MIAMI, FL - MAY 31: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks the ball over Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

NBA Finals: Heat Take Game 1, Defeat Mavericks 92-84 As Nowitzki Injures Finger

The 2011 NBA Finals begin Tuesday night in Miami with Game 1 at 8 p.m. CDT on ABC. Dirk Nowitzki and Lebron James each vie for their first NBA title and vindication for their respective franchises.

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Mark Cuban Laments Shaquille O'Neal's Retirement

Shaquille O’Neal had many fans, but Mark Cuban was among his biggest. Cuban tried for most of the past decade to bring O’Neal to Dallas and was never able to do so. There were flirtations, with Shaq saying publicly that he would like to play for Cuban and with the Mavs, but when Shaq was finally ready last summer, Dallas had other needs for their midlevel exception.

Upon hearing O’Neal’s retirement announcement, Cuban, who has been quiet for most of these playoffs, had plenty to say about Shaq-fu and his exit.

“Nothing more entertaining than answering the phone and hearing him say, ‘This is Shaq,’ " Cuban said via email. “As if I wouldn’t know it was him calling.”

“The NBA wont ever be the same without Shaq Albert,” said Cuban, using a moniker he bestowed upon Shaq during the ’06 Finals. “Great guy. Shaq made the NBA a better place.”


NBA Finals: Tim Donaghy Reviews Game 1 Officiating Performance

Tim Donaghy, David Stern’s favorite ex-NBA game official, reviewed the officiating in Game 1 for Deadspin, looking at missed calls in both directions throughout the game. In particular, he says that the referees set the tone early in the game.

11:22 [MIA 2-0] Quick three-second call on Tyson Chandler. Ball is deflected and loose. Three-second violations, like handchecks, are often made early in a game to set a tone and open up the lane so players can get to the basket.

10:50 [MIA 4-0] Cheap foul on Dwyane Wade. Another call to set the tone for the game and the series. If this type of play were whistled all night, there would be 100 fouls called in the game.

One other interesting stretch to me, Donaghy thought that a string of calls went Miami’s way later in the first quarter. Dallas made up ground anyway, but if these calls had gone there way they could have built a bigger cushion.

7:49 [MIA 6-4] Bosh sets an illegal screen on Stevenson. Bosh must give a defender time and space to stop and/or change direction. Missed call.

7:35 [MIA 6-4] Bosh pushes off on this rebound, but Dallas keeps the balls as it goes out of bounds. Had Miami gained control, this foul would’ve been called.

5:30 [MIA 10-5] Cheap foul on Nowitzki as James runs into him. Similar play occurs in the second quarter with Barea at 6:54 and no call is made.

4:51 [MIA 11-8] James clear lifts his left foot, his pivot foot, allowing him to get off a pass. Travel missed.

3:47 [MIA 13-11] James lowers his shoulder into Chandler on a drive to the basket. This is a missed offensive foul — too much contact to ignore.

:37.3 [MIA 16-15] Clear foul by James on Terry’s drive to the basket. Jeff Van Gundy makes a boneheaded comment about how this should be an offensive foul.

:19.1 [DAL 17-16] James pushes off on Barea. He extends his right arm to clear space and get his shot off. James makes enough contact and gets enough of an advantage that this should be called. It’s ignored because it would be his third foul.


NBA Finals: Dirk Nowitzki Might Not Need Splint For Game 2

Game 1 of the NBA Finals could not have gone worse for the Mavericks and their fans - they dropped Game 1 in Miami to the Heat, and Dirk Nowitzki injured himself in the fourth quarter. To make things worse, it was revealed that Nowitzki actually suffered a torn finger tendon in his non-shooting hand. 

Still, there's some good news: Nowitzki doesn't think the injury is that serious, and he might not even need to play with a splint in Game 2. 

Per Tim MacMahon

"I have this splint on for now," said Nowitzki, whose tendon is detached in his top knuckle. "I think we're going to play around with some other stuff. Try tape, or try a splint from the back so I can feel the ball and not lose grip of the ball.

"We're going to play around with it today in practice, maybe tomorrow in shootaround. By then, I'll have an idea how it feels and how it is to play with the thing. I'll be OK. I'm really not worried. It's not that sore, so it should be OK."

While it's definitely good news, it's also news that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Any athlete is going to downplay their injury - especially a superstar on the biggest stage. Nowitzki isn't going to come out and say that his finger is in constant pain. 


Dirk Nowitzki Injury Will Affect His Dribble, Says ESPN Analyst

The Dallas Mavericks received bad news Tuesday night when they learned Dirk Nowitzki tore a tendon in his left hand in their Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Though Nowitzki will play through the injury, and though he shoots right-handed, the torn tendon will negatively affect his performance the rest of the way, says ESPN analyst and former NBAer Tim Legler. The role-player told the Orlando Sentinel he believes the splint Nowitzki must wear will impact his dribbling. "That's a big problem for Dirk Nowitzki because he actually prefers to go left, particularly when he starts from the middle of the floor at the top of the key," he said.

Scouting data from the stat- and play-tracking service Synergy Sports Technology bear Legler's analysis out. In the regular season, when Nowitzki isolated in the middle of the floor, he drove to his left 51.2 percent of the time, compared to driving right 22.5 percent of the time and shooting without a dribble 26.2 percent of the time. Further, when Nowitzki spots up--which is to say when he catches the ball, in space, facing the basket--he drives left slightly more often than he drives right (47.6 percent to 43.9 percent). On top of that, Nowitzki is markedly more effective when he goes left in those situations, shooting 53.8 percent driving left to 36.1 percent driving right. The splint indeed has the potential to impact one of Nowitzki's pet moves.

In general, players shoot more accurately driving with their non-dominant hand because doing so enables them to use it to easily transfer the ball to their shooting hand and immediately enter their shooting motion. Thus, the splint may not affect Nowitzki's stand-still shooting, but it almost assuredly will complicate the dribbling and transferring tasks when he's on the move. Given how much attention the Heat will pay Nowitzki, he won't get many chances to simply catch and shoot. He'll have to create his own shot, and the injury--even though it's to his non-shooting hand--will make that task more difficult.


2011 NBA Finals, Mavericks Vs. Heat: Dallas Needs To Do A Better Job On The Defensive Glass

The Mavs got beat in a few different areas in the first game of the 2011 NBA Finals on Tuesday but the most glaring had to be rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. The Heat pulled in ten more offensive rebounds than the Mavericks, which in turn led to a difference in field goals attempted of 13. Neither team shot particularly well, but the Mavs aren't going to get much of a chance when they have to climb out of that hole.

And you don't have to tell them that. Our Mavericks blog Mavs Money Ball has some reaction from the team, and rebounding was a central issue. Rick Carlisle:

"We're minus 10 on offensive boards. There's 10 more times we don't get the ball and they have it. So possession is key. We can't have that kind of deficit. By and large, we've got to play better, just overall."

Tyson Chandler, the guy who the Mavs ask to collect all those boards, echoed the sentiment. But he thought the defense did a good job in creating all those defensive rebounding opportunities.

"They were aggressive on the rebounds. I thought we did a good job defensively of containing them and keeping them under control. But what we didn't do was secure the rebounds once we got a stop."

Dirk isn't the best rebounder for a guy his size, but as an offensive player he certainly understands how hard it is to win when you aren't getting enough shots; and also not converting on the shots you do take.

"The biggest thing is, we have to straighten out the rebounding, and we have to do a better job of putting the ball in the basket."

The Mavs need to be more effective when the get to the offensive side of the court, that much is true. But they have to get over there a whole heck of a lot more often too. The Mavs aren't going to win if they Heat hold them to under 70 shot attempts. They'll have to do a better job of rebounding to make that happen.


Heat Vs. Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki Will Play In Game 2 With Torn Finger Tendon

The Mavs left Game 1 with a loss and an injured superstar. Dirk Nowitzki attempted his patented strip on Chris Bosh late in the fourth quarter and came away with a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand. The good news: x-rays were negative, and at least the injury was to his non-shooting hand.

Nowitzki said after the game that he would “be all right for Thursday” and that he anticipates wearing a splint on the finger for the remainder of the series.

He was 12-12 from the line, continuing his stellar free throw shooting in the playoffs (93.4% overall), but his 7-18 from the field was just his third game under 40%. He is still shooting 51% for the playoffs, including 51.5% from beyond the arc. Splint or no, Nowitzki and the Mavericks must solve a smothering Miami defense that held them to 37% shooting and 84 points.


NBA Finals, Heat Vs. Mavericks: Game 1 Thoughts

The Miami Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 to take a 1- 0 series lead in the NBA finals. The game began and 18 seconds into the game Tyson Chandler picked up his first foul. Not the start the Mavericks were looking for. It was a slow start for both teams. Stevenson forced James into an early air ball and it was a defensive struggle early on. With the offense stagnant Jason Terry checked into the game at the 5:30 mark. The spacing dramatically improved and Kidd hit back to back threes to get the offense back on track. Jason Terry exploded to the rim and attempted to posterize Lebron James, he failed but succeeded in getting Lebron James in foul trouble as he picked up his second foul on the attempted block. The Mavericks took a 17-16 lead into the second quarter. In the second quarter it was Chris Bosh who continued to make an impact on the game. Bosh finished the half with 13 points and seven rebounds, including four of the offensive variety. Additionally, when the Mavericks went to a zone defense Mario Chalmers was able to get loose for a few threes. Chalmers went 3-5 from three and finished the first half with 10 points. After another sluggish start in the second quarter, the Mavericks scored on eight straight possessions to close the half and took a 44-43 lead into the break.

The Mavericks carried that momentum into the third quarter and went on a 7-0 run extend their lead to 51-43.  The Heat called a timeout and immediately began to attack the basket. Wade made two straight driving layups and Chandler picked up his third foul on his second drive and Miami had cut the lead 53-51. And then the game became stagnant once more. For both teams, but the Mavericks in particular. After the 7-0 run, the Mavericks scored six points in the next six minutes. To put the capper on an awful stretch by the Mavericks, James drilled a three at the buzzer to give the Heat a 65-61 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Mavericks started off well in the fourth quarter with a couple of Dirk drives and after a Stevenson three pulled them within 72-69, the offense went stagnant again. They went four minutes without a basket in the fourth quarter before a Chandler freethrow and yet, Miami was unable to pull away. Until they called a timeout. Following the Chandler freethrow, the Heat called a timeout and put the game out of reach. They stretched their lead to ten and that was it. An alley-oop from Wade to James put the finishing touches on their 92-84 win.

This is the first time the Mavericks have trailed in the playoffs but I don’t see any reason to panic.

Dirk Nowitzki struggles with his shot going 7/18 but still finished with 27 points by attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line 12 times. He hit all 12, of course. But the game was lost on the boards and by the benches.

The Mavericks were outrebounded 46 to 36 and the Heat had ten more offensive rebounds than the Mavericks. For a team with the distinct size advantage, that’s inexcusable and can not continue moving forward. After rolling through the playoffs thanks to the terrific play of their bench, the Mavericks’ bench laid a dud in game one. They were outscored 27-17. Brutal. Chalmers and Miller were left wide-open on busted zone coverages and hit a few threes and Haslem hit a couple of shots for them but it was Juwan Howard’s contribution that really irked me. Howard played eight minutes and got three offensive rebounds. And that’s all about effort. The Mavericks will need to hit the boards a lot harder if they expect to win this series. That falls to Tyson Chandler who had a particularly awful game. Chandler went 3/4 for nine points but was only able to snag four rebounds. He also lost his composure at times and committed silly fouls, he has to improve and I have no doubt that he will.

Peja Stojakovic, J.J Barea and Jason Terry were not any better. Stojakovic has not been able to find his stroke since his perfect shooting display against the Lakers and was blowing defensive assignments on almost every possession. If Peja can not find his stroke, he should not be on the floor.  J.J Barea was able to get open looks and penetrated at will at times, he just couldn’t finish going 1-8 from the field. After starting the game 2/2, Terry finished 3/10. He rushed shots at times but again, most of them were open looks and they will begin to fall eventually.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. The Mavericks were severely outplayed in all facets of the game and were still within six in the fourth quarter. James and Wade were held relatively in check and only paid seven trips to the freethrow line. Attack the boards, better bench play, close out on threes and they should have a great chance to steal game two.

Game 2 is Thursday night at 8 p.m. CT on ABC.


NBA Finals: Heat Pull Away From Mavericks, Win Game 1

The Miami Heat jumped out to a 1-0 series lead on Wednesday, defeating the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 to win Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

The Heat trailed the Mavericks 44-43 at the half, but seemingly dominated the fourth quarter. The Heat only outscored Dallas 27-23 in the fourth, but Dallas did hit a three as time expired, making it seem closer than it really was. Further, Miami was dictating the pace of the fourth – and the Mavericks never really looked like they were in rhythm.

LeBron James led the Heat with 24 points and nine rebounds. James added five assists as well.

Chris Bosh also had an excellent game for Miami, scoring 19 points while grabbing nine rebounds as well. Dallas held Dwyane Wade to 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but still, it wasn’t enough.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 27 points, but he went just 7-of-18 shooting from the field. Nowitzki was a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line – which is nothing surprising given how locked in he’s been from the line in the playoffs this year.

The pressure is now on the Mavericks to win Game 2, or else they’ll head back to Dallas needing to win all three games in order to avoid an elimination game in Miami.


NBA Finals, Mavericks Vs. Heat Game One: Mavs Lead At The Half

The first half of Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals is in the books, and the Dallas Mavericks lead the Miami Heat 44-43. 

Dirk Nowitzki leads the Mavericks with 13 points at the half - shocking, I know. Nowitzki is four-for-nine from the field thus far, and a perfect four-for-four at the free throw line.

Shawn Marion, meanwhile, leads the Mavericks with six rebounds at the half. Tyson Chandler isn't far off the pace, as he's grabbed five boards,

Chris Bosh, not Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, has been the star for Miami through the first half. Bosh leads the Heat with 13 points and he leads the Heat in rebounds as well with seven. Dallas' defense has been tough on Wade and James, as Wade was held to 3-of-10 shooting. Wade also missed both of his free throw attempts. 

James, meanwhile, has been held to 10 points on four-of-eight shooting. 

The Heat are in a bit more of foul trouble than the Mavericks are so far as well. James, Bosh and Joel Anthony all have two fouls on them. Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Brendan Haywood are the only Mavs with two fouls - with Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion having none thus far. 

Needless to say, it would be a huge boost for the Mavericks if Dallas can steal Game 1. 


Miami Heat To Start Udonis Haslem?

Rick Carlisle just finished his pre-game press conference and provided this interesting bit of news, he is expecting to see Haslem in the starting lineup for tonight’s game.

The Heat would use Haslem to guard Dirk Nowitzki but in the process would have a small lineup on the court as Haslem is only 6’8 and would presumably start in place of center Joel Anthony.

In that case, the Mavericks will need to take advantage of their size and attack the boards with a venom. And if the Heat do indeed start Haslem, it’s a sign that they’re extremely concerned about Dirk Nowitzki and that can only be good news for Mavericks fans.


2011 NBA Finals: SB Nation Breaks Down Heat, Mavs Offensive Sets

SB Nation’s Sebastian Pruiti has posted a comprehensive breakdown of sets used by the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks during the 2011 NBA playoffs. He notes that the Heat and Mavs were the two most efficient half court offenses in the NBA this season.

Included in the sets he reviews are Miami’s Double High Post sets and Dallas’ Foul Line Pick and Roll. Video is included in each review. He also notes something interesting about the two teams.

An Interesting Similarity

While watching each teams half-court possessions, I noticed an interesting similarity between the two offenses. This similarity takes place in delayed transition opportunities where the teams aren’t really in transition, but they aren’t running their offense as well. When both teams are in delayed transition opportunities, they like to set a screen with a trailing big man. However, despite the fact that both teams run pick and rolls in delayed transition situations, they are looking for different things out of it.

He concludes by looking at each team’s sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays and some easy scoring opportunities they see from each scheme.

See more of Sebastian’s analysis at


Heat Vs. Mavs: 2011 NBA Finals Game 1 Start Time, TV Schedule

Here are your vitals for Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals.

Tip: 8:00 CDT, 9:00 EDT
Location: American Airlines Arena (not to be confused with AA Center), Miami, FL
Dallas Radio: ESPN 103.3

ABC will air a special edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game 1 at 7:00 CDT, followed by a 30-minute pregame. NBA TV will also air a pregame from 6:30-7:30 CDT. Locally, ESPN 103.3 will have pregame festivities all evening, and KTCK 1310/104.1 will air a 90-minute pregame at 6:30. Remember that NBA TV will also carry postgame press conferences live after the game.

Here is the full schedule for the NBA Finals:

Game 1 — Tue May 31, Dallas at /Miami 8 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 2 — Thu June 2, Dallas at Miami 8 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 3 — Sun June 5, Miami at Dallas 7 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 4 — Tue June 7, Miami at Dallas 8 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 5* — Thu June 9, Miami at Dallas 8 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 6* — Sun June 12, Dallas at Miami 7 p.m. CDT, ABC
Game 7* — Tue June 14, Dallas at Miami 8 p.m. CDT, ABC
*If necessary


NBA Finals 2011: Caron Butler Still Fighting To Return Against Heat

The start of the 2011 NBA Finals is hours away, but Mavs forward Caron Butler still hasn’t been cleared to practice. Mavericks medical staff call his recovery one-two months faster than average, but haven’t yet signed off on his return to face the Heat.

As Tim McMahon points out, Butler, on the other hand, thinks that he’s ready.

It’s frustrating, and it’s not like AAU. It’s not like [I can just say], ‘I can give it a shot.’ It’s one of those things where there’s a chain of command. You’ve got to go through the right people to get cleared.

He also says that, if cleared, he would look like himself on the court. That Caron Butler would be a huge boost for the Mavericks. They lack ample options to guard LeBron James as well as true two-way players. Butler also shot 43% from three-point range in 29 games before his injury this season. 


2011 NBA Finals Odds: Miami Heat Are Clear Favorites Over Mavs

Oddsmakers have given the nod to the Miami Heat to win the 2011 NBA Finals over the Dallas Mavericks. Tom Ziller of SB Nation summarizes:

The Miami Heat have the odds in their favor heading into the 2011 NBA Finals opposite the Dallas Mavericks. According to Bodog, the Heat are -180 to win the series, and the Mavs are +160. The most favored outcome in the series, per Bodog, is the Heat in seven (11/4), with Miami in six (13/4) right behind it.

The fact that the most likely outcomes are six and seven game Heat victories may be a result of Games 3-5 all being in Dallas, due to the 2-3-2 format. At any rate, -180 is a pretty heavy favorite. The good news for Mavs fans? While this is a wide margin, Bodog had the Heat as 17/10 favorites to win the title before the season, while the Mavericks were 20/1 underdogs.


2011 NBA Finals: Game 1 Referee Assignments Announced

The Mavericks and Heat have learned their referees for Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals. Steve Javie, Mike Callahan and Bill Kennedy will call the game. Bill Spponer is the alternate.

This is a fairly nondescript group, but Javie has the potential to be a positive for the Mavericks, due to his reputation for his willingness to blow the whistle on the home team. In fact, none of the three are among the leaders in home teams’ records against the spread.

Javie also has a history with Pat Riley and the Heat. Back in 2003, Javie was fined for an altercation in 2002 with Riley in which Riley claimed that Javie taunted him as his team lost.

“It all started, I think, last year,” Riley said Dec. 13 after a loss to the Knicks. "I think I sort of sensed something changing last year when Steve Javie, in Cleveland — and to his delight, obviously, absolute delight, as we were getting beat, and going through a real tough time — came to my face, after we were having a discussion, and said, ’It’s giving us absolute delight to watch you and your team die.’ "


NBA Finals, Mavericks Vs. Heat: Dallas Looks To Steal Game 1 In Miami

After a four-day NBA playoff lull, the 2011 NBA Finals are finally here. Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat v.2 appears to be one of the most compelling Finals matchups in recent memory. The contrast is striking. The Heat were forged just last summer, while the Mavs have chipped away at their roster for most of the past decade. The Heat see this Finals as the first of many presumed trophies, while the Mavs are a collection of older players looking for that one title. The Heat rely almost exclusively on three stars, while the Mavs surround their one star with a cast of role players and rely on different heroes each night. 

These Finals will either be Day 1 of what could be a protracted Heat dynasty and evidence of Lebron James' greatness, or it will be a testimonial to Dirk Nowitzki's stellar career and a vindication of Mark Cuban's vision. Answers will begin to come with Game 1. For his part, Nowitzki doesn't view this series as potential vindication for 2006. Udonis Haslem does think, however, that the 2006 experience helped develop Dirk into the player he is now. While these teams appear to be close on paper, the Heat do enjoy a slight statistical advantage.  

Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips Tuesday night in Miami at 8 p.m. CDT on ABC. Local radio is ESPN 103.3.


Mavericks Vs. Heat, NBA Finals Preview: Veterans Give Dallas The Edge

2nd seed Miami Heat (58-24)
3rd seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25)

Mavericks swept the season series 2-0.

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