With the game a few minutes from tip, a few thoughts…
Coming into the series I figured Mavs in six games. I never saw Shaq putting up gaudy numbers in this series, primarily because I felt Dallas?who almost always sends four or five players to the defensive boards?would keep him away from the offensive glass and make him play over the tops of their big guys. I also thought the pace would be too much for Miami. Still, Detroit looked invincible against Cleveland until the series went to Cleveland and the Cavs pushed it to seven games. So, [insert clich? or cautionary tale here] in a seven game series.
Is there anything Miami can do? Pat Riley?s pat answer is always to play better defense and have better offensive execution. In one respect this is certainly correct. Still, if Riley is to make a go of it in this series he must change a few things. Overall, Miami must find a way to get some easy scores.
Pick up the pace. In today?s New York Sun Martin Johnson gives Miami similar advice, going against conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom coming into the series says that Miami must play at a slow pace. Well, obviously Miami must limit Dallas? fast break points. But conventional wisdom, as is often the case, throws out the baby with the bathwater. The Heat loses too much trying to be too deliberate. First, just because Miami is deliberate doesn?t mean the Mavs will be. Thus far, when Miami has been deliberate they?re the only team on the floor playing that way. Dallas can play briskly in their halfcourt sets without losing much efficiency. They shot 49.4 eFG% during the regular season when shooting between 11 and 15 seconds (a quick shot, but not a fast break), which is right about their overall eFG (49.5%). So they aren?t going to roll over and expose belly unless maybe the game slows to an absolute crawl, which seems beyond Miami?s capacity. Second, the Heat plays well offensively when they execute their halfcourt sets briskly, shooting even better than Dallas (51%) between 11 and 15 seconds. Unfortunately, Miami does not defend as well under these circumstances (48.2%) as they do overall (47.8%). They rightly fear getting into a track meet with Dallas but it appears as if this series will be played in the high 80s to mid 90s unless Dallas falls apart. So Miami has to score.
Get Shaq on the move. Although Shaq may be the ?most dominant force evah!? he is not right now. Even throwing out his game two, the difference between 2006 Shaq and even 2004 Shaq is the absence of 2-3 easy dunks from beating his man up the floor and another 2-3 easy putback dunks on offensive rebounds. Right now, a halfcourt offense that begins with Shaq holding the ball away from the double team waiting for cutters plays right into Dallas? hands. At minimum, at least some of Miami?s halfcourt sets should concentrate on getting Wade into the lane, allowing Shaq to rebound on the weakside. Additionally, a quicker pace might allow Miami to get the ball to Shaq before the defense is set and before the double team can arrive.
Use the bench. Riley is only using three bench players currently (Posey, Payton, and Mourning). Gary Payton has been just plain bad. James Posey shot well in game two but his propensity for committing fouls like Kurt Thomas circa 2003, where he hammers a guy for no reason and then just stares blankly, has limited his effectiveness. Riley needs to consider bringing players off the bench that can score, particularly with perimeter shooting, at least at the ends of quarters. Michael Doleac and Jason Kapono could both be useful in limited duty.