By NBA TV's Rick Kamla


Kamla
DALLAS, June 9, 2006 -- Well, Game 1 of the 2006 NBA Finals is in the rear-view mirror and the Mavericks dodged a lethal bullet with their 90-80 victory. Entering his sixth Finals with his third different team, Shaquille O'Neal had a 26-0 record in Playoffs series in which his team won Game 1. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Big Fella came up kinda small in this Game 1, posting just 17 points, seven rebounds, and zero blocks -- a far cry from the 28 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocks he dumped on the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Freaks, it's great to be dancing on the keys once again, opining about my favorite subject of all -- The NBA Finals. If it's okay with you, over the next two weeks we're going to leave the hardcore fantasy coverage behind and live The Finals instead. But fret not, as I'm still a stat man at heart, and vital Finals stats you shall receive.

Here goes everything?

BEST CHESSMOVE
I wasn't a huge fan of Avery Johnson's decision to sit Jason Terry toward the end of the first quarter because JT had eight of Dallas' first 12 points and was the hottest man in the building not named Dwyane Wade. But Avery's decision to rest Terry toward the end of the third quarter turned out to be brilliant because the 28-year-old free-agent-to-be came out fresh and firing in the fourth, scoring 12 of his game-high 32 points.

TURNING POINT
With 7:01 left in the second quarter and the Mavericks down 38-29, Terry drove to the hoop on a broken play and dunked the ball with power rarely seen from a player best known for canning threes. His vicious and delicious dunk electrified a quiet and tense crowd, woke up a nervous and tentative Mavs team, and ignited a 17-6 run that gave Dallas a 46-44 lead at the break. That was critical because the Heat came into Game 1 with a 0-5 record in these playoffs when trailing at the half.

Dampier held his own against Shaq in Game 1.
Ronald Martinez/NBAE/Getty Images

WARRIOR OF THE GAME
Not once, but twice, Jerry Stackhouse fearlessly drove the ball right into The Great Wall of Shaq, earning a trip to the line both times. Stack made three of his four free throw attempts following the collisions (the first of which drew blood -- and potentially X-rays for a broken nose). But more importantly, the first collision saddled Shaq with his second foul of the first half with exactly two minutes remaining. Pat Riley subbed out Shaq to keep him from picking up his third foul before halftime, but the Mavs took full advantage of LCL's absence, ripping off an 8-0 run to take a two-point lead at the break.

UNSUNG HERO
Given the fact that just about everyone thought Erick Dampier was going to be little more than a speed bump on Shaq's path to title No. 4, the self-proclaimed "second-best center in the league" did a fantastic job against the 13-time All-Star. Damp made Shaq work for everything he got, matched him on the glass, and finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds, and four fouls in 27 minutes.

ANTI-HERO
Who told Antoine Walker to hoist nine threes? Nine!?! Yes, Walker ended the first quarter with a deep three and then gave the Heat its biggest lead (34-23) with another three to start the second quarter. However, the fact that Walker took 19 shots to Shaq's 11 might have been the difference in the game. By the way, 'Toine's scoring has decreased round-by-round, going from 14.7 against Chicago to 13.8 against New Jersey to 11.2 against Detroit. Yeah, he scored 17 in Game 1 against Dallas, but it took 19 shots to get there.

THE STAT
The Mavericks set an NBA playoff record by out-rebounding their opponents in all 17 games leading up to The Finals. Ironically, the Mavs prevailed in Game 1 despite losing the battle of the boards (45-43) for the first time in these playoffs.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
The quote of the day comes from the Game 1 hero, Jason Terry, who said at the post game podium, "Really it's no different for me than in the regular season. Really haven't kicked in yet. I was kind of expecting to be all over this situation, but I think Avery has done a great job of preparing us for this moment the last year and a half." The Mavericks are hoping it doesn't sink in until the victory parade in late June.

KAM-MENTARY
-- If you would have told me the Mavs were going to win Game 1 despite 7-of-28 shooting from Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, I would have quickly derailed the conversation by fumbling for my PDA and sending an e-mail to someone, anyone. It doesn't bode well for Miami that Dallas won despite 35 percent field-goal shooting from the nine guys not named Jason Terry.

-- I have to admit, I didn't think Udonis Haslem could guard Dirk. Coming into the series, I thought Dirk was going to crush U like a grape under King Kong's foot. Alas, as Game 1 proved, I could not have been more wrong. Haslem stayed in front of Dirk on drives, closed quickly on his perimeter touches, and didn't need that much help in terms of double teams. When you think about it, Dirk's best stretch of the game was late in the third quarter, when Haslem was on the bench in foul trouble. Had the Heat won the game, Haslem would have supplanted Damp as the unsung hero.

-- I realize I'm going to tick off Mavs fans in saying this, and I realize I still have at least three more days to "work" in Big D, but ya'll aren't in the same league as San Antonio fans. Spurs fans get after it from the first quarter to the fourth, building as the game approaches the 47th minute. Mavs fans are loud, but only when their team is rocking and rolling. To me, the best crowds are the ones that are loud even when the team is flat or struggling. Mavs fans need to realize that their team needs them more when they're down then when they're up 10 with a few ticks left.