Posted by Royce Young
The Big One: You just can't ignore history. Not when it's as striking as what Gregg Doyel laid out in his column. Since going to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, teams have split the first two games 11 times. And the winner of Game 3 has won the series all 11 times.
So one of these teams will be facing history after Game 3. Not a fun place to be.
Now of course the obvious edge leans to Dallas, but the Heat were tied (with the Mavs, ironically) for the NBA's best road record this season. And with the way Game 2 went down, you can fully expect a more honed in, focused Miami team. The Heat were embarrassed by their meltdown. Which means they're angry. And angry teams play, well, angry. Which makes them scary.
The X-Factor: Psyche. Who has the edge here, mentally? The Mavs who are headed home with a split after pulling an incredible Game 2 win out of somewhere when they were trailing by 15 in the fourth? Or the Heat, who blew said lead and game, but dominated for 41 minutes and pretty much outplayed Dallas 90 percent of Games 1 and 2?
It seems like you've got to favor the team headed home with a mission accomplished feeling. The Mavs did what they had to do and now they've got home court advantage and three straight games in their place. Realistically, they could finish this thing off at home. But that also brings pressure because the Mavs don't have a lot of room for error here.
The Adjustment: Dallas really adjusted in the fourth quarter against Miami's pick-and-roll by hedging really hard and bringing their big men out to pressure the ball. The Heat's offense basically died because they couldn't get anything going toward the basket. Dallas sent two defenders at LeBron every time he touched it in the fourth, especially when the ball pinned LeBron near a boundary.
Miami has to be able to space the floor better, which is a challenge because Mike Miller isn't healthy. It comes down to Dwyane Wade creating space with his dribble and finding open teammates. Same for LeBron. Those two make everything happens offensively for Miami so they have to key in on spacing and making sure that the offense doesn't stall out because Dallas cranks the pressure.
The Sticking Point: Something I can't really get past: The Mavs came out of Miami with a split and yet, to me, it never really felt like they played their best kind of basketball. Except for the last seven minutes of course. The Heat naturally had a lot to do with it, but Dallas still missed a bundle of shots in Game 2 and never executed all that well offensively. They stayed in the game because Tyson Chandler kept a lot alive inside and they got just enough in transition.
That's a winning plan for Dallas because you can't hold Dirk down forever, but that also tells me this could be a dangerous game for Miami. The Mavs are going to play their best game at some point in this series. And if it's Game 3, a lot is going to be staring the Heat in the face. Including history.