games offensively in the fourth quarter that I wasn't able to come up with some big plays and big shots. I'm looking forward to Game 3 and we're going to treat it like it's Game 7."

It is getting late fast. All of it has the older, allegedly more battle-tested Mavericks looking like the team in need of lessons and poise. Y'know, there is an old saying: Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted.

The Mavericks have experience. It's not what they want.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. 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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