Posted: Thursday June 8, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Friday June 9, 2006 6:09PM
4. Win one of the first two in Dallas
It's easy to forget that only a few weeks ago, the Heat looked eminently beatable as the Bulls were outhustling them. The key to their Finals run has been twofold: Wade has been playing out of his mind, and the team is clicking. But if Miami loses the first two in Dallas, that invites all kinds of second-guessing, tinkering and irrational decisions. (Antoine Walker's internal monologue: "Clearly, what the team needs is for me to shoot more.")
Win one in Dallas, and the Riley motivational magic could take over. Of course, there's also the simple fact that to win the series, Miami will have to win one in Dallas. Make it Game 1 or 2 and the Heat have a shot.
5. Limit Stackhouse
Another challenge for Mr. Posey (and likely Wade). Despite Nowitzki's gaudy numbers, Jerry Stackhouse is often the guy who has the ball late in games. He's not afraid to shoot it and isn't a shot-clock liability (in other words, you'll rarely see him looking to pass with 4 on the shot clock, leading to an expired clock -- with Stack, it's going up). Throughout these playoffs the Mavs have fed off his scoring. He draws attention away from Jason Terry and Dirk and forces the opponent to switch a top defender onto him. (What happens when they don't? See Brent Barry.)
The key for Miami will be to play to the dark side of Stack. He's the type who will keep shooting even if he's not getting great shots and who causes ball movement to stagnate. Miami needs to frustrate him early, not let him get those corner threes off kick-outs and force him into taking that low-percentage fadeaway.
The Anti-Salad-Eater's Manifesto
Finally, this isn't a key to the series, but I can't help but include it. I was in Miami last Sunday doing a story on Wade, and Shaq spent a good 20 minutes talking with reporters after practice. In response to questions about his weight loss this season, he provided this bit of insight, in case any of us thought him a Men's Health type of guy: "I don't represent the fitness gurus," he said. "I represent the construction worker guys that go out and bust their ass and work hard every day and get s--- done and go home and eat a burger and eat some fries and drink a beer and watch the game. That's who I represent. I don't represent the salad-eaters."