2011 NBA Finals: Game 4 Important Observations

A lot happened in last night’s game, and you probably know most of it by now, so I’ll cut the riff-raff and get straight to the Important Observations, presented in bullet points to maximize efficiency.

  • Games 3 and 4 were eerily similar from the losing team’s perspective — In Game 3, Dirk was the only Maverick who really contributed anything. And how much did he contribute? Well, his team only lost by two. Dirk was gigantic in Game 3. But on the Mavs last two possessions, he threw the ball away and then missed a game-tying jumper. If you watched the first 47 minutes, you would have thought Dirk was some sort of basketball superhero. If you watched only the last minute, you’d wonder why he was on the court at all when a fully-rested Brian Cardinal sat idly on the bench.
    Sound familiar? It should, because it happened again 48 hours later. Dwyane Wade played one of the most complete games of this postseason, especially late in the game. With the exception of one or two field goals and a handful of free throws, he provided all of the Heat offense in the fourth quarter. And get this, he even blocked Tyson Chandler. And then Jason Terry right after that. Wade was all over the court for the Heat. Bosh gave him more than any of the Dallas players gave Dirk in Game 3, but you get the point. Yet, on the Heat’s last two possessions, he missed a game-tying free throw and then fumbled away an inbounds pass to destroy Miami’s hopes at getting a good look at an overtime-forcing shot. Again, 47 minutes that would make you doubt his humanness and then a final minute troubled by atypical mistakes.
    What can we take away from this? The wrong answer is that Dirk and Wade choke in the big moment. The right answer is that 47 minutes of good basketball is an awful lot of good basketball. An absurd amount of good basketball. Both of these guys are incredible players, and it should be noted that playing 98% of a dominant game in the NBA Finals is about 95% more than a typical player ever achieves. Hats off to both guys, and I’m glad that in those two games each player was on a winning team, although it’s bizarre that the games fell the way they did.
  • The NBA rules regarding Technical fouls are completely arbitrary— Did you see Rick Carlisle’s technical last night? And then the replays of the play in question. He was right about the call, and while I don’t know exactly what he said to the officials, he looked decently calm about it. There’s no need to go on about this, but it’s been one of my biggest pet peeves this season, and last night’s T was just more evidence that the rule is unacceptably gray.

    This photo must have been taken during warmups.

  • Dallas’ zone defense is awfully tough to beat — First off, all of the celebration of the Heat defense this postseason is pretty legit. Secondly, equal praise should be piled on the Mavericks for playing this effective zone. Most of this season, I’ve wondered why teams don’t zone up the Heat, a team with two of the game’s most dominant slashers. It seems obvious to me that a defense that can collapse onto those guys as they drive would be pretty successful. Sure, the Heat have a handful of players whose role on offense is to sit on the three-point line and wait for the kick-out. But still, I would imagine that 29 of the other 29 teams in the league could live with a loss to Miami if James Jones or Mike Miller beat them.
    So why don’t teams do this against the Heat? Well, most teams don’t have a zone defense in their arsenal. It’s that simple. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the contending East teams are watching this series and taking notes for the summer practice sessions.
  • Speaking of that, what happened to James Jones? — I don’t know what has happened to him. Maybe he’s sick or hurt a little or something, but this guy was the three-point contest winner this year and to me, he’s seemed like a consistent on-court threat for the Heat. I don’t know why he isn’t playing right now, but it seems to me that he should be.
  • Dirk played Game 4 at something like 12% of his total health, and he was still effective — This story will get beaten to death today, but that big German played last night’s game with a fever in the 102 range and he still has that torn tendon in his finger. It’s amazing that he is still alive. It’s even more amazing that this is exactly what it took to shake his teammates out of their funk. Dirk played a decent game — it was nothing outstanding in terms of raw production — but it was what the Mavs needed. He’s had a great Finals.
    On a side note, let’s not forget that during that halftime special about Dirk and his shooting coach, we never really got too deep into his past. Why is that? Because he sort of came out of nowhere and no one really knows much about his early life. Except for me.
  • Mario Chalmers might be one of the worst people ever, but he was a lot better than Mike Bibby last night— Part of this is how poorly Bibby played, but SpreeGoogs likes to focus on the positive and what actually happened rather than things that didn’t happen. Last night, Chalmers didn’t score too much, but if you watched the game, you probably noticed that he was all over the place when he was in the game. He finished with six assists in less than 30 minutes, but all six of them were pretty remarkable. In the first quarter, no Heat players really even showed up except Chalmers and Bosh, and the combination of those two kept the Heat even until Wade showed up in the second quarter. I don’t know what Spoelstra has planned in terms of the rotation, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to se Chalmers playing more with the first team in Game 5.

    Who has two thumbs and was the best player on the winning team last night?

  • The change in the Mavs starting rotation may have worked, but it won’t be sustainable — When I found out that JJ Barea was going to start yesterday’s game instead of DeShawn Stevenson, I was kind of shocked. In terms of defensive wing players, Stevenson is second only to Shawn Marion on that roster, and it turns out that the Heat have two wing players who definitely need to be guarded. While Jason Kidd did a surprisingly good job on LeBron last night, I don’t think he’ll repeat that performance any time soon. Defensively, Barea doesn’t add much to Dallas, and offensively, he keeps missing easy shots. The good news for the Mavs is that Terry, Stevenson and Chandler all showed up last night, so the pressure is off Dirk for a little bit. Maybe that means Jet can start while Kidd stays on LeBron. Maybe it means Stevenson’s shooting earned him his starting role back. Whatever happens. Rick Carlisle knows more about basketball than I do, so he’ll probably decide to do the right thing.
  • My bold predictions were either very right or very wrong, but that’s what you get when you dare to be bold — I was right about Dirk and Chandler, which were both predictions that bucked trends. I was wrong about Jet staying cold, Wade rebounding and Mike Bibby scoring at all. Really close on the LeBron assist/turnover numbers. What does that mean? I need to start getting bolder.