Adjustments to the Adjustments: Mavs v. Heat Game 3 Recap

The Heat made several interesting adjustments in Game 3.  The most obvious, of course, was to take Lebron off of Jason Terry.  The Heat matched up conventionally, with Lebron guarding the three, usually Shawn Marion, and Wade guarding the two.             

They also changed their pick and roll defense, which Carlisle had so brilliantly burned them with in Game 2.  They started blitzing the ball-handler, to shut off the playmaker’s option to penetrate or shoot himself. After the pass was forced, the rotations began, with Lebron or another big rotating to Nowitzki.  This worked well in my estimation, and why wouldn’t it?  The Heat are probably the fastest, most athletic team in the league, and the fastest at making rotations and running out to the three point shooters.  Why not put that to good use?

The Heat also made, of course, an adjustment to their crunch-time defense of Nowitzki.  Particularly in that play down the stretch when they pulled a surprise double team (heaven forfend!) on Nowitzki as soon as he put the ball on the floor, and forced him into a rushed wild pass to the wing resulting in a turnover.

But the rest of the time they single-covered Dirk with Haslem — the pusillanimous Bosh was not allowed anywhere near him.  And very interestingly to me, the Heat maintained that single coverage on the last play of the game, with Dallas needing two to tie and three to win.  After giving this some thought, I’ve decided this was exactly right.  If you double-team Nowitzki there, you give him a chance to find the open man for a three to win.  By single-covering him, the worst you are risking is a tie, and overtime.  Clearly the better choice, particularly when you have a defensive weapon like Haslem at your disposal. In the event, Haslem used his physicality to force Dirk into a tough 20-foot turnaround fade-away that hit the back rim. Remind me again why Spoelstra guarded Dirk with Bosh on the final play of game 2?

Spoelstra will probably get the credit for these critical adjustments, as well as the credit for winning the championship.  But my intuition tells me that Pat Riley deserves it more.


For those NBA conspiracy theorists out there, of which I am definitely one, this game deserves a place in the archive.  I could see the handwriting on the wall in the first quarter, and tweeted as much.  As the game wore on, others like Bill Simmons and added their voices to mine.  The officiating crew, led by Danny Crawford, did everything possible to keep the Mavericks in this game, resulting in one of the worst officiated games in NBA history.

I’ll not take the time to go over every blatant missed call, although that crunch time “foul” committed by Haslem on Dirk took the cake.  I’ll just point out the 27-15 free throw disparity in favor of the team that was less athletic, and less aggressive in attacking the rim.  And the fact that Chandler — with Haywood out, the Mavs were desperately thin at center — didn’t commit his first foul until 4:00 of the 3rd Q, and his second until 3:33 of the 4th Q.  This is the same Chandler who got 5 fouls in each of the first two games.  I’ll just leave it at that, and let you take the time to review the tape if you’re interested.

It was also interesting to me that Danny Crawford is known as the Mavs nemesis among referees.  That’s probably the wrong way to view him.  The more appropriate way to view him is as the NBA’s go-to ref when a series needs help to remain competetive and be extended.  As Bill Simmons and this Mavs commentator have hinted.

The Lebron James/Dwayne Wade “Controversy”

After the game, the main stream media began spouting nonsense about Dwayne Wade being the real closer for the Miami Heat, and Lebron being second fiddle, etc.  Doing what the main stream media does best, generating controversy and bitter emotions wherever possible, in the hope of selling papers and eyeballs and advancing their careers.  While completely missing what’s really going on.

I predicted that Lebron would take a back seat to Wade in this series before it even began.  It has absolutely nothing to do with which of Lebron or Wade is the better closer (in 2011, give me Lebron any day).  It has to do with who is guarding them.  There is no way that the Dallas Maverics can guard Dwayne Wade, except with their whole team.  Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson are too slow.  Jason Terry and Jose Barea are too small.

Shawn Marion, on the other hand, is still very capable of guarding Lebron. Is Lebron somehow to blame for this?  Is he too passive, shrinking from the moment?  Nonsense.  Garbage.  Shawn Marion in his prime was an all-world defender, and is still one of the very few human beings on this earth who compares with Lebron in size and athleticism.  He is actually more athletic than Lebron — probably both quicker and a higher leaper in his prime — and very nearly his size.  Like Lebron, Marion is large and strong enough  to play power forward, and in fact did play there for most of his career on the Phoenix Suns.

The Mavericks are allowing Marion to guard Lebron man-to-man, and despite getting badly beaten on occasion, he’s done a pretty great job of keeping Lebron out of the lane.  And the Heat — after the multiple coaching brainfarts of game 2 — have responded smartly by making Lebron a facilitator and Wade the focus of the offense.  It is Dwayne Wade in this series who has the power to completely warp the opponent’s defense.

Just as it was Lebron in the previous series.

The Heat are now doing exactly what they should do in this series. And Lebron James, the consummate team player, is doing exactly what he should do as well.


32 Responses to Adjustments to the Adjustments: Mavs v. Heat Game 3 Recap

  1. Felt, the only thing I care about after reading this is finding out what the hell “pusillanimous” means?

  2. Thanks Steve! (and FB, of course). Are we going to get a new–um, word each post? By a nice coincidence, as I was watching this YouTube (just got home), my son came in and announced who the Warriors’ new coach will be. I’m debating putting the word “pusillanimous” together with this decision, but had better wait for others to weigh in.

  3. Mark Jackson? MARK JACKSON? And to think I was in such a good mood after being educated by that chesty blonde.

    My sentiments pretty much mirror those of the commenter who stated that at least this means he’ll no longer have to listen to Jackson’s inane chatter on ESPN’s telecasts. Only the Warriors. OK, Felt, please tell us how Mark “hand down, man down” Jackson turns into the next Red Auerbach? Please!

  4. Thanks, Steve, loved it! I’m with rgg, I’m now in the mood for a new word each post. But this might have an unfortunate Bill Buckley-esque effect on my prose.

    Regarding the Mark Jackson hire, I have some immediate thoughts, but I’m going to suppress my knee jerk reaction (with the exception of my spontaneous tweet) and take some time to digest the news and the public statements before giving my analysis. Expect a post in a day or so.

  5. As I listened to Jackson the other night, I wondered if he weren’t, in fact, lobbying for the coaching job. I heard 3 years at $6 million? He’s cheap enough to buy out in a couple of years.

    OK, I’m only a commenter on a blog, who has no authority and bears no responsibility for his words, so I’ll react. We’ll all hope the best and give Jackson the benefit of a doubt, but at the very least it means it will take at least two years for him to develop, and the team to develop with him, so that the team can be competitive. What this means is that Lacob fired Nelson, hired Smart in a no win situation, and now has hired Jackson because he didn’t think the team could do anything this past season or the next two coming seasons.

    Or, as I believe FB has put it, Lacob’s first priority is to put his imprint on the team over developing its potential.

    Steve, we may be learning several new words the next few years and may need more attractive young ladies to get us to swallow them.

  6. geraldmcgrew

    Would’ve preferred Jim Barnett.

  7. geraldmcgrew

    Lockout coach?

  8. I do like the news that Mike Malone will be one of Jackson’s top assistants. Who knows, maybe this might work in the long run.

  9. Words and their meanings…LinkMaster, I see you’re takin’ it to a whole new level!

  10. Mark Jackson, a perfect tool to execute plays designed by Lacob. Now GSW has a GM that takes orders from Kirk Lacob and a HC that takes orders from …. Kirk or Joe?

  11. Here’s an interesting take on the series. Miami now in trouble?

    The Heat look like the better team but somehow they’ve managed losing 2 of the first 4 games, with last night’s loss worse than the Game 2 collapse. Nowitzki was breathing the Black Plague and for all Jason Kidd contributed he must have come down with something even worse, yet Dallas still won. Could the Heat be a bunch of pusillanimous chokers?

  12. Hmmm, the Warriors hiring of MJ is looking better all the time. First, the possibility of Lacob targeting Jackson eludes Kawakami and his pea brain analysis of head coaching candidates, and now Ann Killion speaks. If you don’t want the know-nothings on your side the prevailing trend is definitely in Lacob’s favor.

  13. The subject of trading Monta was part of a 5 minute interview of Mark Jackson by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on yesterday’s PTI show. Worth the listen (starts approx 9 min into the show).

  14. The Heat are firmly in control of the series, imo. They got the game they needed in game 3. They took game 4 off (see James, Lebron), which is a very familiar pattern (I know a lot of Heat bettors that took Dallas last night -2.5). It is very difficult to win games you don’t need on the road in the playoffs.

    The Mavs on the other hand, were desperate in this game. And it’s not a good sign for the Mavs that they couldn’t put any distance between themselves and the Heat down the stretch in such a game.

    Which team will be desperate in game 5? Again, it’s the Mavericks. Going down 3-2 with the next 2 in Miami is their death knell. The Heat will try to win of course, but again they don’t need the game. I’ve lost count of the number of times the eventual champion returned home down 3-2, but I do believe last year’s champion Lakers are a perfect example.

  15. Miami/Mavs

    When I look at the lineups on paper I wonder why Miami isn’t blowing out these games. I still have questions.

  16. Rookie owner with ache for bold moves and knowledge from a gym league hires rookie coach with big personality and no head-coach experience. Big emphasis on defense and hard-nosed play. Hire an experienced assistant to help him.

    I have a feeling of dread that we just saw this movie and it didn’t end well. (Hat tip to Ann Killion for the Mike Singletary analogy.)

  17. Transcript of Mark Jackson Q&A at the NBA Finals. We know one thing; he nailed the Lacob interview, so he says a lot of good things (Singletary, Part II):

  18. mwlx,
    This does have a bad feel.
    I thought Smart was Singletary. So now we got Singletary 2?

  19. Wow!

    a) Haslem is an EXCELLENT defender. Watch the slo-mo replay for his illegal handcheck on Nowitski. As effective as a cross-body block, but sneaky enough to avoid being called.

    b) Dirk! Wow!

    c) I wonder if Haslem now has Dirk’s fever. After all, he couldn’t have gotten any more intimate with the guy.

  20. MWLX and rgg, my problem with the Singletary analogy is that the 49’ers didn’t have a “Jerry West” under their employ when they hired MS. Do I believe that Mr. West is infallible and incapable of erroneous NBA-related evaluations? Hardly, as his long resume and body of work away from the court reveals that his near-perfection as a player hasn’t been matched in his front office work. But his pros far outweigh his cons, and just the mere association of “West” with “Golden State Warriors” gives this franchise an instant shot of credibility that’s been sorely lacking, maybe forever.

    While I’m sure the head coaching selection process didn’t make a straight beeline towards Mark Jackson (again, thank you Lakers!), I am sure that once Jackson became a finalist for the job, everyone, including Jerry West, signed off on the hire. Compare that to the thought of the Yorks and all their merry men giving their blessings to the hiring of Mad Mike and all analogies instantly explode into a million pieces.

    Without question my instant reaction to MJ getting the job was one of disappointment. But upon further review I’ve come to realize that that reaction was more towards Mark as a TV guy than as a coach of men, where to this point Keith Smart has him beat on experience. The more I listen to and read his thoughts on the game his “on air shtick” is quickly becoming an afterthought as it relates to his head coaching potential.

    While Joe Lacob remains a huge question mark in terms of running an NBA franchise he no longer remains a question mark in one very important aspect, at least IMO, and that’s his genuineness as a person. Lacob has a burning desire to take the Warriors and turn them into a dynastic organization. It’s one thing to mouth the words in an attempt to inspire confidence in the fanbase (and in turn increase ticket sales), but to live and breath that desire 24/7 is something else altogether. The latter is Joe Lacob, IMO. And while that doesn’t guarantee he’ll succeed, that passion and dedication is definitely a prerequisite for any chance of accomplishment.

    Mark Jackson may or may not succeed as an NBA head coach but he’s no Mike Singletary 2.0. Singletary never had a clue and was hired by an ownership that was equally as clueless. The Warriors more competent than the 49’ers? Everything considered, how strange does that sound? And the reality of it all, the gap may be widening as we speak. Now, if only the Warriors could start winning and widening that gap between themselves and the rest of the NBA. Mark Jackson, it’s all yours.

  21. I’m disgusted with refs swallowing their whistles. There’s such a thing as playing tough defense, but when refs refuse to call fouls for hacking and shoving, it isn’t basketball anymore, and I don’t enjoy watching it. Then LeBron flops without being touched and the whistle blows. Ridiculous. A mockery. An embarrassment to the game.

    Will it change? No.

  22. Steve: Feel free to be more optimistic than I am, but I disagree with a few of the assumptions on which you base your optimism.

    It’s fair to say Jerry West “signed off” on Lacob’s choice of Mark Jackson, but here’s what West told Kawakami in a phone interview: “Joe is really excited about it, and I think that is to me of paramount importance.” No praise of Jackson, just praise for the owner-coach fit. I detect something less than a ringing endorsement of the Lacob choice.

    You declare that Jackson is no Singletary 2.0 and that Singletary never had a clue. Actually, Singletary was an all-pro middle linebacker (which means he had as much of a clue as Jackson, the point guard); and he was an assistant coach (which means he had coaching experience, which Jackson doesn’t have). You offer no basis for your assumption that Jackson will be better.

    Lastly, you declare the 49ers’ ownership to be clueless, but we really have no conclusive evidence to say Lacob isn’t equally clueless. You suggest Lacob might accomplish good things based on his passion, genuineness, etc. But upon what actions could we base that assumption? His firing of Nelson? Hiring, then firing Smart? Hiring his son? Signing Jeremy Lin? Now hiring a coaching unknown?

    The jury is still out, my friend, and deliberations will be ongoing for quite some time. Considering the above, I remain pessimistic.

  23. Steve, o giver of busty logophiles,

    Fair enough, and yours is the stand we’ll all have to take if we’re going to keep watching the games. Still, we have a bad taste to get rid of first.

    1. Many of Lacob’s decisions have been soundly criticized on this blog, with cause, so there’s room for doubt. He did not even consult one the best minds in the game, Nelson, who could have made use of the talent we have and offered next year other alternatives.

    2. His focus on defense sounds simpleminded. I want someone who can give us the whole package, put offense and defense together in an intelligent way. (Do we know Jackson and Malone can work together?)

    3. I’ll have support on this blog at least on this. Nelson also promoted a type of game I want to see (West called it “fun to watch” as have many others). What Nelson represented was a game that mattered to me, that promoted speed and skills over strength and congestion–and he would have had the players for it. (West seems conventionally minded as well?) Would I be happy if we traded for Thibodeaux and the whole Bulls team and won next year? No, I would be bored.

    4. We don’t know how involved West was in this decision, as mwlx says, or how much he will be in the future. I wonder if he will be heard but also if he will be close enough to the team to advise. Bill Walsh came back as a consultant to the Niners, but as I recall didn’t have that much impact or effect? (I’m not sure.)

    Monta Ellis–

    One thing that is certain about the trade Ellis rumors is that there are a lot of trade Ellis rumors going around publicly. How on earth will this affect Ellis and how hard will it be for him to come back if not traded?

  24. None of us here really knows Singletary or Jackson, of course, but you can get a sense for some differences. For example, the generally simpleminded play of Singletary’s 49ers made him seem less than clever. By all reports, Mark Jackson is extremely intelligent.

    The backbiting, distrust and chaos throughout Singletary’s 49ers showed he was ineffective as a leader. That won’t happen in a Lacob company, regardless of who is coach.

    Singletary was hired by a dysfunctional organization. Lacob has built over 200 companies, and has hired and fired dozens of CEOs. I think we can take it as a given that he knows a few things about success, and is probably a good judge of talent by now.

    I grew up watching Singletary play in Chicago. He was a physically dominating player. Unlike Singletary, Mark Jackson never had the bod to be physically dominant. He was crafty. That’s a good thing in a coach. Think Don Nelson.

    Singletary never did cultivate a coaching staff he could rely on. That’s a matter of record. Mark Jackson hired an experienced, well-respected assistant within hours of getting the job.

    And Mark Jackson can talk to The Logo any time he wants.

    So at first glance Jackson might look like Singletary redux, but I just don’t think it’s so. Jackson will undoubtedly have a learning curve, just like any new coach, and he’ll probably give away some games early on that an experienced coach would have won. But whether or not the Warriors make the playoffs next year hinges more on what their front office does in the next 3 months than on anything Jackson could possibly do (or not do) next season. If the FO takes as long to bring in decent players as they took to hire Jackson, the dubs won’t play in the postseason next year either. No matter who’s coaching. Even if it were The Logo Himself.

  25. MWLX, here’s the entire transcript of West’s talk with TK.

    —-JERRY WEST transcript/

    -Q: What are your thoughts about Mark Jackson?

    -WEST: He had a tremendous connection with Joe. And he’s a very smart guy, he played in the league for 17 years, for a number of coaches. He’s a player who played in the league a long time in his head. And I think we all have had glowing reports from people who think he’s really good.

    I’ve known him for a long time.

    He and Joe seemed to really hit it off. I met with Mark myself down here and talked about if he were offered the job what did he need to do, boy he was really focused on what he had to be done.

    He said one thing oi me I thought was really, really kind of cool. I asked him, you haven’t had any coaching experience as an assistant coach or anything. He said well I’ve had opportunities. I said why wouldn’t you want to do that if you’re an aspiring head coach?

    He said Doc Rivers told him that he learned more from being in these production meetings with coaches, watch them go over things, than he would as assistant coach. I thought that was really pretty interesting….

    I look back on Pat Riley, who to me is a pretty good example of somebody who just needed an opportunity, who had a terrific work ethic… I remember at the press conference when I said I’m going to Pat’s assistant, I thought Jerry Buss’ face was going to crack… I remember how awkward maybe that was…

    Turned out to be the right decision for the Lakers. I’ve watched Pat’s career, watch him today….

    Joe’s passion is contagious and the two of them together really hit it off.

    It’s an exciting hire—I’m not even going to call it a risk. There’s not a question in my mind he’ll know when to call timeout and also when to substitute someone. That to me will be the easiest part of it.

    He understands he needs a good assistant coach. Not going to say who it is. But it’s very exciting. I’m very, very excited about it.

    -Q: It’s Michael Malone, right?

    -WEST: I think these two guys together will be a really, really good match. And two really smart guys, really smart guys.

    Mark is not a BS-er. I think you can challenge him. Just a helluva face of the franchise. To me it’s Joe putting his imprint on this brand. And I think he’ll continue to be aggressive and try to do what’s best for the franchise.

    Nice to see a person who wants to be involved, get to the person he wants.

    -Q: That’s what you were talking about a while back—that it’s important the owner is invested in this hire.

    -WEST: I had a really good teacher here in Los Angeles in Jerry Buss. I learned a lot from him in terms of what he wanted in the franchise. Jerry’s risk-taker, he’s not afraid to make decisions and he’s done pretty damn well for himself, I think.

    Joe is really excited about it and I think that is to me is of paramount importance. I think his basketball people up there–I think it’s a good night for everybody up there. They’ve got one person and I think they’re going to get the other person they really feel good about, too.

    It’s the start of trying to do something a little bi differently, and build a better team and imprint Joe and Peter’s style on this team.

    -Q: So what style is Mark Jackson going to play?

    -WEST: Obviously Larry and Bob and Joe talked about, they told him what they wanted to see. I met with Mark down here in Los Angeles and met for about an hour and a half. Just talked bout the game and things he sees, things he’s seeing in the playoffs, things he thinks he’s learned. Very very impressive to talk to.

    I do think he understands that the Warriors have to be better defensively. But he wants to play an aggressive game, he doesn’t want to play a slow-down game. Wants to play in a way that suits their talent.

    -Q: Point-blank, what people want to know: Did Jerry West sign off on this hire?

    -WEST: (Laughs.) Listen, I try to explain it to everyone up there: I’m not going to step on anyone’s toes. Forget me, I think it was unanimous with the three people up there. They obviously asked me about it and I gave them my opinion and I think everyone’s very pleased today.


    You say “less than a ringing endorsement”, but I’d conclude just the opposite after reading the entire transcript. Whatever.

    My clueless comments were all after-the-fact based. And obviously Jackson could prove just as “clueless” in the long run. But whereas Mad Mike made statements such as the QB position being overrated I’m not reading or hearing anything so blatantly clueless as that coming from Jackson on the NBA game. And I’d be beyond shocked if MJ ever threw a conniption fit over any Q & A session with the local media. Yes, count me optimistic that Jackson is less-clueless than Singletary was. Hopefully, MUCH less-clueless.

    To your third point, there’s precedence for a neophyte such as Lacob to take over a franchise, fire an icon, hire his son, hire a coaching unknown, and be wildly successful. In the late ’80’s Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys, fired HOF coach Tom Landry, hired a college coach with no NFL coaching experience whatsoever (Jimmy Johnson), and preceded to win 3 Super Bowls in a 4 year span in the early to mid ’90’s. Jerry Jones son, Stephen Jones, is one of the brightest minds in NFL management, and has much to do with the everyday operations of a very storied franchise.

    Considering the above, I remain optimistic.

  26. rgg, I’ll always believe that Don Nelson could have won titles as a coach if his players had been good enough. They never were. And I’m with you on style of play. I love run and gun. That said, whatever it takes to reach the top, as a fan, I’m on board.

    I don’t think Monta will be affected by the trade talk. He’s a mentally tough kid who’s played great through a lot of bad times here in the Bay Area. If they keep him, and I really hope they do, I think he’ll be just fine.

    Now, anyone with any 15-lettered words they’d like defined?

  27. Steve,
    15 letters, and you-know-who defines it.

  28. rgg, does your wife have any idea why you’ve suddenly become infatuated with the English dictionary? LOL Anyway, here you go. And I must say, I’ve never encountered so many pulchritudinous people on one blog.

  29. Steve: Good info from the TK transcript. West came across as more enthusiastic than TK described (why am I not surprised that TK can’t write accurately?).

    It’s all optimism about Mark Jackson the person, but Jackson is still minus any track record as a coach, hence my skepticism (which may be a step better than pessimism). One thing we know — he aced the interviews, which means he can talk a good game. Let’s all pray he can walk that talk.

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