Out-Coached: Mavs 95 Heat 93 — NBA Finals Game 2 Recap

Just finished watching the game for the second time.  I watched it the first time out of the corner of my eye from my seat at the 5-10 no limit poker table at Lucky Chances…  and quite predictably, my own play suffered greatly in crunch time.

To me this game highlighted the biggest edge that Dallas has over Miami: at Head Coach. Carlisle is an absolute genius: the adjustments he made (staggered screens, etc.) to get Nowitzki open against one of the toughest defenses in history were beautiful.  And he does it on the fly, mid-game, which is the hallmark of the elite.                          

Spoelstra is on the other end of the spectrum. He’s one of those coaches who screams in the huddles about better execution of what’s not working, instead of taking responsiblity himself for what’s not working, and making a tactical response. Spoelstra’s absolutely helpless mid-game. The Heat’s major adjustments occur between games, and I have little doubt originate from the mind of Pat Riley.

Did you notice the defense on that Nowitzki three-pointer that put the Mavs up three? The Heat didn’t switch on the screen between Terry (guarded by James) and Chandler (guarded by Bosh).  James followed Terry, and Bosh sagged off Chandler, allowing Chandler to set a second screen on Haslem, pinning him down.  Nowitzki was left wide open.

So brilliant on Carlisle’s part.  James is on Terry so he can switch the pick and roll with Nowitzki.  So Carlisle made Chandler the screener instead.  Miami doesn’t want James on Chandler and Bosh on Terry, so they declined to switch. All three of Miami’s big men were left watching helplessly as Nowitzki’s shot arced through stunned silence.

And so miserably bad on Spoelstra’s part.  If you felt like James took the game off defensively, as I did, it’s partly because Carlisle’s game-planning left him completely out of the picture.  With Spoelstra’s full acquiesence.  Spoelstra has to make Lebron James the centerpiece of his defense, and to do that, he’s got to get him onto Nowitzki.  Spoelstra played the wrong lineup, and the wrong matchups down the stretch.

As for the Heat’s offense down the stretch, what exactly was it? Get the ball and hold it, looking for slow-motion cuts.  Swing the ball and repeat.  Too often the ball wound up in Bosh’s hands at the end of the shot clock, which is exactly what you don’t want.  You get a turnover, a forced shot, or a desperation outlet to Lebron or Wade for a desperation three.

But if you were to get either Haslem or Bosh off the floor, who would Nowitzki guard? You could run Wade in the pick and roll v. Nowitzki until Carlisle’s eyes rolled back in his head. The Heat’s failure to attack the basket in crunch time with the most athletic players in the universe was beyond ridiculous.

The last possession of the game was the absolute nadir.  Bosh on Nowitzki? Seriously? Bosh is the softest power forward in the league, unless you want to count Brandan Wright. He didn’t even touch Nowitzki on that play. Not one bump. Why in the world do you have Udonis Haslem in the game, if not to guard Nowitzki? And are you seriously not going to double team Nowitzki’s dribble on the last possession? Force a pass and a three-point shot? And what about the foul to give? Baffling.

Pat Riley will head back to the blackboard for game three.  The Heat will get back on the boards.  Lebron will get back in the game defensively.  And perhaps we might finally see a new and sensible defensive scheme against Nowitzki.

I’m loving watching Dirk and the Mavs execute Rick Carlisle’s brilliant improvisations, but I suspect that this game 2 collapse will ultimately mean nothing more to the Heat than the Mavs’ own collapse against Portland meant to them: a wake up call.

And I suspect that taking the Heat +2.5 in game 3 will be one of the better bets of these playoffs. Because as we all know — since we’ve heard it so often — it’s not coaches that win championships, it’s players.


6 Responses to Out-Coached: Mavs 95 Heat 93 — NBA Finals Game 2 Recap

  1. Felty, I agree with you. Carlisle is clearly a superior coach to Spoelstra and it showed. It also doesn’t hurt to have a guy like Kidd out there calming nerves, controlling the tempo and getting his teammates in the right places at the right times.

    The Heat brought this on themselves with their chest punching, three celebrating, cocky selves. You just can’t do that kind of stuff in an NBA game. As good as the dynamic duo are, there are pro’s on the other end who have a ton of pride. They were done emotionally until that outburst and blatant disrespect. Terry starting barking, and chirping and Chandler was brought back into the game and all of a sudden you had an entirely different ballgame.

    BTW, loved how Carlisle had Terry pick up LBJ fullcourt prompting the announcers to say what is terry doing, only to have him back off once Lebron passed halfcourt. This killed precious seconds off the shot clock and helped force the heat into a bad shot that possession. Small thing, but makes a big difference and he did many many more little things like that.

  2. “However, the Knicks have given no indication that they are open to negotiating a new deal with D’Antoni. Sources close to Walsh claim that the team president has privately questioned whether D’Antoni’s system is the right fit for the Knicks.”

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2011/06/01/2011-06-01_source_donnie_walsh_questions_if_mike_dantoni_is_right_for_knicks_coach_could_bo.html#ixzz1OLRoZqoA

  3. Bulls fan here. Man, you are making Thibs look bad, since he seems to have been outcoached by Spoelstra. Then again, Thibs didn’t have Riley to consult between games.

    As for Bosh being the softest power forward in the league, I think Boozer would give him a run for his money.

    Spoelstra and the Heat tried to use up time off the clock at the end of game 2. As with the prevent defense in football, end-of-game stalling tactics in basketball are controversial, and the coach gets heavily criticized when they don’t work. I don’t know whether there is ever an appropriate moment to use such tactics, but if there is I would think up 15 with 7 minutes to go would be it.

    Regarding Chandler’s screen for the three, I thought I recalled reading comments from Chandler that it was his idea. If true, I suppose the coach still gets credit for endorsing it.

  4. Bulls bloggers are talking trading Noah for Ellis.

    I hope no one is listening on this end of the country.

    Here and elsewhere:

  5. That rumor seems nonsensical to me rgg. Would the Bulls really want to roll with Ellis and Rose in the same backcourt? Who gets the ball in crunch time? Who defends the two? I don’t think there’s even a remote chance that the Bulls would contemplate this.

    On the Warriors end, I’m pretty sure Lacob will try to sign one of the free agent centers (Nene, Gasol, Chandler, Dalembert) before looking to trade for one.