Dallas failed when it counted and title slipped away
Posted: Wednesday June 21, 2006 12:17PM; Updated: Wednesday June 21, 2006 12:17PM
Dirk Nowitzki's shooting -- especially from beyond the arc -- was one of the reasons Dallas couldn't put together a title run.
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By any reasonable metric, the Dallas Mavericks had a successful year in 2005-06. Winning 60 games for the second time in franchise history, Avery Johnson's crew utilized an ultra-efficient offense and an improving defense to knock off the defending champion Spurs in the second round of the playoffs and eventually make its first Finals appearance. Though they let the ring slip away -- winning the first two Finals games handily before dropping four straight -- the Mavericks still won 74 out of 105 contests on the season and should be commended for their 8-month run.
Alas, there are five reasons the Mavericks lost to the Heat. We'll start with the obvious:
1. They didn't make shots
After shooting 45-, 47- and 46-percent in the first three rounds, the Mavericks dropped to 42-percent shooting against the Heat, and worse, 40-percent in the four losses. Though Dallas made more than 37 percent of its 3-pointers in the regular season, it managed just 28-percent in the Finals. Even worse, its marksmanship worsened as its appetite for the long-ball grew. The Mavericks averaged 13.5 3-point attempts a game in the first three rounds (making 33 percent), but took 19.3 against Miami. The biggest culprit was Dirk Nowitzki, who took 2.5 3s a game in the first three rounds, before shooting 6-of-24 against the Heat. Miami's defense kept Nowitzki (who shot 39 percent on the series) out of his comfort zone around the free-throw line.
Devin Harris (52-percent shooting entering the Finals, 36-percent against Miami) and Jerry Stackhouse (42-percent, 35.5-percent ) also added to the decline, while Josh Howard's 3-point touch (41-percent entering the Finals, 26-percent in the last six games) dried up as well.
2. Lack of aggression against Dwyane Wade
Wade was the best player in the Finals and the best player in the playoffs, and one of the best players in the NBA at only 24-years-old. No matter the game plan, Wade is going to be able to put up plenty of shots, free himself for good looks and work long enough to cobble together at least his usual per-game averages -- even against double and triple teams. Still, Mavs coach Avery Johnson waited until Game 5 to throw the first serious double-teams at Wade (even waiting too long in that game before unleashing the second defender), and waited until Game 6 to allow Marquis Daniels to guard Wade for an extended period of time.
Daniels didn't shut Wade down, nobody in this league can do that, but he made him work and bothered his shots. Yet, after a successful second and third quarter run with Marquis guarding Wade, Daniels was on the bench for the bulk of the fourth quarter. Wade hit a huge shot at the end of regulation in Game 5 against Adrian Griffin who, although he is a brilliant team defender, hasn't been able to stay in front of guards for years; especially someone of Wade's talent. Had Johnson showed Wade (who led his team in scoring for the second straight season) the same respect he showed Shaquille O'Neal, the Mavericks may have won this thing.