After a sluggish first, the Mavs picked up the defensive energy
Turning Up the Big D
By John Schuhmann
DALLAS, June 8 -- The Mavs have been telling us all year that they're more of a defensive team than they've ever been. In case you still didn't believe them, they proved their point in Game 1 against the Heat.
Other than Jason Terry, Dallas did not get much going offensively. But that didn't matter, as they got it done on the other end of the floor. It just took 12 minutes before they were able to stop the Heat.
In the first quarter, the Heat seemed to get whatever they wanted offensively. Dwyane Wade took the ball to the hoop without obstruction. Shaq got comfortable in the post. Jason Williams and Antoine Walker took advantage of the Mavs' focus on their two star teammates. For the quarter, Miami shot 14-of-20 from the field, scoring 31 points.
Avery Johnson was not happy about that.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, things changed in the second period.
"We weren't really active in the first quarter," Josh Howard said. "Guys realized that we weren't playing defense."
Dallas did a better job of rotating and helping out on Wade. They created more deflections and it certainly didn't hurt that Williams and Walker went cold, combining to shoot 2-for-8 in the quarter. Overall, Miami shot 5-for-19 in the second and went scoreless in the final 3:59 of the half, missing their final six shots and committing two turnovers in that stretch as the Mavs went on a 10-0 run.
The Mavs' defensive energy continued into the second half, and really came through in the fourth quarter, holding the Heat to 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting. While not satisfied, Johnson can accept those kinds of numbers.
"For them to score 36 points in the second half, when this team has been shooting 55 and 58 percent from the field and getting in the hundreds consistently, we'll take it."
As the saying goes, defense wins championships. Three more defensive games like this, and that saying can certainly be applied to the 2006 NBA Finals.
Not a Bad Time to Get Hot
The Mavs had finally made the Finals, but Jason Terry hadn't exactly been playing his best basketball throughout the first three rounds. He had some ugly shooting nights in the Western Conference Playoffs and was shooting just .426 from the field until tonight, down from .470 in the regular season.
"I just feel that I'm a much better shooter than, you know, what I've shown in this year's playoffs, and you know me, it's just all about hard work and perseverance," Terry said. "I had to persevere through all those times where I wasn't making too many shots."
Persevere he did, as Terry was the only offense the Mavs had on a night where Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard combined to shoot 7-for-28 from the field. Terry shot 13-of-18, scoring 32 points, including 12 in the decisive fourth quarter.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Terry said.
He took the ball to the basket. He hit 4-of-7 from downtown and he scored on the break ... eexcept for the time he was all alone for a layup and got blocked by the rim. Apparently, he thought Dwyane Wade was closer behind him than he really was, and got a little scared.
"On the dunk, I thought it was Wade or somebody, got a little too excited, was running a little too fast, and got ahead of myself," Terry said. "But I got two days to recover and I'll remember next time when I get on the break to just lay it up."
Even though Darrell Armstrong teased him about the play afterwards, his teammates will surely forgive him for the one mistake on what was a huge night for Terry.
Keeping Dirk in Check
When asked Wednesday about Udonis Haslem guarding Dirk Nowitzki, Heat coach Pat Riley told the media that his starting power forward would need some help.
"We are not leaving it up to Udonis," Riley said. "I mean, [Nowitzki's] one that made the point in the middle of the year that we can no longer leave one of our teammates, you know, alone on a great, great, great, great player and expect him to contain him. We need help, we need a scheme."
Haslem didn't do too badly, though. He got some help from James Posey and Antoine Walker, but he did an excellent job of keeping the big German on the perimeter. When Nowitzki went down into the post, the Heat kept him from getting the ball.
"They were fronting me and there really was no passing angle to even catch the ball in the post," Nowitzki said. "Walker in front of me, Haslem in front of me."
Haslem told us that you can't play Dirk one particular way, you have to just do your best to make him work for his points.
"I tried to get up in him," Haslem said. "There's not one specific thing you want to give him. He's a great offensive player. He can drive and he can shoot, so it's not like I'm giving him the jumper and taking away the drive. I'm just reacting to whatever move he makes."
Check out Dirk's shot chart for Game 1.
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