And the Winner is….

Kurt —  June 8, 2006

If you’re looking for a safe pick for a champion, go with Brazil. There doesn’t seem to be one in the NBA Finals (smarter people than I, such as Kevin Pelton writing for 82games/Sports Illustrated, agree).

My initial gut reaction to a Dallas v. Miami series was that Dallas would crush them, maybe intentionally dropping one game in Miami so they could spend a few more days in South Beach, but that’s it. However, the more research I did, the more I thought about it, the more I more I thought this match up a good one.

I still think Dallas will win, but I now expect it to go six or seven games and this to be a close and exciting Finals

First things first — don’t expect Dallas to run the Heat out of American Airlines Arena (either one). That gut first reaction I had — something echoed by some scouts and media members — was that Mavs should stay small and just “go Phoenix” on the older, slower Heat. Except, the stats don’t really bare that out — against the 10 fastest-paced teams in the league, the Heat won 75% of their games. However, they won just 54% against the 10 slowest paced teams in the league.

Where the Mavs have the advantage is match ups and Chicago gave the Mavs the blueprint for beating Miami — guards (and others) using dribble penetration to break down the Heat. The Bulls had success with a three-guard lineup — usually Hinrich-Gordon-Deng, sometimes Duhon-Hinrich-Gordon. Hinrich and Gordon had good series and the quick lineup did a few things: The Bulls got shots in the lane; it got Shaq in some foul trouble; and it forced the Heat play the elder statesmen of Gary Payton and Derek Anderson way more than Pat Riley wanted.

The Mavs have a lot of depth at the guard/swingman spot and that is going to create even more match up problems for the Heat —Josh Howard should really benefit. First, he’s going to get a lot of time covering Wade, and while nobody stops Wade Howard may be able to make him less efficient. As for how you do that, well the previously linked Pelton article stole my thoughts — force Wade to go left. Nobody stops Wade but he is considerably weaker and less efficient when forced left, and the length/athleticism of Howard (and Griffin) can force him that direction more often. It’s something to watch for at home, which way is Wade getting to go on his drives.

Another match up advantage Avery Johnson has is to put out lineups that force Antoine Walker to cover either Howard or Stackhouse, which is a huge win for Dallas either way.

The big match up problem for Miami is Dirk Nowitzki, a job now in the hands of Udonis Haslem, although he is going to need some doubles to help out. The problem is, the quick perimeter guys on the Mavs will make the Heat pay for those doubles with penetration. Pick your poison, Riley.

Of course, the match up problems go both ways — how do you deal with a motivated Shaq? You can go with Dampier, but then you give up a lot of offense. Diop? At times. I think the key with Shaq is to give him a lot of looks — front him at times, double him sometimes, single coverage another, and there’s always hack-a-Shaq. Change it up and make him think. The problem is Shaq has seen it all over the year and knows how to defeat them. His mind is willing; the question is if his body can still do it for seven full games.

Shaq presence and Wade’s penetration are a big part of the Heat’s success this postseason — 40% of the Heat’s shots are coming close to or at the basket, while only 30% of their opponent’s shots are that close. It’s why the Heat as a team have an effective field goal percentage of 53.8% in the playoffs, second only to the Suns.

The bit key for the Heat has been defense — they have a defensive rating of 100.2 (points given up per 100 possessions) in the playoffs, the best defensive rating of any team that made it past the first round. For comparison, is Dallas 105.1 on defense, although to be fair remember that the Mavs had the harder road thus far, going through San Antonio and Phoenix, while Miami’s last round was against offensively-challenged Detroit. On offense, the Mavs have and offensive rating of 110.8 (points per 100 possessions) in the playoffs, compared to the Heat’s 106.6.

The Heat are peaking at the right time, and Shaq can still turn it on for a few games. But I think it is the match up problems the Mavs create and their versatility — they can play well with a big or small lineup — will ultimately tilt the floor in their favor. Still, this is going to be fun to watch.

Update: A few quick thoughts from game one of the Finals:

• Not shockingly, Jason Terry led all players as a +12, but Dampier was +11 and Howard was +10, which speaks to what they did defensively. On the other side, Posey was -11 and Williams -10, those two are really going to have to pick up their play and match what the Mavs can do on the perimeter if the Heat are going to make a series of this.

• Look at the game flow and you can see the depth problems the Mavs present, lots of players to choose from and create match up problems with.

• On one hand, you can’t expect Terry to score like that every night, shooting 83% (eFG%), on the other you can’t expect Nowitzki (35.7%) and Stackhouse (36.4%) to be that off every night.

• In Miami, Haslem gets those calls.

• Free Darko (with quote via True Hoop) may have hit the nail on the head:

With the Heat in this series, I think the question is not can they adjust, but did they ever really hit a championship stride in the first place. In the same sense that the Frankenstein Lakers never really did, and probably only lost to the Pistons because of that. Not saying that they would have definitely won, or that they could have gotten to that special place, but their failing to do so definitely seems to have settled shit in advance.

Kurt

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30 responses to And the Winner is….

  1. Stealing a little from Chad Ford, who is at the Orlando draft camp, when asked about UCLA’s Jordan Farnar in a couple of chat questions:

    Chad Ford: I don’t think it’s a given he stays in the draft. He’s been OK here in Orlando, but not spectacular. I think scouts thought he should play at a level higher than he has. If he stays in the draft, the Nets, the Cavs or the Lakers are all teams that need a point guard and could decide on Farmar.

    Chad Ford: Based on what I’ve seen from Jordan Farmar, he should stay in school for one more year.

  2. ian formerly notreallyimportant June 8, 2006 at 9:55 pm

    Well just a stellar night from the ft line by the Heat. Honestly Shaq should just close his eyes and throw them up granny style, I’m convinced he would have a better %.

  3. If you’re Miami, you just lost on a night Dirk, Stackhouse and Josh howard had off nights shooting. What happens when they heat up?

  4. You hope the ref’s are willing to pick it up because thats really the only shot the heat have…to me it was shades of Lakers/Pistons ’04

    I hope we don’t bother with Farmar, if he needs one more year he needs it..I’d like atleast one sure thing near Kobe..i feel like everyone but him is just a gamble for the best

  5. ian formerly notreallyimportant June 9, 2006 at 9:59 am

    I hope the refs don’t pick it up. How great would it be to have a finals where the teams can’t whine about the refs?

  6. Nobody seemed into the World Cupi idea, save Ian, so here is his post again:

    What I like about the world cup is that the early stages really are there for the taking. So often you see giants faltering, and spunky little no bodies rising to take their places. Just the kind of thing that the US sports playoffs are seemingly designed to eliminate.

    Look for countries like Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Iran to make a good showing. As usual Spain will come tantalizingly close to fulfilling their potential and fall promptly on their collective faces.

    I’m really starting to like Germany’s chances. Their organized play, and stellar preperation and authoritarian coaching (A national tendency, that put them at the heart of those two worl wars) always outs them in contention.

    England is a great team but without Rooney’s explosiveness up front (he has been medically cleared, but probably wont be 100%) they could have trouble putting the ball in the back of the net, but Owen could have a huge tournament.

    Isn’t it interesting that Brazil, the Yankee’s of the soccer world are actually well liked? People always seem to root for them, where is the vitriolic hatred towards the people who always win? A nice subplot is that Ronaldo needs just 3 more goals to take sole possesion of the world cup finals scoring record. He is on 12 and the record is 14.

    Apparently the soccaroos have decided to play rugby. It would be shame if some of Brazils stars got busted up in what is really an insignificant game.

    France lost Cisse to a broken leg. Shouldn’t afect them to much. They have a wealth of talent going forward, and he really is overrated, he can’t really create his own opportunities. Trezeguet and Henry should be plenty.

  7. And, in the world cup opener, Germany and Costa Rica are scoring at a faster pace than Shaq did (3 goals in the first 18 min).

  8. I hope the Laker management decide well on the PG issue. Jordan Farmar or any other PG in this draft or any other “pure” PG for that matter can be the solution. Lets consider all the “PG’s” of the Bulls and Laker championship teams. 90-93 bulls: John Paxson, Craig Hodges, Bj Armstrong 96-98 bulls: Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Randy Brown 00-02 Lakers: Harper, Derek Fisher, Lindsey Hunter. what do they all have in common?! They are one of these: 1) in between a PG/SG, either too big to play the point, or to small to play the 2, (also too slow to be a PG, or too offensive minded, or lacked the bulk and offensive prowess of a SG. ) 2) they could either shoot from outside, or can be an on-the-ball defender. THEY ARE NOT PURE POINT GUARDS or playmakers! In the triangle, most, if not all the players could/should be able to play multiple positions for the mismatches to work, and it is an offense that doesn’t revolve solely on the PG. it is a “read and react” offense, so a traditional PG isn’t needed. That is why Phil likes Big-Combo guards to play the 1 in the triangle. With that in mind, I think we should stop looking for a Sam Cassell or any other PG for that matter, because one of two things will happen: 1) A Cassell will not enjoy not having the ball all the time. or 2) be “lost in translation” in the triangle like what happened with Gary Payton in ’04. So guys, and GM Kupchack, pls do not draft or sign, or trade for a pure point guard. You should look for an in-between guard, 6’3″-6″5″ who can play tough D on opposing 1’s, and has a respectable outside shot. (I think I just described smush…) what do you guys think? agree?

  9. ooops, made a mistake on my previous comment, its: …Farmar or any other PURE PG for that matter CANNOT be the solution… WE NEED A BIG GUARD!!! is Marquis Daniels available? Antonio Daniels or Bobby Jackson anyone?

  10. Can anyone shed some light on what these blog verifications are?

    Also I think we need to come up with some kind of theory that corellates the fall of the pistons and the red wings with the rise of the tigers (are we going to start hearing chants of deeeetttrrrroooiitttttt baseballll?).

  11. Blog verification = spam.

    It has been deleted

  12. 8. The problem is Smush didn’t play good defense this past season, he creates a few turnovers but that’s about it. I think we all agree about not needing a traditional point guard, but if someone smaller and quicker is needed for defensive reasons, so be it. A good perimeter defender is priority number one.

  13. ian formerly notreallyimportant June 10, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Smush is one of the best at stealing the ball in the league. He is good at both intercepting passes and grabbing a ball being dribbled (ala 82games).

    plus that steal off nash has to go down as legendary.

  14. Lady Laker, my wife is a huge tennis fan and she can’t stand Justine after what she did in the Austrailian — she was livid after she beat Clijsters (sp?) in the semifinal. And she’s rroting for Federer too, but this was the final she really wanted to see. I think everyone did. Federer seems to be both classy and have a great appriciation for the history of the sport, which is great to see.

  15. Count me among the Smush fans. I think we need to give this kid another year to develop and then look at replacing him if his defense does not improve. Remember, at this time last year nobody had even heard of a “smush.”

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t sign something better for the MLE, but realistically there are no other better options out there for the MLE.

    At the SF/PF position, however, I think the Lakers really should try to find an improvement by either using the MLE or trading Mihm. Even there, however, I’m intrigued by the idea of playing Mihm at PF b/c his newly developed baseline hook might be enough to create the necessary spacing with Kwame.

    In short, I’d be happy if we went into next season without any major changes.

  16. I agree with giving smush another year to develop. He has made great strides and i feel will improve his shooting and defense this year. But he should just be a back-up for the coming season. I’ve recently read in some sites that the cavs are shopping Larry Hughes. I think Hughes will be the perfect starting guard in the triangle. He can play both guard slots and is a terrific perimiter defender with a good shooting touch and moves well without the ball. Though he has a big contract, I seriously think he is worth the $$$. What about making a three team deal with probably chicago and offer Mihm, 1st rd pick to chicago, sign and trade george to the cavs, bulls give ben gordon to the cavs and the lakers get Hughes. I think that makes a lot of sense to the teams involved. what do you think?

  17. Im against getting middle aged players that are more likely to get worse than better. How about the Lakers get someone who should be entering his prime rather than leaving it? Id rather the Lakers take a chance on someone aged 22-26 with potential rather than a famous guy with a familiar name.

  18. ian formerly notreallyimportant June 11, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Yes, like a similar deal exept we would get ben gordon. And Larry Hughes really can’t shoot, his offensive game is going to the rim.

  19. If we could somehow get Ben Gordon without trading big for small, then that would be a good deal for the Lakers (but not for the Bulls). Larry Hughes would probably also be an upgrade over Smush but I’d be willing to give up even less Hughes than for Ben Gordon. Neither scenario is realistic so long as we refuse to give up Mihm.

    If we trade Mihm, then we need to get a PF in return b/c big guys are just too valuable in this league and Mihm is a legitimate big.

  20. So no one is buying into the whole small ball trend? Where people like Mihim are increasingly less valuable?

  21. I dont think that by trading Mihm it creates a need for a PF. Brown would be the starting C and Lamar should be the starting PF, which are the best positions for both of them. Im fine with Turiaf and Cook backing up Odom, but Bynum is probably not ready to be a backup center to start the season. So the roster would only require a backup center, and Mihm is overkill for that role.

    I know it makes people nervous to trade a big for a small, but I dont think you can make hard rules like that, especially in a league that rewards quick perimiter players. The other thing to think about is that Mihm’s trade value is higher now than it will be during the season, and I seriously doubt that the Lakers will want to sign Mihm after the season when he hits the FA market. IMO, Ben Gordon would help the Lakers win more games now and in the future than Chris Mihm, and thats all that really matters.

  22. If the Lakers trade Mihm and Kwame either gets injured or plays poorly, then what? Bynum won’t be ready to start for at least another year.

    On the other hand, if the Lakers trade Mihm for a legit PF, then at least the Lakers would have SOME size down low.

    As for the theory that in the modern NBA you don’t need bigs, I tell you to turn on the television. Neither Miami nor Dallas would be in the finals without their bigs.

  23. Kurt I couldn’t agree with you more about World Cup, the brackets are set up so the giants don’t imediately crush the little guys but in the end should advance. Germany’s defence is big but slow and it will continue to cause them problems. England’s win on an “own goal” is like taking your brother to the prom. Not impressive, but I think they can raise their level of play and three points in their group should allow them to advance. Who doesn’t love Brazil? They are the icons of the sport and therefore loved by all. The Yankees are from New York, do I need to say more? The best part of World Cup is that it truely is the world’s sport and invokes so much passion. In 1994, I attended several games at the Rose Bowl, watching the fans from countries like Columbia was incredible. I also had the opportunity to watch several games in English pubs in 1990, it was the time of my life. In contrast, soccer is still a second class sport in the U.S. Maybe that is why you are not getting the response you thought with your post on World Cup. Mexico esta en fuego, but found I myself laughing as my friends were talking about who was California’s biggest enemy with all the debate over open borders verses nuclear weapons.

  24. “If the Lakers trade Mihm and Kwame either gets injured or plays poorly, then what?”
    – you play the backup C you acquire after trading Mihm. Mihm is too good to be a backup and thats not a luxury the Lakers can afford right now considering they have some glaring needs on the perimiter. I dont understand why you would trade Mihm for Odom’s backup, especially when Turiaf is adaquate for that job.

    “As for the theory that in the modern NBA you don’t need bigs, I tell you to turn on the Television…”
    – This is what logicians call the Straw Man Falacy. No one is saying that you dont need bigs in the modern NBA (although Pheonix did ok with a 6’7” center). Its not as if Brown and Odom are small either. Its just that the current rules favor quick perimiter players more than they did in the past and the Lakers should take advantage of those rules by getting someone that fits that profile. It really doesnt make sense to have two starting centers (making a combined $12.5m) while the team clearly needs at least one, and possibly two starters on the perimiter. If the Lakers had other attractive trading chips, that would be one thing, but they dont.

  25. Laker Lady,

    The Yankees are universally hated because they always win, and they always have the best players, and they are arrogant. Does anyone hate the mets? no, people don’t even care about them, but if they ran off 4 champs in 5 years there would be some backlash against them.

    That is why I pointed out that it was interesting that the Brazillians are liked. They always win, they have all the big stars, and yes they are arrogant. I’m not saying they should be hated, but it is somewhat of a double standard that is interesting to observe.

    Going off on a completely different topic, boy is Buss looking like a genius after game 2.

  26. The difference is Brazil is a national team. The Yankees are a “club” team. The Yankees are more comparable to Real Madrid, a collection of stars that is paid for rather than cultivated from the culture.

  27. Yes and interestingly enough people do not despise Real Madrid all that much either. The only team I can think of that approaches Yankee status is Man U, and even then not so much.

    And don’t get me started on National Teams. People used to love rooting against the dominant west German sides. The incredibly talented Dutch teams with Van Basten and Co. were universally booed when not home.

    Ofcourse american’s also don’t get the warmenst reception that is more to do with their foreign policy.

  28. Ian,
    You are correct, I was being flippant in my comment about the Yankees , they are hated because they spend crazy money getting the top players and that allows them to win. I attended the World Series in SD and watched them crush the Padres, it made me hate them too.

  29. I think that Brasil is also loved because they make the game so exciting to watch even for the causal fan. Being married to a Brazilian also gives me an understanding of what soccer and World Cup wins do for the national morale of a country with immense economic (inflation, corruption, poverty) problems. (Not that Brasil is the only country with these problems.)

    These finals are far from over, and yes he only scored 5 points, but where are Shaq’s rebounds?

  30. Definately think it would be cool to see Dallas win! Sorry, but I hate Shaq!