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Tag:Joel Anthony
Posted on: June 9, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 1:52 pm
 

LeBron James ready for biggest game of his life

Miami Heat forward LeBron James says Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals is the biggest game of his life. Posted by Ben Golliver. lebron-james

DALLAS – With the 2011 NBA Finals tied at two games apiece, control of the series is at stake during Game 5 on Thursday night. It goes without saying that Miami Heat forward LeBron James has a lot riding on his performance following a disappointing disappearing act in Game 4. 

A superstar at the center of the NBA’s media universe, James regularly pushes back on the media’s overhyping and overanalyzing his every move. On Thursday morning following shootaround, however, James was unusually happy to set his personal stakes at the highest possible level.

 “It’s a big game, probably the biggest game of my life,” James said, before stopping to immediately correct himself. “Not probably. It is.”

Compared to his sullen, distant post-game demeanor on Tuesday night, James was relatively loose as he joked with reporters, although he admitted that his mind has been consumed by his 8 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers performance on Tuesday.

On Wednesday night, James said he tried to get away.

“Try to do whatever it takes to help your mind shut down,” James said. “You just try to stay up and watch TV. There’s never anything on TV. I don’t know. Get on the Internet. Read you guys’ columns. Those are fun.”

That crack drew belly laughs from the assembled media given the intensity of the criticism of James online.

“I’ve seen a lot of them,” James added with a wry smile. “They’re pretty good. I appreciate it.”

The media isn't alone in questioning James in the aftermath of the worst playoff game of his ccareer. The Mavericks have been supplying a steady diet of quotes and jabs as well.

Asked again about comments made by Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson, who said on Wednesday that James “checked out,” James dodged the issue a bit, but did subtly promise some revenge.

“He has the right to say what he wants to say,” James said. “Just know I’ll be there for 45 minutes on the court tonight. We’ll see what happens.”

Heat forward Chris Bosh confirmed that James "absolutely" hears the criticism. "We hear everything," Bosh said. "We use all of that stuff for motivation. I doubt if anybody will be tired tonight because of that."

Heat guard Dwyane Wade actually thanked the Mavericks for prodding James. "He doesn't need it but it adds fuel to the fire," Wade said. "We appreciate Dallas for that. Even if he had lost focus, he was going to get it back, but we appreciate the words that are coming out of their mouths." 

More than the questions and concerns from his critics on the Mavericks and the doubters in the media, James is clearly feeling pressure from within. On Wednesday night, he tweeted, “Now or Never!!”

“That’s just how I was feeling at the time,” James explained. “A personal message to myself. It’s nothing to do with anyone else besides myself. Just in a zone at that point.”

He has no plans to change his approach late in games, where his scoring numbers have taken a major hit against the Mavericks.

“Just do my thing,” James said. “There’s times when you make shots and you don’t make shots. I will be on the court in the fourth quarter like I always am.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra again expressed confidence in James on Thursday morning.

"He knows what to do," Spoelstra said. "I don’t want him to overthink it. He’s a great player. He knows how to be aggressive, and pick his spots in what we do. It has to be a collective effort tonight."

Bosh said James doesn't need any major adjustments. "Just give him the gameplan, maybe a little bit of a motivation speech," Bosh said. "But other than that, he doesn't need to hear anything. He just needs to get this game started." 

If James isn't contemplating specific changes – other than being more assertive with the ball in his hands – he is using recent history to help keep him focused.

“I’ve bounced back before,” he said. “I just remember some of the games that I felt like I could play better. I know what I did the next time. I’m a big believer in my abilities. I watch film, I study film, I see the things I could have done better. And I’ve been able to bounce back after that game.”

James pointed specifically to bounce back games in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics and the Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls.

“I’ve had a few subpar games this postseason,” James admitted. “One in Chicago, one in Boston, just try to bounce back the next game, understand what’s at stake, understand what I need to do to help our team win.”

In a Game 1 loss to Chicago, James had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. In Game 2, he put up 29 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists to lead Miami to a win. In a Game 3 loss to Boston, James had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He came back in a Game 4 win with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists.

James disregarded talk that this game could define his legacy – saying that he has heard that before in each of the last few seasons – but it is inarguable that he’s treating this game differently.

“This is what it’s about. This is what we all dream about being in this moment,” James said. “It’s there. We’re looking forward to it, it’s there. That’s what I’ve been dreaming about my whole life.”

Will Game 5 wind up fulfilling that dream? Or will it be another nightmare like Game 4?

Posted on: June 9, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Wade thanks Mavs for LeBron trash talk

Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- An intense and focused Dwyane Wade said at shootaround Thursday morning before a crucial Game 5 of the NBA Finals that while LeBron James doesn't need the comments coming out of the Mavericks' camp to get his focus back, Wade and the Heat "appreciate" the Mavs saying it anyway.

"(LeBron) doesn't need it, but it adds fuel to the fire. We appreciate Dallas for that. Even if he had lost focus, he was going to get it back, but we appreciate the words that are coming out of their mouths."

Wade definitely exuded a high level of confidence for his superstar teammate Thursday morning, while acknowledging that James gets worse headlines than the rest of the Heat. Wade joked that in the eyes of the media "everything LeBron does is great, he can do no wrong," before rolling his eyes.

"LeBron obviously wants to play better, but it's not always about the scoring aspect. It's just about playing better overall." 

James notoriously vanished in Game 4, and his teammates took the bullet for him on Wednesday. On Thursday, James acknowledged that has to "bounce back" in Game 5. Wade, though seemed absolutely confident in the guys he's taking the floor with. 

"I look across the locker room and I see the guys I'm coming onto the floor with, I'm way more confident going into a 2-2 game than I've ever been going into a 2-2 game."

It's weird to see the Heat acknowledge the media attention the way he has, but at some level it's unavoidable because of the constant attention. The Heat have to win two more games to finally "shut up" everyone. If they don't, they can look forward to only more of the criticism, particularly on LeBron. On Thursday, Wade seemed to have no intention of allowing that to happen.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 10:03 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 5:59 am
 

Dirk, Marion will play despite illness, injury

Dallas Mavericks forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion will play in Game 5 despite illness and injury. Posted by Ben Golliver. dirk-sick

DALLAS -- Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals might be best remembered for Miami Heat forward LeBron James' disappearing act, but there were some dramatics on the other bench as well.

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki struggled with a temperature greater than 100 degrees, and he hacked and sneezed his way through his postgame press conference following Dallas' surprising victory.

After practice on Wednesday, the word from the Mavericks camp is that Nowitzki is solidly on the mend.

"I think he's feeling better," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He went through the stuff that -- we didn't do any contact things today.  There wasn't any real running or banging.  But hopefully by tomorrow he'll feel even better."

Nowitzki said he took things easy on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

"I had some soup and had a good meal," Nowitzki said. "Just drank some fluids, drank some tea and just feel a lot better today.  I still got a little high temperature, but the fever is basically gone.  So that's obviously the main concern always.  Anything else, the sniffles or the cough, you don't really care about that as long as the fever is gone."

Carlisle said he did not believe his All-Star forward was contagious.
"I'm not sure it's that kind of a bug," Carlisle said. "He from time to time has sinus things that come up.  Those things can present situations where he gets a fever and has difficulty sleeping and does a lot of sniffling and coughing."

Nowitzki said after avoiding physical activity on Wednesday morning that he planned to get in a brief workout Wednesday night.

"[I] just watched film and walked through some stuff," Nowitzi said. "I'll probably come back tonight, get a little sweat for like 30 minutes, at least get the body used to sweating a little bit.  And then I'll be ready tomorrow."

Mavericks forward Shawn Marion told reporters that Nowitzki's illness isn't worth writing about.

"This is the Finals," Marion said. "What’s he going to do stay in bed? Stay home? Don’t play? Or what? This is it. You don’t get here every day. If he can walk, he’s going to play.

"If he has to roll out of bed with a thermometer in his neck and an IV in his arm, he's going to play."

Shawn Marion

During Game 4, Marion sat for virtually the entire fourth quarter for the first time in the Finals. Marion was shown on television with ice wrapped around his left calf and there was some talk during Wednesday's practice that perhaps he wasn't moving totally freely because of the injury.

On Wednesday, Carlisle said Marion sat during the fourth quarter because of a coach's decision. not an injury.
 
"That was just the way the game was going," Carlisle said. "[Guard] DeShawn [Stevenson] was playing well."
 
Prior to Game 4, Carlisle had told reporters that he hoped to play Marion fewer minutes. In the first three games of the series, Marion averaged 39.7 minutes per game. In Game 4, he played just 26. 

"I was pleased that we could get Shawn some rest," Carlisle said. 

As with Nowitzki's injury, Marion said that his calf was a non-issue.

"I’m walking. I’m good," Marion told ESPNDallas.com.

Brendan Haywood

Dallas Mavericks reserve center Brendan Haywood missed Game 3 and was limited in Game 4 due to a right hip flexor injury sustained during Game 2.

Carlisle said Wednesday that Haywood will continue to be listed as day to day.

"He gave it a shot last night," Carlisle said. "It just wasn't quite where it needed to be.  A tough situation.  But with each day hopefully Mother Nature can help out.  And we'll see if we can have him ready for tomorrow."

Haywood laughed and joked around as he participated in shooting drills during the portion of Wednesday's practice that was open to the media.


Posted on: June 8, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 6:35 pm
 

Playoff Fix: The King and the pivotal swing game

Posted by Royce Young



One Big Thing:
LeBron. Game 5 is maybe the most intriguing NBA game in the last 10 years mainly because of LeBron James. How is he going to respond? What's he going to do? Is he going to overplay? Slink back again? Take over? It's just fascinating stuff. And oh yeah, the series is tied 2-2 and the winner of this game moves within a game of an NBA championship.

So basically, if you're not watching, then I'm not sure we can be friends anymore. Game 5 has about as many storylines as any game I can think of, any sport included.

The X-Factor: LeBron. I just went over this, but either LeBron is going to own Game 5 or he won't. And if LeBron plays like we all know he's capable of -- remember, he's the best player in the league -- then the Heat have a big edge. But if LeBron shrinks back into an awkward role playing position, content to just defend, rebound and swing the ball at the top of the key, the Heat have lost their best player and seen him reduced to a glorified Shane Battier.

It's becoming an issue of what LeBron brings. The Heat survived Game 3 with LeBron doing just enough and Wade carrying the load. They won't be able to last through Game 5 with LeBron scoring in single figures. They won't be able to win with him just passing the ball. He has to be a factor and, if he is, he's The X-Factor.

The Adjustment: LeBron has to be more LeBron. (Are you sensing a theme?) That doesn't mean he has to aggressively attack. Here's an interesting stat: The Heat are 15-1 this season in games LeBron takes 11 or fewer field-goal attempts. The first loss, of course, being Game 4. So it's not all about LeBron chucking 25 shots.

But he has to dominate the game. And he can do that while taking just 11 shots. He can create points in a bunch of different ways. It's about him being the LeBron James who has won two MVPs and probably was the best player this season too.

The Sticking Point: This is the last home game of the season for the Mavericks. And if they don't win, it's on to Miami where they have to win back-to-back games on the road. Not impossible, but if Dallas wants a real shot at this championship, it's got to approach Game 5 as a must-win situation.

The Mavs were desperate in Game 4. And really, they'll be the desperate team in Game 5 because it's more important for them than it is the Heat. But again, how does Miami respond? How does LeBron respond? It's why I'm almost counting down the seconds to this game. I can't think of any sporting event that's had this much intrigue since maybe the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl.

You better be watching. Because if not, you might be missing something incredible.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 7:56 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 6:03 am
 

NBA Finals: The Miami Heat vs. Mavs' attrition



Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- It's bugging them. That's pretty obvious. They're not downhearted about it. It's more a matter of it being as amazing to them as it is to the rest of us. With each game of the 2011 NBA Finals a matter of just a handful of possessions, the Heat are in a dogfight night after night, with every single play of absolute crucial intensity. The fact that the two teams have a total scoring differential of five points through four games has the pressure at an all-time high.

Winning the Finals is stressful. This series is pure heart attack material.

So it should be no surprise that the Heat admitted that it's frustrating being so close in each game and watching leads evaporate in half of them.

"It's a little frustrating," Udonis Haslem said Wednesday, "because we've got a chance to effect the outcome of these games. Having double-figure leads, and the letdowns we've had. Last night, we had a nine-point lead and had a letdown. We didn't expect a sweep, though. They're going to play like champions."

Those comebacks are what the Mavericks have lived off of. In reality, there would be a question if the Mavericks could continue to come back time and time again, except for the fact that they've come back time and time again. The comebacks and consequential collapses by the Heat are a product of how close each game is and how they've come down to only a handful of possessions. The Heat had 34 possessions (via Synergy Sports) in Game 4's first quarter. They had just 24 in the fourth and scored just 14 points off them. 

Forward Chris Bosh said it was less frustrating to him and more just a product of how incredible and "strange" this series has been.

"It's not frustrating," Bosh said. "It's just amazing that's what it's coming down to. You look at the stat sheet and you're like, 'I don't know how we won that game.' Then you look at last night's and you're like, 'I don't know how we lost that game.'"

Bosh began to point to the infinitely small set of possessions that resulted in a tied series. But when he started going, you start to get a picture of the number of things the Heat have failed to control against the Mavericks.

"You look at the film, it's a handful of possessions. Loose ball here, loose ball there. Executing in the stretch. Maybe in the first quarter, you've got a turnover or we weren't concentrating."

Bosh sighed. "It just makes you have to focus a lot more. You can't let up at any time. You have to be ready the whole 48 minutes. It's encouraging, but it's exhausting."

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle talked extensively before Game 4 about the offensive "lulls" the Mavericks would go into, allowing the Heat 7-0 and 9-0 runs. He stressed the need to avoid those. When the Mavericks went into one during the fourth quarter of Game 4, they managed to do the same thing to the Heat. With the game ground to a halt, the Mavs converted just enough possessions to close out the Heat.

For Miami, the reality is starting to turn to face them. DeShawn Stevenson said after Game 4 the Heat "don't want to play a tough game." And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra echoed what this series has turned into as it has progressed: a war of attrition.

"It is a mental and physical test of endurance all the way to the last possession," Spoelstra said.

Miami simply hasn't had the fortitude to hold onto leads since Game 1. Even their Game 3 win, which seemed so impressive just days ago (as Mike Miller said, "that's how this thing goes"), now looks like more of an example of the Heat barely hanging on to another blown lead rather than closing out.

But if the Heat had managed to defend Dirk the way they did in Game 3, everything would be different. The pressure, the media approach, the impression that they're collapsing. Instead, even with the series tied, the alarm is starting to sound about the Heat. They have an opportunity in Game 5 to set the tone once again. The question will be if any Heat player is tough enough to step up and take control of the series, or if the Heat can get back to the collective approach that led them to the gates. If the Heat don't have those answers, the war of attrition that is these NBA Finals will take its toll.

And it will only get worse from there.


Posted on: June 8, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 6:55 pm
 

LeBron James takes heat, from himself and others

Miami Heat forward LeBron James takes criticism from himself and others. Posted by Ben Golliver. lebron-james-face

DALLAS – Following Miami Heat forward LeBron James’ confounding no-show in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the question on everyone’s mind on Wednesday was simple: What the heck happened?

 “[He] checked out,” Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson said. Later, he referred to James’ detached passivity as “weird.”

“I just feel like he wasn’t in attack mode,” Stevenson added. “I think when he’s in attack mode, he can put a lot of pressure on us. I don’t know what was happening last night, but me playing against him all these years, that wasn’t himself.”

James wouldn’t bite when asked about Stevenson’s comments.

“DeShawn, he's been talking for a long time, since our Washington‑Cleveland days,” James said. “I don't let that get to us. Those guys are playing well. We're playing well. It's a three‑game series. Talk is cheap. You have to play the game of basketball. Let the scores and the plays define the game. We don't get caught up in that too much.”

While those two exchanged words like they have for years, the rest of the Mavericks were more concerned with pinpointing the reasons for James’ lack of assertiveness on offense and talking up his ability as a playmaker.

Mavericks forward Shawn Marion pointed to Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s ball dominance late as a major contributing factor in James’ struggles.

“They’ve got to take turns on who handles the ball, who’s not handling the ball,” Marion said. “[James is] one of their primary ball handlers. When he’s not handling the ball, he’s not in the play.”

Stevenson agreed. “If you have a player like Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh and they have it going, you tend to defer… You go back and look at film and TV, you can kind of see he’s deferring.”

The player who came to James’ defense more than any other, surprisingly, was Mavericks guard Jason Terry, who questioned James’ defense earlier this week. Terry said on Tuesday that James can dominate a game even without scoring and seemed to imply that the criticism of James' Game 4 performance was overkill.

“Pick your poison,” Terry said of James as a scorer or as a facilitator. “Him getting a triple double, that will help them. They’ll win the game. He almost had one last night, and they almost won the game. LeBron is unique. He’s a unique character. If you want to categorize him as just a scorer, you’re doing it all wrong. He’s like Magic. He’s a guy who can affect a game without scoring 30, 40 points. He can get it done on both ends.”

Terry did get in one subtle dig, though.

"I don't really care what to expect from him [in Game 5],“ Terry said.

In other words, this series won’t be decided by James alone.

Stevenson and Marion, despite the trash talking throughout the week and during games -- which Stevenson calls "jaw-jacking" -- did make an outward attempt to distance themselves from the back-and-forth.

“Great players just need a little thing to get it going,” Stevenson said. “You don’t want to say anything bad or anything, but he’s talented enough to use anything in the paper to boost his ego.”

“Y’all gonna gas up anything we say regardless,” said Marion said just hours after Deadspin.com posted a video of him scoring on James and directing a taunt at him. “I don’t get into that talking smack. We’re competitors, and we’ve got respect for each other.”

At the eye of the storm, James said he’s trying to tune everything out, including the media reaction to the worst game of his playoff career.  

“I haven't read anything that was written,” James said. “I didn't play well, especially offensively. I know that. I've got to do a better job of helping this team win basketball games, especially late, no matter what it is.” 

Besides, James said he doesn't need to listen to others criticize him. He is already doing that to himself.

“Eight points is definitely inexcusable for myself,” James said. “I hold myself up to a higher standard. I had to do a better job of putting myself in situations where I can benefit myself and my team, no matter how many minutes I'm out on the floor.

“I was hard on myself all last night,” James said. “Anytime I feel like I could have played better and the team loses, that's what it's all about. If I have a bad game and we win, I'm hard on myself, but at the end of the day we win the basketball game. That's ultimately what it's all about. When we lose and I don't play well and I feel like I could have did one or two more things to help our team win or get over the hump, you're definitely hard on yourself.  That's just me. That's just the make‑up of who I am.”         

After four games of this NBA Finals, hours of talk, and thousands of words, we couldn't have less of an idea of who James is. His demeanor, his play and his confidence all fluctuate by the day.

We'll see which James shows up to Game 5 on Thursday night.

Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:51 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 5:57 am
 

NBA Finals: LeBron's teammates step in for him

Posted by Matt Moore

DALLAS -- "Vanishing act." "Checked out." "Wilted." "Struggled."

"Choke job."

Miami players were having none of it on Wednesday at practice as they tried in vain to get the media off its bloodhunt following what many, including myself, would call "the worst game I've ever seen LeBron James play."

James was shut down, shut out, beaten out, beaten down, smothered, covered, grilled and flat-out annihilated against a defense from Dallas that was simply as committed as you can get to shutting down one player. From the man defense attacking his dribble and guiding him into help to the help defense pushing him out to the perimeter and forcing turnovers to the weakside rotations swatting at his dribble, James was simply put in lockdown. But his teammates were emphatic that James is unaffected by his struggles and that if you want to point a finger for his struggles, point it at them.

"I, myself, need some of the blame," Udonis Haslem said Wednesday afternoon. "He's finding guys for open shots. We've got to knock them down. If we knock them down, it's a different series possibly. Some of this criticism has to go to us, not just him. He's a great player. He's getting guys open shots. We've got to make them."

Haslem pointed to one particular shot he had that would have put the Heat up late that he missed baseline. Mike Miller, though, made it clear that the team isn't rattled by another late collapse.

"We're still standing."

Miller was emphatic about defending James' decision-making, calling him "the best player in the world for a reason."

"He sees things better than anyone. If that's what he sees, he's got to make the pass," Miller said.

Miller also wasn't worried about how his superstar would respond in a crucial Game 5 in yet another bounceback opportunity for the Heat. He says they're not surprised at the criticism of James, but the Heat are also not worried about it.

"That's how it always is. You lose, the world's coming to end. You win, you're the greatest. LeBron's fine. He's the best player in the world."

James himself simply chalked it up to being "mental." He said he has to be more aggressive, predictably, and talked about rhythm. He made it clear that if the double comes, he's going to keep sending the ball out to open teammates. That's the play to make, and he says he'll do it.

But is that really what should happen? At some point, James has to make them pay with his athleticism and scoring ability. To do that he's going to have to split the two defenders off the pick and roll. James has been rolling away and then trying to jump-pass, which resulted in a crucial turnover late in Game 4. Mario Chalmers told reporters that on the pick and roll the Heat have to stop "jumping and waiting for someone to pass to."

But lost in all the talk of dramatic ideas like "wilting" and "aggressiveness" was something that Coach Erik Spoelstra quietly slipped into his comments.

"The last thing would be that the ball has to move. And sometimes he can get involved from execution, other guys being aggressive, and he's off the ball and impacting in different ways. So we anticipate it will be different tomorrow night."

That's a very quiet way of indicating that James might not be the primary ball-handler as he was in Game 4 along with Wade. It's a pretty smart concept. They can't double him all the time if he doesn't have the ball all the time. With Wade being a good enough distributor, Chris Bosh passing well, and even Mario Chalmers playing well and making good decisions, that could be a huge adjustment for the Heat. And not just by capitalizing on James' extraordinary gifts off-ball in terms of athleticism and catch-and-shoot, but to avoid a serious problem that's developed for Miami. The clock.

When James runs point, as he often did in the fourth quarter of Game 4, the Mavericks have employed an unusual, if logical, strategy. They're putting a world of pressure on the ball. They have gone so far throughout this series as to toss a full-court press at James. A full-court press. In the NBA Finals. And it's worked. When James does reach half-court with the press broken, it's job done in just etching off a few seconds from the clock, the Mavs are bodying him, just bumping him slightly. Shawn Marion acknowledged that it's an effort the Mavs are deploying on James to get the clock run down. 

"It's not about (bodying him)," Marion said. "It's just about trying to take time off the clock. It's just trying to get a little advantage by getting them down in the clock running their sets." 

The result is the Heat trying to run sets with 14 seconds or less on the clock, sometimes less than 10. That leads to what Mike Miller called "9-1-1 plays," which lead to shot-clock violations and turnovers. Moving LeBron off-ball might improve that considerably.

In the end it will be on James, though. His teammates can defend him. His coaches can make adjustments. He can talk about his defensive efforts and making the right play. But James will have to dictate what direction his legacy goes in this series.



Posted on: June 8, 2011 5:04 am
Edited on: June 8, 2011 6:00 am
 

NBA Finals: Carlisle's tinkering pays dividends



Posted by Matt Moore

Rick Carlisle looked befuddled at a certain notoriously bombastic reporter's question if he had coached "a hell of a game." 

"Who is this guy?" Carlisle asked with a laugh. "Next question."

Truth be told, he would have been right to say he had.  In the NBA Finals, neither team wants to blink first. Both teams want to assert their dominance over their opponent and have things played on their terms. Rick Carlisle talked all week about "playing [their] game." But he was the first to blink, the first to crack, the first to make a substantial adjustment, and doing so might have just saved the Mavericks from the brink of elimination, and allowed them to regain momentum.

Carlisle switched his rotation on Tuesday night in Game 4, inserting J.J. Barea into the starting lineup, shifting DeShawn Stevenson into reserve small forward, removing Peja Stojakovic from the rotations, and going to Stevenson down the stretch instead of Marion. Marion was a huge part of the Mavs' success on both sides of the ball, but had also put in heavy minutes trying to score consistently, make plays, and defend LeBron James full-court. It was a strategy that Rick Carlisle said he had to adjust.

"I knew we had to take Marion's minutes down. He can't play 43 minutes."

Instead of balking or sulking at being removed from the starting lineup, Stevenson said he was more than happy to come in and close the game, helping to shut down his long-time nemesis LeBron James (even if Stevenson is not LeBron's). Marion admitted that he wanted to be in the game to close the Heat out but played the "We got the win" card. Having so many guys willing and able to contribute is a luxury for Carlisle, who used it to make a strategic adjustment.

The Heat never adjusted, didn't know how to adjust, and when what they do didn't work, they just tried doing it more and doing the same things harder. Effort goes a long way but you've got to be smart. And while Carlisle deferred and said that what the Mavericks are doing isn't complex, in reality, it's those adjustments that make the difference. They did in Game 4.

And they might end up being the difference in this series.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com