For the Miami Heat, Defense Wins Game 3
In three games so far, the Mavericks have shot over 40% just one time, and that of course was the one game they won. But in Games 1 and 3, the Mavericks were 37% and 40% from the field, which are worse percentages than what the NBA’s worst shooting team, the Milwaukee Bucks, shot all season long.
Any fan of the sport of basketball should recognize that this is just the beginning. The Heat’s defense is only going to get better throughout the series. They are riding talent and youth to one of the best defensive performances by an NBA Playoff team ever, and defense is the one thing that will show up each and every night.
On a night when the Heat gave up 34 points to Dirk Nowitzki, they held the Mavericks to just 86 points, 8 three-pointers and forced 14 turnovers. The Mavericks did have some good points, having gotten to the line 27 times while grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. However, the fact that Miami doubled Nowitzki a lot and still managed to hold him 1 assists while forcing his teammates to shoot 17 for 49 from the field speaks volumes about what the Heat did defensively.
Tactically, you don’t have to look much further than the performances of Game 2 stars, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry to see what defensive changes Miami made in Game 3. Shawn Marion was just 4 of 12 from the field after he lit Miami up last game. This time around, Miami made sure to force Marion out and take away much of his slash and cut game. As for Terry, who was a less-than-mundane 5 of 13 from the field, he once again struggled with the taller more athletic presence of the Heat’s two wingmen. Jose Juan Barea didn’t help either with his 2 of 8 performance from the field.
So it’s pretty clear what Miami’s strategy is going forward. They are going to force Dirk Nowitzki to be a hero. They are going to take everyone else away, while making Dirk earn everything he gets with defense by Udonis Haslem and the occasional double team. Certainly, a few more made shots on passes out of that double-team and I’m probably sitting here writing a piece about how Dirk saved the series. However, don’t be mistaken, there’s a reason the Mavericks aren’t hitting the long-ball off the double-team—the Heat close out a lot faster than the Thunder, Lakers or Trailblazers do. So while the Mavericks do get okay looks from three, they aren’t what they usually are.
Unfortunately for Dallas, that aspect of the game isn’t going to change. The Heat will bring their defense every game this series just they did in every series before. As a result, those open three-pointers won’t be all that open, and the Mavericks shooting percentage, once the best in the league, won’t be all that high.