Game One Goes To The Heat



By Jim Hurley:

Go ahead and decide for yourself what really is the bigger problem for the Dallas Mavericks now that they are behind 1-0 in this best-of-seven NBA Finals:

Is it the torn tendon in the left (non-shooting) hand of megastar forward Dirk Nowitzki who managed to score a game-high 27 points in the 92-84 loss at 4 ½-point favorite Miami last night or is it simply the fact that the Heat has too many superstars and all of 'em are ready/willing/able to play air-tight defense?

In the lid-lifter of this much-anticipated NBA Finals - yes, we know NBA Commissioner David Stern is popping his expensive suit buttons ready to tell us what the Game #1 television ratings were! - the Heat shot a woeful 28 percent from the floor in the first quarter and yet trailed by just one point and maybe that was a telling sign because everyone's noticed how Miami is a brilliant fourth-quarter team in this year's playoffs. The fact of the matter is there was a second-half stretch in Game #1 where the Mavs scored just 18 points in 18 minutes and some of those late-game points were truly just cosmetic as you knew who was gonna win this first game in the final three or four minutes of play.

We'll give some post-Game #1 thoughts below with a reminder that we'll have a Game #2 Preview in tomorrow's Jim Sez column - but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals action - that's the Sides & Totals, folks - as the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat collide again on Thursday night in South Florida with Game #2 action. Just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for the ground-breaking hoops winners. Plus, make sure you stay with us right through the summer with all our Major-League Baseball winners!

Okay, so here's an NBA Playoffs Pointspread Standings Update following Tuesday's Game #1:

DALLAS 13 3 0 .812
MIAMI 11 5 0 .688
Memphis 8 4 1 .667
Indiana 3 2 0 .600
Philadelphia 3 2 0 .600
Atlanta 7 5 0 .583
Okla. City 8 8 1 .500
New Orleans 3 3 0 .500
New York 2 2 0 .500
Denver 2 2 1 .500
Chicago 7 9 0 .437
Boston 3 6 0 .333
LA Lakers 3 7 0 .300
Orlando 1 5 0 .167
San Antonio 0 5 1 .000
Portland 0 6 0 .000


MIAMI 92, DALLAS 84 - Heat leads series 1-0
The folks that had this one "in the bag" right from the start was the "under" players (the final totals price came in at 188 ½ points) as neither team could buy a bucket in the early stages of this game - and it is a bit amazing that the Heat could get into the 90s despite the fact it shot a rotten 38.8 percent from the floor but here were the real keys:

Yes, there were a ton of wide-open shots that didn't fall for Miami - especially the ones launched by veteran guard Mike Bibby who missed all four of his shots (and all of 'em were three-point tries) but after the Dallas zone defense hampered the Heat's style, the "Big Three" of LeBron James (team-high 24 points), Dwyane Wade (22 points) and Chris Bosh (19 points) started to figure out that there were creases both at/near the foul line and down deep in the paint and you might have noticed how many of Miami's passes were thread-the-needle jobs that found open shooters just a couple of feet from the hoop.

Both James and Wade - who combined for 11 of the team's 20 assists - made some deft passes on pick-and-pop plays that left the Dallas big men flat-footed. Maybe the genius announcing team of ABC broadcasters Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson (and we say that sarcastically, of course!) should have pointed out that Dallas center Tyson Chandler only blocked two shots in 34 minutes of play and rarely was a factor on "D" even though many of the Heat plays from the second quarter on were run right at 'em.

Obviously, the Dallas scoring load was heaped on Nowitzki who did spend much of the game's final few minutes examining his injured finger but a major sore spot here was the Mavericks bench that was MIA - note that Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic combined to hit 4-of-21 field-goal tries and often had open shots that could have changed the complexion of this Game #1 tilt had they fallen.

No doubt the Mavs did a wonderful job in terms of their transition defense - the Heat scored just 7 fast-break points all night long despite the fact Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra constantly implored his club to get out and go. As it turned out the Heat hit some big threes (see James who went 4-of-5 from beyond the arc including a couple of critically-important triples late in the third quarter when the tide really began to turn in Miami's favor) and some of that fell on Dallas guards who spent too much of the night backing up and giving ground (we're talking to you, Mr. Terry!).

The Mavericks didn't hit the boards with any real vengeance as Miami sported a solid 46-to-36 advantage on the glass and we wondered why Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle didn't at least try both the aforementioned Chandler and reserve C Brendan Haywood (7 rebounds in 14 minutes) together for a few minutes just to establish more of a rebounding force (note James/Wade/Bosh teamed up for 28 boards in all).

If the Mavs are gonna "get even" come Thursday night than Nowitzki (7-of-18 FGs in Game #1) has to be sharper even with the injury and Dallas must flex some rebounding muscles ... or else.


Let's rattle off some quick-hitter items here in today's Jim Sez as we focus on some key numbers ...

3.94 - Yes, indeed, that's the up-to-the-moment ERA for Philadelphia Phillies LHP Cliff Lee who didn't get out of the sixth inning in last night's 10-2 loss at the Washington Nationals. No doubt Lee - who surrendered 6 runs and 7 hits in 5.1 innings against the Nats - just has not been himself in his second tour of duty with the Phils and after this NL East tilt Lee told the media, "I'd like to erase this from my memory, wish it never happened, but can't do that." Among the pitfalls here were three walks by Lee who isn't telling anyone that he's hurt but reports circulate that something could be wrong with his arm or elbow ...

6 - Folks, that's how many earned runs Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol allowed in one-third of an inning in last night's destructive 7-3 home loss to the lowly Houston Astros. Marmol really torched what was a wonderful effort by starter RHP Carlos Zambrano (one run, seven hits allowed in the first eight innings). Think about it: Marmol - who we have never considered top-shelf closing material despite some electric stuff - faced seven Astros in this stint and all but one of 'em scored!

63 - Don't look now but this is how many RBI that Cleveland Indians middle infielders SS Asdrubal Cabrera (36) and 2B Orlando Cabrera (27) have knocked in the first two months of this big-league season. Note that each drove in a run in last night's 6-3 win at Toronto and - at this current pace (don't you just love that?) the Cabrera guys will knock in 189 runs between 'em this year. Not bad for two guys that barely earned a word or two in the spring-time publications that festoon the newsstands.

NOTE: Get more NBA Finals Updates - it's a Game #2 Preview -- in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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