Tag:Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: June 4, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 4:11 pm
 

LeBron James: Marion can't stop me by himself

LeBron James says he needs to be more aggressive and that no one, including Shawn Marion, can stop him one-on-one.  lebron-shawnPosted by Ben Golliver.

DALLAS -- Miami Heat forward LeBron James is always going to get his numbers. No matter who guards him, how often he faces double teams or what position he's asked to play, James produces, and produces big.

Over his last seven NBA seasons, James has averaged at least 26.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Not a single other NBA player has hit those numbers once. 

Through two games in the NBA Finals, James's scoring and passing numbers have taken a hit. Despite playing 42.5 minutes per game, James is averaging 24 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists and the Heat are averaging just 92.5 points as a team, down nearly 10 points from their regular season average of 102.1.

These aren't eye-popping declines given that defenses tighten up in the postseason, but any time James isn't performing to his usual standard, questions start getting asked. For starters: Is Mavericks forward Shawn Marion throwing him off of his game?

At his media availability on Saturday, James complimented Marion's performances during Game 1 and Game 2, but seemed to scoff at the notion that Marion individually had succeeded in slowing him down.

"I think Shawn Marion has done a great job," James said. "Especially offensively. He's picked up his game offensively. Hanging around the rim, getting some lay-ups, getting some tip-backs, playing around the rim. His activity throughout the first two games has been pretty good."

But what about the defensive end?

"I don't feel like it's one guy in this league that can stop me one-on-one," James said. "There's always a defense that's looking at me when I have the ball. He's the guy that's guarding me, but there's no one guy that can guard me."

When Marion has matched up against James, he's done about as well as can be expected. He's played both assertively and intelligently, competing regardless of whether he gets beaten for a highlight dunk. Late in Game 2, James was bottled up about as tightly as you'll see and he responded by forcing up late three-pointers against the shot clock that didn't fall, a critical factor in Dallas' massive comeback.

If James wasn't going to give him credit, Marion was happy to give it to himself.

"I've been doing it my whole career," Marion said of his defense on Saturday. "If you go back and look at my whole career, I've done it -- point guards all the way to big men. It's just another day at work."

Marion wanted to make it clear that his defensive abilities aren't simply a product of a new role he's taken on as he's gotten older or with this particular Mavericks team.

"I've always been a defensive stopper," Marion said. "I've always played defense. I had to go from playing the three to playing power forward. Name me players in this league who can do that. 6-foot=7, 225 pounds. Nobody can do that probably in the next generation coming. I've always prided myself on playing both ends of the floor. I'm a competitor."

So if it wasn't Marion stopping him, what's gone wrong offensively in James' opinion?

James attributed his decreased scoring to a lack of aggressiveness and pointed to the fact that he has attempted just six free throws in the first two Finals games combined.

"I do have to be more aggressive in the paint," James said. "Six free throws in two games -- I do that in my sleep in one game. So that's not me. I'm going to make a concerted effort to be more aggressive to try to get to the rim, create some more opportunities for myself and my teammates."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he pinpointed three late-game possessions that were "very poor" and later Wade explained that those three possessions were the forced, errant threes from himself and James. "

James seemed to agree, singling out one aspect of Dallas' defense that he believed deserved praise: the Mavericks' unexpected decision to aggressively defend him on the perimeter during pick-and-rolls late in the game.

"They did some things defensively that they hadn't done throughout the first two games all the way. They started to blitz me [and Heat guard Dwyane Wade's] pick-and-rolls, a lot our sets kept us on the perimeter. We didn't get into our sets early enough to give us more time. So we had to take contested long-range threes." 

Forcing James to take contested, long-range threes is the definition of succeeding defensively against him. Marion deserves the praise for his Game 2 performance, even if James wasn't willing to give it to him.
Posted on: June 4, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 4:06 pm
 

NBA Finals: Heat trying to get the glass back



Posted by Matt Moore

Game 1: Miami grabs 16 ofensive rebounds to six for Dallas, controlling 35 percent of all available offensive rebound opportunities. Miami wins. 

Game 2: Rick Carlisle talks exhaustively before the game about improving their defensive rebounding and keeping the Heat off the glass. Dallas wins the offensive glass 11-6, controlling 31 percent and only surrendering 11 percent to Miami. The Mavericks win by two. 

So going into Game 3, offensive rebounding has to be paramount on the minds of both teams. Extra possessions for Miami means more chances for the superstars to do their thing. Conversely, more offensive rebounds for Dallas means tip-ins from Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler with the advantage they have in the paint athletically.

Udonis Haslem told reporters Saturday it was a matter of mindset, and it starts with defense. 

"It's going to be our focus. Ground and pound has been our mentality, physical style of play. We've got to be physical. We got away from some of our defensive principles. It's kind of hard to rebound when you take the ball out of the net 10 out of 11 possessions." 

Joel Anthony said the problems were both in scheme and intensity.

"It's got to be a greater focus. There's certain situations, where guys who are coming across the lane, we're not blocking out. So it's a matter of both. We've got to be active and attack the glass, but it's also a matter of finding their offensive rebounders and getting a body on them."

Rick Carlisle made note that for the Mavericks, it's a matter of "disposition." 

"It's scrambling and it's an awareness that our team has to have five guys on the boards. It's not just their bigs. It's not just Anthony, Halsem, and Bosh. We did do a better job."

You have to wonder if, in addition to the lower number of misses for the Mavericks in Game 2 overall, if shot selection for Miami played into their lowered total. Most of the Heat attempts were from long or mid-range, with Wade and James two of the better rebounders stuck on the perimeter. With the Mavericks swooping in on the wings for the long rebounds, and controlling things down low, that afforded an opportunity to shift the battle towards Dallas' strengths. And it worked. Now it's up to Erik Spoelstra, in addition to fixing the offense, defense, and mental intensity on the road in a hostile environment, to also get the glass evened out. 


Posted on: June 4, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 3:55 pm
 

NBA Finals: Heat shift blame on Dirk defense



Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- We've been over this, but you can bet the Heat have been over it way more. After not doubling Dirk Nowitzki on the Mavericks' final possession of Game 2, the Heat both deflected and shifted blame before practice Saturday regarding what happened when Nowitzki eased in a left-handed layup that would prove to be the game winner. 

Dwyane Wade was adamant in denying that Chris Bosh was the problem with his defense on Nowitkzi. Wade told reporters, "Chris is a great player. We have a team defensive system. He played him well. Dirk made an unbelievable move. Our defensive rotations weren't there to help him out. It's never one guy on our team that wins or loses a ballgame."

So if it wasn't Bosh's fault... 

Nowitzki said after practice that he expected the double to come once he got around Bosh. "On that last move," Nowitzki said, "I spun and expected actually somebody to be there and there wasn't. So I was able to get to the left and get to the basket."

Nowitzki said had he been doubled, he would have given it up. "If there would have been somebody there, I would have had to pass to somebody and hopefully let the weak side make a shot."

So who was supposed to be there? The easy answer is Udonis Haslem, charged with keeping the considerably taller Tyson Chandler off of the offensive glass, and apparently covering for Bosh on the game winner. When asked if put in the same position again down the stretch the Heat would elect to double Nowitzki, Haslem was defensive. As in tone, not subject.

"I don't know if we'll bring the double. I mean he made a good shot, he's a great player. Take it for what it was.'

Haslem said after Game 2's crushing collapse, nothing was really said in the locker room, and that everyone understood what they need to do. So the star says that it wasn't Chris Bosh's man defense that did them in, the rotations weren't right. And the rotation man says that Dirk just hit a good shot.

Gotta protect the Big 3.

It's apparent that the Heat are not over Game 2 emotionally. Whether that translates to a drive to respond in Game 3 or a sluggish start as the series shifts to Dallas remains to be seen.
Posted on: June 4, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Brendan Haywood 'game-time decision' for Game 3

Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood will be a gametime decision in Game 3. Posted by EOB staff. brendan-haywood

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood exited the court abruptly in Game 2 on Thursday night, heading to the locker room with a right hip flexor injury. After sitting out contact portions of Mavericks practice on Saturday, Haywood is said to be a "game-time decision" for Game 3 on Sunday night.

"He was not feeling well when he left the game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said on Saturday. “If he’s able to play I’m sure he’ll play. If not we’ll have to adjust.”

"I kind of strained it before I left for Miami," Haywood explained. "When I got down there in Game 2, the wheels fell off a little bit."

Haywood noted that he is feeling much improved from Thursday night, when he attempted to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter. "The other day I couldn't move. In that fourth quarter, I tried to give it a go and I really couldn't move.  It's way better today."

The injury was of the non-contact variety, as Haywood said he first felt pain while trailing a play in transition. "It really happened in the first half, on a fast break, trying to chase down the break. I felt something pull in my hip. In the fourth quarter when I tried to come back in I just kept feeling pops and pulls and I knew I couldn't be out there." 

While he didn't participate in on-court work, Haywood was present at the team's Saturday morning practice, although he was present, riding on an exercise bike and joking with his teammates. "The bike and a lot of poolwork," Haywood said of his injury maintenance program. "Stuff like that to get it loosened up and get it going, but we didn't want to take any contact."

Haywood has played surprisingly solid minutes for the Mavs so far in The Finals, even going far as hitting his free throws. His value isn't too high as Miami doesn't have a major post presence to defend, but in terms of toughness on the inside and rebounding, he's a solid option behind Tyson Chandler. He's averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds during 16.0 minutes per game during the postseason.

His absence would clearly impact Dallas' tight rotations.

"It's a game-time decision with him," Chandler said. "If he's not able to go, we have some bigs that can fill the roles. Obviously he's needed out there."

Chandler said the Mavericks could plug in reserve center Ian Mahinmi, who has played just six minutes total in the postseason, or could opt for a smaller second unit lineup as well should Haywood not be available. "It changes our rotation a little bit," Chandler said. "I don't know what coach will do if he will go with Ian or go with a smaller lineup.  They've been playing smaller lineups a lot of the time. If that's the case, we can  throw a three, four type of guy out there. If they play big we have Ian Mahinmi. I'm sure he's been waiting and itching for that opportunity."

Dallas' starting center is well aware that Haywood's absence would put more pressure on him to stay out of foul trouble, especially early. "I've been trying to do that anyway," Chandler said. "Just so I can save them for the end of the game. I'm going to be aggressive but I want to play smart out there. Not get ticky-tack fouls." 

Haywood also noted that reserve center Brian Cardinal is another option. "No matter who he puts in there, that person will be ready," Haywood said. "If you put Brian 'The Custodian' in there. He's going to be ready, he's going to be fouling, hitting his spot-up threes. We can put Ian in there, he's done well for us when he's had to play this season. We can go with a lot of different options." 

With his status uncertain for Game 3, Haywood was asked whether he was feeling confident that he would be available. He hesitated. "Uh... I have no idea for tomorrow."
Posted on: June 3, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2011 3:34 pm
 

How do you not double Dirk in the clutch?



Posted by Matt Moore

All night long in Game 2, the Heat had the answer. Dirk Nowitzki, injured finger or no injured finger, was not going to beat them. J.J. Barea, Peja Stojakovic, DeShawn Stevenson, sure, they want to knock down open shots off the double-team of the Big German? Absolutely. Have at it. But Dirk Nowitzki was not going to do what Dirk Nowitzki does. And for three quarters, they didn't let him.

Then the Heat took that gameplan, which had helped build them a 15-point lead with six minutes remaining, and set it on fire.

There were many questions about the Heat's gameplan on both sides of the ball during their epic meltdown in Game 2. Most of the questions surround the final play and Erik Spoelstra's decision not to foul when they had a foul to give on the Mavericks' final possession. But if you want to prevent the possibility of free throws if Nowitzki is quick enough to get into his shooting motion, you can rationalize that decision.

Others will wonder why Chris Bosh, hardly a defensive stalwart, despite a stellar postseason, was the one guarding Bosh. But Bosh's length on Nowitzki's likely elbow fadeaway was a weapon to be used, so even that you can understand, especially with the concern of an offensive rebound and wanting to keep Udonis Haslem able to secure a miss. 

But not doubling Nowitzki? That's just madness.

On the play, LeBron James was on the wing. It was a short enough distance, James could have brought the double to keep Nowitzki from driving and still recover on Terry. Mario Chalmers can swing over to trap and shut off the angle which gave Nowitzki the double-back move to get pas Bosh. Udonis Haslem can attack at the rim. There's any number of opportunities. Wouldn't all of them allow open shots for the Mavericks? Absolutely. You know what they wouldn't allow? A shot from the deadliest player on the Mavericks and one of the best offensive players in the league. A game winner from Dirk Nowitzki, and a much better shot of avoiding the Mavericks tying the NBA Finals 1-1 on your home floor. 

It wasn't just the game winning play, though. The Heat had abandoned the double earlier after Jason Terry started making shots. All of the work the Heat had one by playing "on a string" went out the window as they became more anxious and less cohesive. The timeouts which were not present at the end of Game 2 for Spoelstra were spent trying to get the Heat back in their defensive sets. Instead, they failed to commit and the result was an outright disaster.

 In Game 3, it's the Heat's turn to make adjustments and try and rediscover their mental edge. If they don't, Nowitzki will go right back to work. The Heat have to play smarter, more selflessly, and with more cohesion on both sides of the ball.

And, oh,  yeah, they might want to bring some help on that Dirk guy.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:18 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 5:56 am
 

Did the Heat's celebration key the Mavs comeback?

Posted by Royce Young

 

MIAMI -- The Heat are leading by 12 with 7:14 remaining in Game 2.

Dwyane Wade drops a 3 from the corner, right in front of the Mavericks bench. Score: 88-73, Heat. Timeout, Dallas. 

What happened next is a bit unclear. Some say the Heat celebrated inside the Mavs' sacred ground. Some say it was preening, a moment of showing up an opponent that they had down, and nearly beat. Dwyane Wade, though, has a different definition of celebrating.

"A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles. The was no celebration," he said. "It was a shot made going into a timeout. Every team does something. That's the game. If it pumped them up -- they won the game. Obviously it did something."

Yep, obviously. After that 3 from Wade, Dallas closed the game on a 22-5 run to snatch Game 2 right out from under Miami's feet. But was it really because of a little posing, because of a little dancing? I mean Wade held his hand high for what seemed like 15 minutes after the ball swished through the net. In fact, I think he just now finally put it down. But was that so disrespectful that it really made Dallas crank things up?

"He celebrated in front of our bench," Tyson Chandler said. "I think it angered a lot of us. We came out there and responded."

Said Jason Terry: "Right at that moment, it was a turning point in the game. Obviously we come out of that timeout and we don't score, then we're pretty much dead ... I specifically looked at Dirk and said, 'There's no way we're going out like this.'"

Now. It's clearly a very good story to point out ... that things turned at that moment. It's easy to say that Wade's "celebration," or whatever you want to call it, fired up the Mavs. But, really, that's an incredible slight to the Mavs. Because if that's really what it took to wake them up, then they've got some soul-searching to do. They came back from 15 down in the biggest game of the season not because Dwyane Wade held his hand up and LeBron tapped him in the chest. They came back because they're a damn good basketball team with an incredible will to win. Don't take that away from them and say it was all the Heat's fault. That's the perfect narrative, I realize, but it's not fair. To the Mavericks more than the Heat.

"I didn't even see it that much, to be honest," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Probably our other players saw it. I kind of had my head down."

See, Dirk didn't care. And if anyone really turned it on from that point forward, it was the Big German. In those final seven minutes Dirk scored nine points on 4-4 shooting, including the game-winning basket. For a guy that's pretty much killed himself to even be in this game at all, I don't think a little showmanship from Miami really meant that much to him. The fact he had just seven minutes to make up 15 points was weighing a lot heavier on his mind than any perceived taunt.

As The Score's Holly MacKenzie deftly pointed out on Twitter, if Wade's celebration was a major show-up move, then what do you call DeShawn Stevenson? He basically throws a party every time the ball goes through the net (and maybe for good reason, if you know what I mean). It's the NBA as we know it now. Players let out primal screams after a dunk, pound their chests after a block and maybe do a jig if they drop a big 3 in a big moment. And now it's the difference in winning and losing Game 2?

"It was no celebration at all," LeBron said. "I was excited about the fact he hit a big shot and we went up 15. The same thing we've done over the course of the season. There was no celebration at all. We knew we had seven minutes to close out the game."

LeBron also noted that celebrations have been quite the topic surrounding the Heat all season. It started with their preseason celebration after The Decision. Then, fast-forward to the prolonged hugging and celebrating after taking down the Celtics in five games. The Heat realize that every little thing they do is put under the microscope. It's examined. It's been that way all year. Remember LeBron bumping Erik Spoelstra and how moronic that discussion was? Same thing here. Wade made a huge 3 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals and you expect him to trot quietly to his side of the floor and maybe give a silent fist pump? I mean, really?

"Don't make nothing out of that celebration, like you guys did in the Boston series," Wade said. "It's just being excited about the moment. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game for us."

What turned this game around was that Dirk did his Dirk-ish thing, the Dallas defense suffocated every Miami pick-and-roll and the Heat broke down in some big ways defensively. It started with LeBron duffing an easy layup and everything went downhill from there. That's when this game really changed. LeBron had a chance to make it 17 and he missed an easy basket. Dallas immediately responded with a 6-0 run and it was game on from that point.

It's life with the Heat. They lost, so therefore something must be attributed to it. It can't simply be that Dallas played winning basketball and finished while the Heat missed shots they've been hitting the past month. No, no, no. It must be something bigger. Something deeper. Something darker. The ego and arrogance of the Heat leaked out on that one shot by Dwyane Wade and sparked something inside the belly of the Mavericks. That's the good story. It fits this Heat season and this Heat story perfectly.

But really, it had absolutely nothing to do with why the Heat lost Game 2.

Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:10 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 6:00 am
 

NBA Finals: Mavericks still kings of the comeback



Posted by Matt Moore

Down 15 with 6:32 to go, it looked over. There would be no drama, not against this Heat team, with their defense, with their stars, with their closers.

Right?

Down one with 1:37 to go, this wasn't happening again. It couldn't. You can't keep making these types of comebacks in the playoffs, and the Heat were a better, more experienced team than that. 

Right?

Tie-game, Dirk with the ball, a foul to give for Miami. The double would come, the Heat's defense would hold, and the superstars would have their say.

Right?

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Left-handed, no-handed, it doesn't matter. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks are the Kings of the comeback, and long may they reign. The talk in the postgame pressers was about 2006 and how the Heat had done this exact same thing to the Mavericks. The Mavs aren't aware of that. 

"During the game, you don't think about anything like that," Nowitzki said. "You're caught in the moment as a player out there. You compete right there. You take every position like it's the last in The Finals. "

The Mavericks keep doing this because it builds off the experience that they have and the confidence they play with. The mighty Thunder were felled because eventually emotion is a crutch. The Lakers had their leg swept out because the Lakers were too used to success. And the Heat found out the hard way that eventually the tough shots don't fall and the answer isn't to take more of them. It's to make adjustments. Instead, the Heat elected to get away from everything that had worked. Doubling Dirk Nowitzki had been the answer all night, as they forced misses and turnovers. The Heat went into one-on-one defense against Dirk on the final possessions. He burned them. 

A comeback isn't some massive wave of offense. It's, as Erik Spoelstra would love to say, a grind.

"We kind of chip away one possession at a time" said the Big German. "We talked about getting stops. That was the big thing."

Rick Carlisle urged the players not to get caught up in getting it all back at once. 

"The key thing is to understand that there's no six-point plays. You're going to have to do it one step at a time with a stop, and then a good shot, and then hopefully a score, and then a stop."

The Mavs haven't been a great defensive team these playoffs, outside of these runs which have netted them so many wins. They lock in, they lock down, they lock out, and they walk out with the win.

But is this sustainable? Can the Mavericks keep counting on these kinds of performances?

That depends on if the bounces go their way, as Nowitzki suggested, and if the team continues to believe, which Rick Carlisle has been tattooing on reporters' heads this week. After Game 2, he was as vocal about it as ever. 

"If you're going to win a championship, you've got to have the wherewithal to hang in there when things are tough. You have to keep believing," Carlisle said. "All year our guys have believed. And tonight was another good example."

Posted on: June 3, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: June 3, 2011 6:03 am
 

NBA Finals: Mavs stay responsible to take Game 2



Posted by Matt Moore

Beyond the finger, beyond the comeback, beyond the celebrations, beyond the collapse, Dallas didn't let this thing get out of hand. You want to make a comeback like that, you can't let it get away from you. Give up the lead too early and you'll exhaust yourself trying to recover. The lead ballooned to 15 in the fourth before the Mavs came storming back to take Game 2, but they would have been facing too steep a hill to climb had the Mavs not done their part to keep hanging around.

Dirk Nowitzki couldn't buy a bucket. Jason Terry couldn't find net. Jason Kidd was committing turnovers, for crying out loud. And the Mavericks hung in there. It's a formula that's worked in the playoffs time and time again with experienced teams. Because experienced teams are responsible to one another and are held responsible to one another. In a power structure like Miami, it's different. Not bad, necessarily. After all, we are talking about a tied series. Take for example the Mario Chalmers 3-pointer that tied the game before Dirk Dirked Miami. It was a blown coverage, no doubt. But there was no deflection postgame. Yes, it was a win, which makes it easier. But both Jason Terry and Jason Kidd both said "that was my mistake" on the play. It's not just about the leadership by example. It's about the example, especially down on the road. Dallas needed this win, and they got it because, when the stars were down, other players stepped up.

Shawn Marion's obligations in this series go about 17 different directions. Defend LeBron and Wade on the pick-and-roll. Control the defensive glass. Hit shots when open on the cut. Get in the passing lanes. Stay aggressive, stay aggressive, stay aggressive. Rick Carlisle's aware of what Marion contributed throughout the game when the rest of the team was trying to find themselves.

"Marion was great... He's got the toughest job on the planet right now guarding LeBron James, and you know, he just came off a series where he was chasing (Kevin) Durant around."

Marion isn't just playing a supporting role for these Mavericks. He's doing everything asked and then giving more.

"What we're really asking him to do is give us everything he can defensively," Carlisle said after Game 2. "And the offense he's given us is really helping as well."

Marion's floaters and odd hook shots helped the Mavericks in three key areas. They won the points in the paint, with Marion doing damage in the post and off the cut. Due to his size and athleticism, Marion is the Mavericks' only player who can finish off the catch, driving and with a defender closing. That's a big adjustment from Game 1, and the impact was noticeable. Marion was also out in transition, using that speed to finish including a layup with James chasing him down.

It was Marion's work offensively that put them in a position to close this game out, and his defense down the stretch that cut off the Heat's closers who had been so money lately. Marion was matched up one-on-one with LeBron James twice down the stretch. James went 0-2.

If Marion's offense and work on James wasn't the foundation for keeping the Mavs within range, it was Tyson Chandler adding 14 rebounds and keeping the Heat off the glass.

Dirk Nowitzki spoke about Chandler's impact after the game.

"We did a better job, I thought, with pick-and-roll coverage today. He really stepped out there and impacted the ball."

The Mavericks are so experienced, so solid, it's no wonder these comebacks keep happening, amazing as they are. For the Mavericks, they might be excited about their performance, but not surprised.

"We was poised," Marion said. "We didn't get rattled. And we knew we could take care of business and give ourselves a chance to win this game."

The Miami Heat have been running fun and games during these playoffs.

Welcome to the business of the NBA Finals.
 
 
 
 
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