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Recipe for redemption

Pace, play-calling keys for Heat to overcome Mavs

Posted: Tuesday June 13, 2006 3:08PM; Updated: Tuesday June 13, 2006 6:35PM
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Pat Riley will likely have to slow Miami's offense down if the Heat are to have any hope of competing with Dallas in the Finals.
Pat Riley will likely have to slow Miami's offense down if the Heat are to have any hope of competing with Dallas in the Finals.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The burning question in these NBA Finals, as it usually stands whenever a team is down 2-0 in a series, is whether the Heat can take a game (or two, or three) on their home floor. Miami has shown some encouraging signs in its two losses to Dallas, but by and large the Mavs have dominated and shouldn't take a step back just because they have to don the road blues. Dallas has won six games on the road in these playoffs, 32 on the year, and clinched series victories against the Grizzlies, Spurs and Suns while playing away from Dallas.

Heat fans will kindly point to last year's Detroit Pistons, a team that lost its first two Finals games against the Spurs by an average of 17 points, only to take the next two at home by an average of 24. But those Pistons teams had the luxury of falling back on a nucleus that had been battling things out since early in the 2001 season. This Heat team didn't really get on track until December, and their fitful run to the Finals has hardly included any signs that they own the chemistry it takes to win the ring. Still, they do have the talent to make one last stand, and they do have Pat Riley. Riles may be the second-best coach in the Finals, but if his players execute to his liking, they'll make this a series again.

Riley's successes have been few in this series, but he can point to one strong half to build upon. The Heat minimized Dirk Nowitzki's contributions in Game 1 by throwing quick double teams at the MVP candidate, blocking him off from the places he likes to set up to shoot or pass. These doubles forced Dirk into passing to teammates off the dribble, which limits his ability to find open Mavericks for a quick score.

In Game 2, smart double teams were nowhere to be found. Yes, guys such as Antoine Walker and Jason Williams feigned doubling the 7-footer, but it was more a case of confusing activity for achievement. One possession in the second half found Walker laughably waving his arms while "double-teaming" a swatch of open court after having lost Nowitzki after a screen and roll play.