Close, but Not Quite There...Yet

Time after time the Miami Heat took a lead and stretched out to double digits, or very close to double digits, and time after time the Dallas Mavericks would fight, scratch, and claw their way back to put the game within a single possession, or tie. After the tie the Heat would take the lead again and the whole vicious circle would start anew. Mavericks' coach Rick Carlisle mentioned in his post-game press conference that it is very difficult to come back from behind so many times. Granted, the Mavericks have been anointed the comeback kings this post-season with double digit comebacks most notably against the Oklahoma City Thunder and, more recently, the Miami Heat in game 2. It just seemed like every time Dallas would go on a run to tie that game, the next time you looked up at the scoreboard the Heat would be up 7 or 8 points before you even knew what happened. Ultimately, all the scratching and clawing the Mavericks tried to come back and take game 3 came up short with a last second miss from their star Dirk Nowitzki on a 15 foot fade away. The story of this game though was turnovers, key missed shots, and, on a positive note, good defense down the stretch.

Turnovers

Against the Heat in game 2, the Dallas Mavericks had 20+ turnovers. In game 3 Dallas only gave up 14 turnovers. The only problem is that these turnovers almost always led to easy Miami Heat baskets. In the first half Dallas had 6 turnovers that resulted for 14 Miami Heat points. In total, the Mavericks gave away 19 points to the Miami Heat tonight. This just can't happen. Especially when most of the turnovers lead to break away dunks. Most of the turnovers tonight came from the top of the key with miss-communication to initiate the offense, and the Miami Heat defenders using their length and agility to tip the ball away and go dunk the ball on the other end uncontested. The main reason the Mavericks fell behind so much tonight was because of their turnovers. Oddly enough, the most untimely turnovers came from Jason Kidd who couldn't seem to find the right touch on his passes. They were either sailing over someone's head, or being slapped away by someone in a Heat uniform. Also, Shawn Marion had a stretch of about 5-10 minutes where he just could not hold onto the ball. Whether it is for a breakaway dunk or to grab a key offensive rebound, something happened where Marion couldn't get a grasp for the ball. This seems to be a reoccurring event for the Dallas Mavericks, and could almost be used for a metaphor for how this series has gone so far. Little things have plagued them, and have played major factors in determining the three games thus far in this series. Times when the Mavericks could try to take a lead, they just couldn't seem to hold onto the ball, or are literally throwing the ball out of bounds. To end this on a positive note though, after game 1, the Mavericks' ability to rebound was put into question, and Rick Carlisle was able to fix up the rebounding problems (along with great effort from Center Tyson Chandler) by out-rebounding the Heat tonight by a margin of 42-36. So if they could fix their rebounding problem, perhaps it is a possibility the Carlisle can fix the turnover issues that have plagued them so far in this series, and perhaps they can dig themselves out of the hole they have dug themselves in the series before it becomes insurmountable.

Key Missed Shots

Specifically, Jason Terry. Before the eventual game-winning shot by Chris Bosh with 39.6 seconds left, Jason Terry had a very good look from the short corner that hit front-rim and ultimately bounced out of the basket, and into the hands of a Heat player. The Miami Heat have seen this movie played before. The one where Dirk Nowitzki puts an entire city on his back, and carries this Dallas Mavericks team to victory. On a possession where Nowitzki was double, even triple-teamed at times, somebody else needed to step up and make one shot. Just one shot is all Nowitzki needed to bring home a victory for the fans at the American Airlines Center tonight. May I remind you, Jason Terry hit a jumper to spark the rally game 2 against the Heat that ultimately led to one of the greatest comebacks of NBA Finals history. Although, Nowitzki did score the final 9 points for the Mavericks to finally put away the Heat in game 2. Tonight, there was no help. Jason Kidd seemed to be afraid to shoot, Chandler was fighting for position ultimately to find space to grab an offensive rebound, and Marion's play was declining as the game drew on. Terry needed to step up in a time where Dirk needed just one other person to hit a shot in clutch time. The Mavericks had been in the penalty since the 5 minute mark, so all someone had to do was at least get fouled, and go to the line for a chance at two points. Not tonight. Terry missed a 10 foot baseline jumper, which led to a Chris Bosh baseline jumper. Another thing, how is it that Chris Bosh of all people for the Heat can step up in such a clutch moment while the JET seems like it’s out of gas. The next possession Nowitzki was literally triple-teamed and tried to pass the ball off to Shawn Marion, but the pass was rushed and the ball went past Marion and out-of-bounds for the Mavericks' 14th turnover of the night. Someone, anyone needs to step up and make a shot for Nowitzki. If not, everyone else might as well go sit on the bench, because the Heat will throw everything they can at Nowitzki to put a stop to his 4th quarter heroics as they did tonight.

Good Defense Down the Stretch

The Mavericks were able to force multiple shot-clock violations against the Heat. The same Miami Heat team that has arguably the two best players in the NBA. The defense buckled down in the closing minutes to limit the potent Miami offense, and give their own offense a chance to make a bucket to apply some pressure on the Miami offense. Rick Carlisle did a great job in redoing his defense tonight. Carlisle drew up a lot of double teams and corner traps to try and slow down the high powered offense of the Heat. Every defender in a white jersey tonight had an eye on #6 and #3 in black at all times. Granted, Dwyane Wade had a great night tonight, but he is going to get his and there is really nothing else any team can do about it. The best the Mavericks can do is make the Heat superstars beat them by making tough shots, and they did a much better job of that tonight. After giving up 93 points to the Heat in game 2, the Mavericks only gave up 86 points for game 3. 12 of those points coming from ex-Kansas Jay hawk Mario Chalmers which included desperation three from half-court to end the first quarter. Also, 14 of the Miami points were because of Dallas turnovers. So while you are going to hear from the "brilliant" minds of Jeff Van Gundy and everyone else from the fabulous Miami Beach house owners in the national media is that the Mavericks just can't stay with this Miami Heat team on the defensive end. When, in reality, Dallas is right there. If they could just play consistent hard-nosed defense for 48 minutes, and put their foot down on offense by other players stepping up and scoring for Nowitzki instead of just watching him work, the Mavericks can easily hang with the Heat. Also, in a time when the Heat needed a basket, Dallas did its job in denying a shot from superstars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in a clutch moment. Instead, they gave up a 13-footer to Chris Bosh who was struggling from the field for most of game 3, and had an injured left-eye he could barely see out of. It was great defense to get the ball out of both Wade and James' hands. The only problem is that Bosh was able to do what the Jason Terry couldn't. He was able to make a basket to relieve some of the pressure from its superstars.

Closing Notes

In conclusion, the Mavericks are not out of this series. The Heat and the Mavericks were tied for the best road record in the NBA this year. So far, the Mavericks have won a road game and the Heat have won a road game. If Dallas can take care of business in games 4 and 5 they just need one win in Miami to be the NBA champions. Also, Dallas played this game without back-up center Brendan Haywood who was a game-time decision with a hip-pointer injury. So 3rd string center Ian Mahimi got the back-up minutes where he didn't do anything spectacular, but was able to give Tyson Chandler some rest. He also went 2-2 on free-throws, something Brendan Haywood rarely, rarely ever does. Don't get me wrong though, the Mavericks need Brendan Haywood to be successful in this series. He anchors the defense when the bench comes into the game. What can't go un-noticed though, is the great play of Tyson Chandler. It may not show up in the stat sheet, but Chandler, ever since game 1, has been right by the rim scrapping for loose balls and keeping balls alive to be able to have more opportunities to score. Along with a monstrous put-back dunk on the offensive end to get the crowd into the game. Also, in a game where Ian Mahimi was getting the back-up the reps, Chandler did not commit a foul in the first half. Also, welcome to the series Mr. Peja Stojakovic! As soon as Peja entered that game, he was swung the ball in the corner by the Mavericks bench, a ball he normally would have eaten and passed up, or just flat turned over for a Miami heat breakaway dunk, and Peja put up a shot with a defender right in his face. Unlike games 1 and 2 though, this shot went in nothing but net and a relief was seen across Stojakovic's face. The Siberian Sniper no longer seems to be gun shy, and Dallas will need him to play a much bigger role to get his shot off to make the Mavericks offense more than just one-dimensional. It just seems as if whenever the Mavericks have an opportunity to finally climb out of a hole, they can't seize the moment. Either by way of turnover, or missed shot, or losing a rebound, the Mavericks just can't get fully out of the hole. Also, there was a time in either the 3rd or 4th quarter when the game was close that the mavericks had very bad shot selection. Nowitzki and Terry both took out-of-character contested shots from the corner with a lot of time left on the shot-clock that did not fall. So, ultimately, if Dallas can just limit the turnovers, take some pressure off of Nowitzki on the offensive end, and continue to play great defense and force tough shots, the Mavericks can play with this Heat team. It won't be easy, but that is the blueprint to success. So while losing game 3 is a negative, a few positives can be brought out of this game, and as long as the Mavericks can fix-up their turnover issues, they will be right back in this series giving the heat all they can bargain for.

-Colby

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