Dallas 99, Miami 85
Mavericks Smother Heat With Big D, Take 2-0 Lead
DALLAS, June 11 (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks are giving a whole new meaning to Big D.
Ratcheting up the defense and stifling superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade to the point of frustration, the determined Dallas Mavericks moved a step closer to their first NBA championship with a thorough 99-85 defeat of the Miami Heat.
"I just thought their energy and effort far surpassed ours," Heat coach Pat Riley said.
The Mavericks shot 49 percent (34-of-70) from the field, including two four-point plays. As they have throughout the postseason, they controlled the backboards to the tune of 46-32. About the only thing they did wrong was coast home.
"We're not playing perfect basketball," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "If you don't play perfect basketball and still can win another game like this - they score 80 and 85 points - we'll take it."
Where Dallas truly dictated was on defense, using its growing advantages in depth and quickness to make O'Neal look like an earthling and Wade -- who has been sick in these latter stages of the Playoffs -- look like a man in need of another boost of vitamins.
Promising to be better after Game 1, O'Neal was worse. He scored five points on 2-of-5 shooting -- all career postseason lows -- as he encountered multiple defenders on almost every touch. He again struggled at the line, making just 1-of-7 free throws, and was a spectator in the fourth quarter, when Miami made a futile late surge.
"We were really trying to double-team him quite a bit, even before he got the ball," Johnson said. "We're just trying to make them go other places sometimes."
"In Game 1, they said he didn't get a lot of touches," said Mavericks center Erick Dampier, who had the primary defensive responsibility on O'Neal. "You went back and watched the game -- I think he got 30 touches and 12 times he passed out. How many more times does he want to touch the ball? Regardless of what they do, we are going to make the adjustments."
O'Neal did not speak with reporters after the game, drawing a $10,000 fine for himself and a $25,000 fine for his team.
Wade scored 23 points on 6-of-19 shooting but did almost all of his damage at the line (11-of-14) and well after matters had been settled. His struggles in the first half was one of the myriad reasons Miami found itself in a 50-34 halftime hole.
Nowitzki and Josh Howard both shook off their Game 1 doldrums and rejoined the act. After combining to make just 7-of-28 shots in the opener, Nowitzki made 8-of-16 shots and grabbed 16 rebounds. Howard was much more decisive and scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
"I thought I caught the ball a little more on the move, which is better," said Nowitzki, who also made 10-of-11 free throws. "When I catch it standing, they are going to box up, the guys are going to get into me and we are going to have nothing going."
"Dirk, boy, he came back tonight," Johnson said. "He got to the free-throw line a little bit more."
Jerry Stackhouse scored 19 points for Dallas, including a stunning 10 in the final 79 seconds of the first half that sent the Heat headed to the locker room with their heads hanging. He drilled three 3-pointers, including one in Wade's face that became a four-point play.
"After I shot the first one, there was no hesitation once I caught it the second time," Stackhouse said. "I was probably three feet behind the 3-point line on the second one. When you're feeling good, you let it ride."
"That sent us into the locker room obviously not in a very good state of mind," Riley said.
Howard added another four-point play in the third period.
On offense, neither O'Neal nor Wade could find any operating room against the defense of the Mavericks, who smothered the post when O'Neal caught it, cut off the lanes when Wade drove it and still had enough speed to recover to their teammates, who provided little help.
"They are able to key on him and take away the other guys a little bit because we're missing shots, not being efficient," Wade said. "So that's taking away from Shaq a little bit."
About all that was available for the Heat was the 3-pointer. They were 7-of-17 from the arc and shot 41 percent (29-of-70) overall.
Adding injury to insult, the Heat also lost forward Udonis Haslem to a left shoulder ailment in the third quarter. Haslem had been doing a credible job on Nowitzki, one of the few bright spots for the Heat.
"He took quite a fall," Riley said. "We know he's real sore."
Antoine Walker scored 20 points for the Heat, who host Game 3 on Tuesday facing this double dilemma: Only two teams have erased 2-0 Finals deficits and won, and only the 2004 Detroit Pistons have won the middle three games at home in the 2-3-2 format.
"We have to play a lot better on both ends of the floor," Wade said.
"We know they are a different animal at home," Nowitzki said. "They are obviously going to be fired up. Shaq and Dwyane, they are going to get their troops ready to play."
Before the game, Riley said: "We just keeping loading (Wade) up with B-12."
It provided no boost, as the star guard endured a tough first half, except for a pair of dunks off steals early in the second quarter. He did not make a shot in the first period and spent most of the second period in foul trouble.
The Heat also made a commitment to getting the ball to O'Neal, which was met by a concerted effort by the Mavericks to swarm him and chase it out of his hands. O'Neal had a basket on the game's first possession but did not have another until the 3:07 before halftime.
"They doubled him every single time he touched the ball," Riley said. "He made the pass that he was supposed to make and the other times they would front him. Anytime he tried to throw the ball over the top, we didn't get out of it what we want."
"We've got to find a way to get our big (O'Neal) to be more dominant," Wade said. "With the touches that we give him, we have to find a way to make him more efficient."
A 3-pointer by James Posey gave Miami its largest lead at 28-23 with 8:27 left in the first half before things quickly fell apart. Howard found a groove with seven points in a 13-0 burst as Dallas surged to the lead.
Stackhouse lit up the American Airlines Center with his unreal flurry that pushed the bulge to 50-34 at halftime. His middle 3-pointer from the top in the face of Wade, who knocked him down, drew a foul and was whistled for a technical foul.
"It was great to get a little distance going into halftime," Stackhouse said.
"That was big because we talked about not settling for threes and you'll have your opportunity to get some," Johnson said. "We did a good job of penetrating and getting the ball back out."
Early in the third quarter, Howard drilled a 3-pointer, drew a foul from Walker and made the free throw for another four-point play and a 59-40 lead. There had been just six four-point plays in Finals history prior to Game 2.
A fast-break dunk by 7-footer Dampier gave Dallas its largest lead at 78-51 with 2:23 left in the third period. Miami finally went to a small lineup that did not include O'Neal but got no closer than 12 points thereafter.