NBA Finals Game 5 Preview



By Jim Hurley

Perhaps you heard the post-Game 4 comments from an ill Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks:

"I'll get some sleep, take some meds and be ready to go on Thursday."

He better!

The fact of the matter is the Mavericks survived the Game 4 tug-of-war 86-83 behind a sub-standard Nowitzki who misfired on 13 of his 19 field-goal tries (and some of 'em were way off the mark, folks) and despite the fact Dallas shot a touch under 40 percent from the floor (see 29-of-73 for a 39.7 accuracy rate).

One ESPN Radio commentator said following that series-tying win by the Mavs that Miami is winning the games in this year's NBA Finals when it plays well and losing the games it's not playing well - and that Dallas has not really played its "A game" yet through the first four games of this series that's currently tied at two games apiece but be sure that the Western Conference champs need to play their best game of this series tonight ... or else.

No doubt Nowitzki - who finished Game 4 with a team-best 21 points - cannot afford another 31.5 percent shooting game from the floor but you know how these "swing games" often go - it's someone that generally sails below the proverbial radar screen that must step things up and so maybe Shawn Marion (16 points in Game 4) or new reserve/past starter DeShawn Stevenson (11 points in 26 minutes off the pines) will be the lightning rod to join with Nowitzki to give slight home favorite Dallas (a 1 ½-point betting favorite at press time) the all-important three games-to-two lead.

Okay, so there's two sides to every story and we'll get to what Miami needs to do to win and thereby head back to the Sunshine State with a three games-to-two advantage here shortly in our Jim Sez Game 5 Preview but first this key reminder:

And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals action -that's both the Sides & Totals, folks -as the Heat and the Mavericks hook up in Dallas in Game #5 on Thursday night at 9 p.m. Eastern time. 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! The calling/check-in times are as follows: After 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; after 11 a.m. ET for weekday Baseball and after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action in the NBA Finals and MLB.


MIAMI at DALLAS - Series tied 2-2

Maybe it's really all about "counter-punching" here in this year's NBA Finals:

After all, the Mavs made their not-so-subtle adjustments in that Game 4 win with Nowitzki asked less to get involved with the club's pick-and-roll plays while center Tyson Chandler (13 points and 16 rebounds) ably handled that role and so here we'll look for the visiting Heat to make some tweaks of its own including the following:

Miami must "engage" LeBron James right from the very start here - you saw how Nowitzki (despite the sinus infection and 101 degree temperature) came out firing in Game 4 with three consecutive hoops from different spots on the floor and now it says here that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra must implore James to get involved with more jump shots, more drives to the hoop, etc. after looking lost on offense for much of that shabby Game 4 performance (see 3-of-11 FG shooting and just 8 points on Tuesday night).

The fact of the matter is if James doesn't get off minimum 20 FG attempts here than the Heat "dropped the ball" in terms of that particular adjustment.

Next up, Miami must not get away from taking "threes":

Sure, earlier in this series the Heat attempted 30 triples in a Game 2 home loss and there was a major hue-and-cry (including from this little corner of the hoops world) that Miami was playing with "fool's gold" - an old Pat Riley adage for depending/relying too much on the three-point shot - but the Game 4 stat line that showed a wobbly 2-of-14 success rate on trifectas should not discourage Miami and no doubt reserves Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller (a combined 2-of-8 from distance in Game 4 including that desperation miss at the buzzer by a panicked Miller) need to incorporate some made bombs into their game.

Finally, the Heat must turn defense into offense here - there's simply no excuse for the fact that Miami lost the "points off turnovers" battle 18-12 in Game 4. The likes of James and Dwyane Wade (see game-high 32 points in that Tuesday tilt) must fire out following steals and get the Heat some easy points. In truth, it's what Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle is most afraid of in this series - the possibility that Miami will turn up the pressure on defense against the likes of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea and turn bad passes/careless dribbling into gimme baskets on the other end of the floor.

So, what's it gonna be here?

Will Miami go home with two opportunities to win just one single game following this clash tonight or is the so-called "Big Three" featuring James, Wade and Chris Bosh gonna be in an uncomfortable position that they'll need to win a Game 6 and a Game 7 at home? Nowitzki's (presumably) gotten his sleep and taken his meds - now it's time for the duel in Dallas.


The earlier-week news that the Golden State Warriors had hired long-time NBA point guard and current ABC/ESPN game analyst Mark Jackson to be their new head coach was met with major enthusiasm by the folks at the all-sports network - or didn't you get tired of play-by-play geek Mike Breen referring to him as "Coach Jackson" throughout Game 4? - but there's in-the-know folks who doubt that the 46-year-old novice will be able to handle the rigors of day-to-day coaching.

It doesn't help matters that Jackson - considered a defensive mind from a coaching standpoint (that's the influence of one-time New York Knicks head coach and current ABC/ESPN sidekick Jeff Van Gundy) - is headed to a Warriors team that considers defense a bad word and has allowed free-lancing guards Monta Ellis and Stephon Curry the freedom to do as they please on offense and simply can't see Jackson getting G-State to "dig out" of the netherlands of the NBA Western Conference anytime soon.

No question that new Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber wanted to put their personal touches on the Warriors - they fired Keith Smart after just one year as the club's head coach - but count us among the folks who believed a better hiring would have been an established NBA assistant coach such as Dallas' Dwane Casey or Boston's Lawrence Frank or perhaps even the aforementioned Van Gundy who allegedly has told friends he is not interested in returning to the sidelines in 2011-12 ...

Meanwhile, on the "other" coast, the New York Knicks are still sorting things out after the announcement last week that well-respected GM Donnie Walsh would not be retained in that role beyond June 30th. Walsh will be kept on board as a "consultant" with rumors floating around that the Knicks will operate a sort of three-headed general manager position while grooming Allan Houston for the full-time job in 2012 or later.

Walsh certainly got the Knicks into the "relevant" stage and gets kudos for bringing the franchise under the salary cap but let's not forget that Walsh blew a couple of drafts including the time he tabbed Arizona F Jordan Hill (now a member of the Houston Rockets) instead of drafting current Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (a 16.2 ppg scorer this 2010-11 season).

Hey, Walsh did a bang-up job in NYC but he was far from perfect despite tabloid media reports that he "saved" the organization.

NOTE: Get our NBA Finals Game 5 re-cap plus lots more in the next edition of Jim Sez


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