Posted: Monday June 19, 2006 12:06PM; Updated: Monday June 19, 2006 12:56PM
5. Prove their mettle
Although still the unquestioned leader of the Mavs' offense, Dirk Nowitzki has struggled to find a consistent rhythm in the Finals.
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People have doubted Miami's championship capabilities since the season began, and even with this team just a win away from the championship, some apprehensions still linger. Few thought that this hodgepodge of stars (both rising, current and faded) would keep it together long enough to get the 16 playoff wins needed for a title, and yet here the Heat are. What better way to dispel those doubters with a Game 6 (or Game 7, I guess) win on the road to take the ring?
Dallas? Feel like making one final stand? Here's how to go about it....
1. Find the right mood for Dirk
Whatever mind-set this modern marvel needs, steer him in that direction. We don't know if Dirk Nowitzki is down on himself, down on his game, too frustrated, too listless, too overconfident, too tall -- it doesn't matter. Dallas needs the real Nowitzki back. The one who was averaging 28.4 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game in the playoffs before slipping to 21.6 and 10 rebounds in the Finals. By now Dirk should be able to drop 30 in his sleep at the American Airlines Center, so ... wait -- that's what they need to do! Hypnotize him.
2. Play Daniels more
It's been a personal crusade of mine since the Finals began, but anyone who watched the second quarter of Sunday's Game 5 will tell you that Marquis Daniels had his way with Wade defensively. The only field goal that Wade converted with Daniels on the floor in the first half came off a backdoor dunk while Marquis was guarding Gary Payton some 24 feet from the hoop. In the second half, Daniels was moved off Wade defensively, and Wade took to abusing Adrian Griffin for a series of easy looks. After having played Miami seven times this year and Daniels the only one demonstrating any sort of ability to slow Wade down, you'd think this would be an obvious move, but Dallas coach Avery Johnson continually shies away from the matchup.
3. Make Terry the yin and Harris the yang
By and large, Devin Harris wants to do the right thing, but he needs to be more selective with the times he chooses to drive to the hole. Harris is shooting 24 percent in the Finals, and though a huge chunk of those misses have come from the perimeter, he's also had little luck finishing in the paint with O'Neal and Mourning roaming about. The opposite is true for Jason Terry, who needs to stay aggressive from the outset. Already leading the Mavericks in scoring (at 23.2 per game, shooting 53 percent from the floor), Terry needs to put constant pressure on the Miami defense by keeping his dribble alive and looking to shoot every time down court.
4. Work the boards
Dallas has outrebounded Miami by six per game in its wins and has been outrebounded by six per game in the losses. The Mavs also averaging about nine offensive rebounds a game in this series, down from the 12.6 they averaged in the regular season, the 13.8 they averaged in the first round, the 11 they averaged in the conference semifinals and the 14.2 they averaged in the conference finals. Work it, DeSagana Diop, work it.
5. Remind Miami of where it is
It's time to point out to their visitors from Miami their relative proximity to Southfork Ranch. Miami hasn't won in Dallas since March 2, 2002, and don't think that both sides aren't acutely aware of this fact. As such, the Mavericks needs to flex their home court muscle, treating Game 6 as a Game 7 in their own gym, and should they win, treating Game 7 as a Game 7 in their own gym. Dig? Dallas shouldn't assume that the home court advantage will act as a panacea for its myriad issues, but it wouldn't hurt to put off airs along those lines -- as any sort of "nah, we cool" external mind-set should throw Miami off its game a bit.