Although Dirk's 9 straight points to end the game were the big talk after Game Two, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry provided 36 points (on 25 shots), 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals to illustrate the importance of Dallas' depth.
Running notes from Jonathan Gault during Dallas' Game Two victory, tying the series 1-1:
DeShawn Stevenson commits a silly foul on Joel Anthony at 7:35, already his second foul of the game. Stevenson only played 14 minutes in Game 1, but he’s valuable as a defender on Dwyane Wade, and Rick Carlisle might look to play him more tonight considering Jason Terry’s poor performance in Game 1. Two minutes later, it’s apparent that Stevenson is defending Wade differently now that he has two fouls. Stevenson allows Wade to go by him, putting his hands up to show the referees there’s no contact. The result is a Wade kick-out to LeBron James for a three-pointer at 5:54 to give Miami a 14-14 lead.
Jason Kidd has looked out of place so far. He’s got two turnovers, including a pass to no-one at 5:41 that rolls out-of-bounds uncontested. The 38-year-old Kidd and the rest of the Mavs can’t afford to give Miami any extra opportunities this series. The Heat are just too good and will punish Dallas’s mistakes.
The first quarter ends with the teams tied at 28-28. Game 2 already looks drastically different from Game 1, a defensive struggle marked by poor shooting. Both teams have shot well so far (12-for-21 for Miami, 10-for-19 for Dallas), particularly Dwyane Wade (4-for-6) and LeBron James (3-for-5, though one of those was a desperation heave at the end of the period). James’ three-point shooting has been terrific through five quarters of this series (6-for-8, not including the missed desperation heave). That’s Dallas’ worst nightmare, because there’s really nowhere else to force LeBron on the court.
Ever since his struggles in the first half of Game 1, Wade has been phenomenal. He follows a missed Chris Bosh jumper at 7:03 with a massive putback slam. On the Mavs’ next possession, Wade steals the ball from Brendan Haywood and sprints down the floor, finishing the break with a vicious slam to bring Miami within two at 40-38. He’s now 7-for-9 from the field.
After another Wade basket, he’s fouled by Tyson Chandler at 5:24, sending him to the line for what are, remarkably, the Heat’s first free throws on the night (he misses both). By comparison, Dallas has gone 9-for-11 so far at the stripe, the main reason why the Mavs lead 42-40.
Miami steps things up to close the half out on a 9-0 run, as the teams finish tied at the half, 51-51. Wade continues to be dominant, finishing the half 9-for-13 with 21 points. With Dirk and Terry struggling (a combined 4-for-15 from the field), Dallas superior depth has kept them in the game, as DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, and Tyson Chandler have combined to go 10-for-14 for 28 points. Despite his sub-par numbers, Dirk’s finger doesn’t seem to be affecting his release, seeing as it’s on his left (non-shooting hand). The issue for Dallas is Terry, who’s just 1-for-5 with four points and two fouls. On the bright side, Marion, and, more surprisingly, Chandler, have been effective scoring around the rim. Despite their great ball pressure, interior defense is a weakness for Miami, and if Dallas can get the ball to those guys inside, that’s a favorable matchup for them.
Dallas has to limit Wade and James in the second half if they want to win. So far, they’ve done a great job realizing every team’s greatest fears after James announced The Decision—simultaneous dominance. The two combined for 33 points on 14-for-20 shooting in the first half, and no matter how good the Mavs play down the stretch, it’s near-impossible to beat Miami when those two are on.
Well, that didn’t work. 2:24 in, and Miami has opened on a 6-1 run with a series of demoralizing dunks by Wade and James. After a James dunk at 10:52, Wade hits a running reverse slam at 10:00, immediately followed by steal by Bibby and an alley-oop dunk for LeBron on the ensuing fastbreak. Dallas is reeling and Rick Carlisle is forced to call timeout.
Lost in Wade’s dominance has been the complete no-show by Chris Bosh tonight. A missed layup followed by a swat at the hands of Marion at 6:16 brings him to 2-for-13 on the night. If he had been at least competent, Miami’s lead would be a lot bigger than two points right now.
Miami leads 75-71 after three. Mike Bibby came up huge for the Heat in the third, hitting two threes, and he now has 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting (4-for-7 on threes), a huge step up from his 25% shooting percentage in the playoffs up to this point.
When the intensity ratchets up, Miami’s defense goes to another level, and the fourth quarter of Game 2 is a perfect example. They force the Mavs into 1-for-11 shooting and five turnovers in the first five minutes of the quarter, culminating with a LeBron steal that results in a backbreaking three by Wade to put Miami up 88-73 with 7:13 to play. Miami have forced 19 turnovers to Dallas’ 10 so far tonight.
Miami’s been trying to pull away in the fourth, but you have to respect the Mavericks’ resilience. A 13-2 run brings them to within four with 3:11 to go, as Jason Terry hits a 14-footer. It’s a lot easier for Terry to score when he’s guarded by Mario Chalmers, as he was on that play, instead of LeBron James.
Despite giving up two consecutive offensive rebounds on a key possession with under 2:00 to play, Dallas weathers the storm, forces a turnover and eventually uses a Dirk Nowitzki layup to tie the game at 90 with 57 seconds left, setting up a hectic final minute.
After forcing Wade into a contested three, Dirk hits a crowd-silencing three with 26 seconds to play to put Dallas up three. They were down 15 with 6:20 to play.
After a timeout, Mario Chalmers is left wide open on the far side of the court, and LeBron finds him with a great cross-court pass. Chalmers hits the three to tie the game. It’s inexcusable that no one’s within ten feet of Chalmers on a possession that important, and the blame falls on Jason Terry, who fails to follow Chalmers through a screen.
Dirk’s clutchness (he had the Mavs’ final nine points) takes Terry off the hook, and his huge game-winner with 3.6 seconds to go gives Dallas a 95-93 victory, ensuring the Mavs return to Texas with a split.
The most important thing to take from this game was how HUGE a victory was for Dallas. Heading back down 0-2 is akin to climbing a mountain—in Finals history, only three teams have come back to win in that scenario. Now the series is level, plus Dirk and the Mavs now have all the momentum for Game 3 in front of what figures to be an extremely hungry Dallas crowd. Miami hasn’t blown a game like that since the regular season, and their confidence has to be shot, especially considering the effort Dwyane Wade gave them.
Every game like this has two elements: the comeback and the collapse. I view this game as more of a comeback, considering the Mavs finally seemed to get their offense going at the end and Dirk was spectacular in the closing minutes. But that’s not to say there wasn’t a collapse, as Miami’s defense fell off towards the end, while Wade faded down the stretch. He took just three shots in the last seven minutes, all threes, all misses. His Heat teammates have to do a better job of finding him when he’s hot, and the result was an unsightly end to an otherwise fine performance (36 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals).
Ultimately, Dallas’ depth (and Dirk’s heroics) was the reason they were able to pull this game out despite the individual brilliance of Wade. Even though Dirk didn’t have a great night shooting (10-for-22), his teammates were able to hold down the fort until he took over at the end. For Dallas to win the series though, Dirk has to be great, and for most of the first two games, he hasn’t been. Dallas didn’t have any business winning this game, and they’ll struggle in Dallas if Dirk can’t shoot well.
LeBron’s played great defense on Jason Terry through two games and effectively takes Terry out of the game when he’s guarding him. But Terry made all six of his free throws and still scored 16 points, while Shawn Marion had a great game, adding 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Dallas’ depth is their biggest advantages over the Heat in this series.
The Mavs did a much better job preventing offensive rebounds in Game 2 (allowing just 6 versus 17 in Game 1) and won the battle of the boards, 41-30, limiting Miami’s possessions. Miami had 92 points on 39% shooting in Game 1, but just 93 points on 47% shooting in Game 2.
Joel Anthony has no points through two games and did not attempt a shot in Game 2. Not only that, but he had one rebound in Game 2. He’s the Heat’s starting center! It just goes to show you how perimeter-oriented the league is that the starting center on a Finals team has zero points and yet his team almost went 2-0 to open the series.
Peja Stojakovic has been miserable. His defense is non-existent and went 0-3 with three fouls in 15 minutes in Game 1. Kudos to Rick Carlisle for pulling him after five minutes in Game 2 (even though Dallas was outscored by seven while he was on the floor), but next time save us the trouble and just keep him on the bench. Stojakovic doesn’t deserve another minute in this series.