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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:20 AM ET, 6/16/06

Breaking down Game 4

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
OK, now we really have a series ...

Why the Heat won: They made an honest-to-goodness (to-goodness, I say!) effort to execute Pat Riley's defensive game plan. The idea was to leave Dallas shooters open on the left baseline, no matter the shooter; and time and time again the Mavericks clanged wide-open 3-pointers. And more than any other type of clangs, baseline misses lead to open transition opportunities for the Heat on the other end of the floor. It was a risky, though understandable defensive ideal -- Riley would rather crowd Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki on the strong side, forcing ball reversal, and take his chances with the Mavericks hitting 23-footers in the corner. With the Heat leaking out on delayed fast breaks, the Mavs were unable to set up their defense, and Dwyane Wade (36 points) took over after that.

Why the Mavericks lost: This team couldn't hit a darn thing from outside. The Miami defense forced Dallas into some shots it wasn't comfortable with, but it's still on the Mavericks to make the Heat pay for overplaying the action on one side of the court. 32 percent shooting for the league's second-most efficient offensive team is a joke, and it can't all be pinned on an improved Miami defense. Josh Howard and Nowitzki combined to shoot 3-of-22 (14 percent), Jerry Stackhouse started strong but missed 11 of his last 14 looks, and though Jason Terry contributed 17 points, it still took him 18 shots to get there. And for the second game in a row, Dallas was dominated on the glass. In spite of all the misses, they still only took in 11 offensive rebounds -- with four coming in one possession in the first quarter (Dallas failed to convert) and one in the game's final seconds.

Why the Heat can be confident: Wade is looking unstoppable at this point. He was on fire from the outset, the jumper was there, and even though Devin Harris' inclusion in the starting lineup made it a little tougher for Wade to pop off, the Mavericks really never had a chance. The man scored 24 points in just 21 minutes before halftime. Still, even though Dwyane nailed that series of first-half jumpers, he seemed hesitant to pull the trigger from the outside in the second half after missing his final 20-footer of the second quarter, and tried to force the action a little bit. It's as if the only thing stopping Dwyane from a 45-point night against this team is his own impatience on the perimeter -- he picked up four offensive fouls in the second half with Harris and Darrell Armstrong moving their feet and sliding in front of his drives. Still, if that jumper is falling, does anyone see Wade letting up?

Why Dallas cannot fret: They won't miss 19 out of 22 3-pointers again. Even if Miami defenders are draped all over those trey attempts in Game 5 (they weren't always tonight), the Mavs still won't shoot 14 percent from deep (Dallas was shooting 34 percent in the playoffs entering tonight), which won't allow the Heat to get out and run. Even if the improved shooting doesn't lead to a win on Sunday, the Mavs at least will be able to compete in the fourth quarter. Dallas was still within 10 and with the ball early in the fourth, but couldn't convert on open looks, and its offense fell apart after that. Shaquille O'Neal (17 points and 13 rebounds in 30 minutes) has started to figure out Dallas' double-teams, so this gives the Mavericks an excuse to focus its efforts on stopping Wade, and maybe let O'Neal (playing his 22nd game of the postseason) try to win Game 5 on his own. It can't get any worse than what we just saw, it's a three-game series, and Dallas has two to play at home.

Trading Fours

-- 94 possessions for the Heat tonight, in line with the 95 possessions from their Game 3 win, further lowering my credibility (assuming it's possible, especially with my haircut) following the column I wrote on Tuesday that begged Pat Riley to slow the game down to around 82-85 possessions per game. Dallas scored a pro-rated 79.6 points per-hundred possessions in Game 4, which is a wee bit lower than the 113.2 per-hundred they averaged in the regular season.

-- I missed Wednesday's Letterman, so missed the actual context and tone of his delivery, but I don't see any reason to pay any mind to Mark Cuban's comments about Pat Riley on Wednesday night. You can't blame Cuban for answering honestly -- and honestly, when you enter into a conversation regarding comparisons between the dreary slow-down style that dominated the NBA for over a decade versus the newer, happenin' version, you can't help but bring up Riley's name. Chuck Daly may have introduced the flow, and Mike Fratello may have taken it to its eventual extreme, but Riles' name is synonymous with dreary, dull basketball. The name just pops out.

-- If anyone's to take offense at Cuban's Letterman appearance, it's probably Jerry Colangelo, who spearheaded the movement to return actual movement to the NBA. Cuban can take credit for sticking with Don Nelson upon taking over the Mavericks in early 2000 (most assumed Nellie would be out on his can by St. Patrick's Day of that year), and we'll never know what sort of behind-the-scenes maneuvering Cuban may have done to influence the re-enforcement of hand-checking laws, but Colangelo (and son) are the real NBA saviors. Incidentally, and for whatever reason, Don Nelson and the Mavericks were the only team to abstain from voting for the proposed rules committee changes in 2001.

-- Sunday's Game 5 is going to be a hellacious game. I thought this series would go according to the usual Finals script; with the Mavs winning a close one tonight, and Dallas relenting and allowing Miami to take it to six with a win on Sunday, but both these teams continue to surprise.


Posted: 1:40 AM   by Hamudi
Miami needs to keep playing tough defense just the way they did tonight in game 4. On the offensive side, Miami needs to just keep attacking the basket. The 3 W's: Wade, Williams, and Walkers need to keep "taking it to the house" all night! Dallas' interior is so obsessed with covering Shaq that any of those guys, especially Wade, will be money on every posession.
And yeah, cutting down on those stupid turnovers would help a bunch!
Posted: 3:37 AM   by Anonymous
I couldn't agree more with hamudi's post (the 1st one).

Congrats to Stack for awakening the sleeping giant.

Another huge effort from Wade.

Surprisingly, Walker wasn't so bad this time. Well, no doubt he is better at playin a suportive role, like how he did with Paul Pierce. Maybe he doesn't thrive in the key roles like Shaq and the Flash.

J. Williams was disappointing. Saw the game where he ran blindlessly around Shaq, hoping to find the hoop. One more play - a wide open Wade he did not see, and aimlessly went up for a missed bank shot. Really disappointing. Hope to see better things form him.

The Heat bench did well. Shandon Anderson, Gary Payton, James Posey and man, Zo' was a MONSTER out there in place of Shaq when Shaq was in foul trouble. Haslem was in foul trouble too.

But in the end, most of the scheme credits of the Heat should go to Pat Riley. He improved Heat's defense and made the Mavs shoot under 32%. That's incredible. For Mavs to shoot lousily, that must be something.

Not much comments for Mavs, because personally I hope they will lose this series, even if it goes back to Dallas. Muahahaha...

Keep on going, Heat!

To Kelly Dwyer; your breakdowns are great to read.
Posted: 4:36 AM   by nbafinalsfan
Mr. Dwyer,

So now all of a sudden you're saying it is a series after all? I'm not surprised at all with you inconsistent sport writers. You people are no different than the Mavericks. The first two games, you all said it's almost over for Miami. They can't keep up with dallas' speed and versatility and now you said dallas point guards can't stop Wade. So my advice is please....please stop writing stupid comments while they are still a lot of games to be played.
Posted: 4:38 AM   by Anonymous
Boy oh boy im a miami fan but ill honestly say that i thought that miami will get destroyed in finals even before they started. But miami keeps surprising everyone. I respect mavs they are great team but miami just came out and played a great game now with series tied at 2 each i have the fire in my eyes again. It will be hard but miami does have a shot at championship if keep playing like today. go heat LOL at stackhouse foul and good on ya wade for keeping shaq on the floor. heat in 7 or maybe 6 if everything goes by plan
Posted: 9:02 AM   by Anonymous
Give some credit to Haslem/Posey for the defensive job on Dirk thus far. Bonus credit for factoring in points (Posey) and rebounds (Haslem).Outside of game 2, when Haslem injured his shoulder, Dirk has really struggled offensively. I believe this is where the Heat may win the series, despite their own offensive limitations.
Posted: 9:30 AM   by Anonymous
Hmmmm, Dallas wins two at home in nice fashion and the series was over according to the press. Then Miami looks really good in two games in their house as well and Dallas isn't making adjustments. Again, according to the press. I have an idea. How about the press shutting up for once. It pisses THIS fan off when "analysts" need to analyze everthing. Next, I will learn that Dirk got out of his pregame urination routine in Miami and that made the whole Dallas roster freak out. For crying out loud, each team did what they were SUPPOSED to do, win at home. Analysts, press, etc. etc.,all you do is over react to EVERY situation. SHUT UP and let the games be played.

Kelly,no offense to you. After watchingt morning sprts shows I was heated all the way to work. Your blog was the first chance to react.
Posted: 9:47 AM   by Anonymous
For all those IDIOT commentators on ESPN.com saying that Game 3 was the best Miami could play, good call! Dan Patrick and Marc Stein especially come to mind because they kept saying how Miami was lucky to win Game 3 (which it def was lucky to win), but that Miami couldn't play better than a 20 turnover night, which is ridiculous. Now, Miami DOES turn the ball over a lot, but the way the Heat played in Game 4 is typical of the way Miami played against the Pistons, and now that we're tied up I expect the Heat to play out the rest of the series the way they played in Game 4. I also understand Dallas had WIDE OPEN shots and that Miami's defense wasn't dominant, but Miami had the strategy of keeping the corner three open so as to NOT allow Terry or Nowitzki from going off. Besides that, I still predict Miami will win this in 7 (I am a Miami fan obviously), but I expect the remaining games to be very, very close.
Posted: 10:26 AM   by Anonymous
Riley's not synonymous with dull basketball, he's synonymous with *good* basketball.

You can call it dreary, but defense is what wins games. I personally don't give a poop how much a team can run or score if they can't play D.
Posted: 10:36 AM   by Steve M.
Dallas' shooting lost Game 4 for them. It was downright AWFUL! Me and some old High School buddies could've beat the Mavs when they're shooting like that. In the 4th quarter with Dallas down 70-80 Miami turned the ball over I believe 3 times and Dallas couldn't turn it into points. They could have at least cut the lead to 76-80 with 6 minutes to go. Around the 4 minute mark Dallas realized they couldn't get anything to fall and threw in the towel. Dallas will win Game 5 because they won't take kindly to being embarrassed in Game 4. Go Mavs...Dallas in 6!

Dallas needs to show clips of Ka'zaam when Shaq is shooting free throws
Posted: 10:48 AM   by Anonymous
Mavs will win in six have a nice day miami
Posted: 11:24 AM   by Anonymous
At the start of the broadcast they said that Dirk was upset because the night before had him waiting 3 hours for his room service to get up. Just a sign that things will not be going right for you Nowitski or the rest of your team.
Miami as usual had an explosive first quarter. But this time they just kept firing on all cylinders.
Wade had 24 points in as many minutes. SHaq and Zo were hitting their free throws. Posey and Walker were lighting it up from the outside.
All this was happening while they were playing rough, physical, and crowding Dirk and the rest of Dallas.
The Heat won every quarter of the game and clearly grabbed the series back.
Now its a best of 3.
Miami plays host one more time sunday and if they can make it a 3-2 going back to Dallas. They have a huge shot of grabbing that trophy and living their Finals dream.
Everybody counted them out after Game 2. Said it was over. Gave them no chance in hell to pull it off.
Dallas fans now have their foot in their mouth and boot in their...
Posted: 11:31 AM   by Anonymous
That was some really uninspired play from Dallas last night. 7 pt qtrs are ugly no matter the scheme. Hopefully 2 days off will mean some decent shot % in game 5. Miami really ought to consider playing Posey more than Walker.
Posted: 11:49 AM   by Anonymous
Its not that miami improved their defense, it just so happens that Dallas did not make all there jump shots, coz most of the shots taken are open looks. AND I dont believe dallas are going to miss those same kind of shots on game 5. And I cant wait to see dallas put off the flames on the heat for good, coz its gonna be going right back to dallas for game6.
Posted: 12:00 PM   by Nishant
Everyone over reacted saying that the Miami Heat were dont after they lost the first two games. Although LeBron James realized Dallas did their job and Miami is now doing theirs winning their games at home.With this momentum I expect Miami to win in 7.
Posted: 1:02 PM   by Anonymous
Why is it so surprising of the bad shooting of Dallas? I told you that it was going to happen. Teams don't shoot well away from home because they aren't used to the rims and court. That makes a big difference. Add the pressure of the playoffs and an unfriendly crowd and you get bad shooting...worse then during the regular season.

Now...the refs. There was a time period in the second half where the refs were taking over and trying to put Dallas back into the game. It kind of conferms my belief that the league controls the refs for the good of the league...aka...a tight game is better for business.

How could I say that? Flops gallore. Harris flops like crazy and he isn't nearly as good an actor as like say Stockton. Does the refs think that Shaq can't draw a charge? Because he did, even though he was called for blocking. No...the refs are on a leash and David Stern is the holder.

Now that Shaq has gone back to his 50% foul shooting (ignoring all these experts on the PROPER form to use...it really is a joke), this series is going to get very interested when it goes back to Dallas and Dallas starts shooting better and Miami doesn't. Remember, if Miami made their foul shots in the first game, then they won it.

by fwg.
Posted: 1:19 PM   by Anonymous
It's funny how you mention "Riles' name is synonymous with dull, dreary basketball", especially after watching the Showtime Lakers. I think Riles' name is synonymous with successful basketball.
Posted: 1:34 PM   by Anonymous
Super Huge Heat fan... I've been very happy with the last two games especially on the offensive end. I just want to see how they react when playing in Dallas. Besides that I think everyone is playing pretty good. My only two bad grades are going to go to Gary Payton who for some reason is taking all his shots in a hurry. He had two free throws that he just threw up. Looked more like he missed them on purpose. Second bad grade goes to Udonis Haslem. Udonis if you read this... DUDE CALM DOWN! everytime he has received a pass he seems to get rock hands. He just can't seem to get a hold of the ball and he causes a turnover. Dude Breathe and catch the ball, look around and then either shoot or pass the ball. You played awesome in the other two series, pull it together man!!
Posted: 4:48 PM   by Anonymous
i am not a fan of Dallas and not living in Florida, either. basically, Heat has been supposed to dominate the series. They lost the first two games simply because they were not in status. The last minutes in game 3 marks a switch point. this series could become more interesting should Heat win Game 5 or the series is actually over. Dallas still controls the series even if they lose game 5. they will win game 6 and force a game 7 brodcasting on abc. no matter who wins finally, remember this is a time calls for hero, superhero. who looks more like a hero, Dirk or Wade/Shaq combo? who represent the highest level of world wide famed NBA basketball? NBA is NBA, it should be much tougher than other basketball tournaments held in other places throughout the world. The league has already changed its own rules to prevent superman like Shaq from dominating the game. If Dallas wins, it seems too easy for youngsters to get a NBA championship ring. and NBA finals will become an event for 2nd class teams. Then, where will the league frame its long time nurtured heros like Shaq, transplanted Zo, payton, or even Wade whose today might be Lebron James's tomorrow. Fans including those celebraties throughout the world are willing to watch shows - basketball show. without Shaq and wade on the court, where is the show?
Posted: 5:59 PM   by Anonymous
I definitely tip my hat to mavercks for having beaten those boring spurs........
Posted: 12:06 PM   by Anonymous
I continue to be amazed, but not surprised at how inconsistent the NBA is. How does Stackhouse's foul deserve a suspension? It certainly deserves a flagrant foul, but not more. How was it that nobody noticed Mourning pushing Nowitzki to the ground after he fouled him. It wasn't seen by the refs during the game, nor by the league after the game. This league is consistently terrible.
Posted: 3:11 PM   by Randy S
What happened to all the maverick fans, who mistakenly took my comments for being a die hard heat fan who didn't have a grip on reality. I'll tell you where they are, they are hiding (no more posts). They have all disappeared as the Heat proved me right Dallas did what they were supposed to do in games 1 and 2 by winning at home and the more physical Heat will win the series just like I said after game 2.