Mavs lose in areas they had to win
Dallas doomed with Heat holding advantage in bench scoring, 3-point shooting
MIAMI -- Few secrets exist this late in the playoffs, and no one needs to tell Jason Terry that the two key areas the Dallas Mavericks must win to have any shot against the Miami Heat are bench scoring and 3-point shooting.
"We've got to win those battles," Terry said prior to the Mavericks' 92-84 Game 1 loss.
Those categories fall largely on the 6-foot-2 streak shooter, and Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena was not Terry's night.
The sixth man and the rest of the Mavs' reserves, the NBA's highest-scoring bench during the regular season, struggled for just 17 points, their lowest output of the postseason. Terry accounted for 12, all in the first half. He hit three of five shots from deep, and the Mavs went to halftime up one.
Then the Heat came with a little second-half surprise. Jason Terry, meet LeBron James.
The powerful, 6-foot-8, 250-pounder took on Terry and shut him down.
"That was something unexpected," Terry said. "Now that we know that's one of their adjustments, we'll take a look at that."
There won't be much to see. James had Terry under wraps. The Mavs' second-leading scorer got off just three shots in the second half, all in the fourth quarter and all well off the mark.
On consecutive possessions midway through the fourth quarter with Miami having surged in front 75-69, Terry missed an off-balance baseline jumper and overshot a 3-pointer from the corner off a pass from Dirk Nowitzki out of a double-team. His only other attempt was an errant 2 with 2:05 to go.
James, an all-defensive first-team selection, throttled Chicago Bulls speed demon Derrick Rose in the Eastern Conference finals. The Mavs can ill-afford to have their top 3-point shooter bottled up with Nowitzki fighting off swarms and with simply getting off shots -- the Mavs took just 67 -- hard to do.
"If I need to be on Terry or anyone on their team, I try to take the challenge," said James, whose overall damage included outshooting all of the Mavs' 3-point aces with four of his own. "It's never me just guarding someone individually. But I do take the challenge on any individual matchup that I'm against.
"And tonight happened to be Terry mostly in the second half."
Still, Terry is only one man, and this loss stretched across the bench. Terry finished 3-of-10, better than the 1-of-12 from the rest of the bench. J.J. Barea got in the lane, but he couldn't finish. He made one of eight shots.
Peja Stojakovic did not get off to an encouraging start, missing all three of his shots, all 3-pointers, in less than 15 minutes of action. If Stojakovic can't drop his 3-pointer, he might not have a place in this series. There isn't a good defensive matchup, which forces the Mavs to mix in a lot of zone with Stojakovic on the floor, especially with Terry and Barea.
"We rely on our bench a lot. They are a big part of our game," said Jason Kidd, who had three of Dallas' nine made 3s on 22 attempts. "Tonight they just didn't shoot the ball well."
The Heat defense, with James and Dwyane Wade hounding the perimeter, had a little something to do with the Mavs' 37.3 percent overall shooting.
"They're physical," Kidd said. "They're not going to let you get to your spot. They're going to be physical and make sure that you got to go to your second move, and that's what they did tonight."
Heat guard Mario Chalmers found the soft spot in the Mavs' zone in the corner. He hit three first-half 3-pointers and matched Terry's 12 points. Udonis Haslem added seven points and six rebounds, and Mike Miller hit two 3-pointers as the Heat bench, the league's lowest-scoring in the regular season, outscored Dallas' four-man bench by 10.
Despite the bench getting outscored for the second consecutive game (Oklahoma City won the battle 40-36 in Game 5 of that series), Terry said the Heat's quick closeouts at the 3-point arc weren't at the root of the problems. The Mavs, Terry said, just missed shots.
"A lot of them, we had opportunities and we just didn't make them," Terry said. "Those opportunities will be there in Game 2."
2011 NBA Finals: Champion Mavericks
Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Game 3: Heat 88, Mavericks 86
Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83
Game 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103
Game 6: Mavericks 105, Heat 95
More: Mavs Center » Mavs Blog »
However, Terry's shooting has been on the decline. He shot just 36.9 percent in the West finals, and perhaps more troubling are his fourth-quarter numbers throughout the playoffs. Dallas continues to play tight games that can swing on a big 3-pointer like the one Wade buried for an 82-73 lead with 3:06 to play.
Terry was 0-of-3 in Tuesday's fourth quarter, dropping him to 28.6 percent (14-of-49) from the floor in the fourth quarters this postseason. He's shooting 22.7 percent (5-of-22) from 3-point range. Terry takes great pride in being a fourth-quarter scorer, holding up four fingers before the start of the final period.
"I don't think I had as many opportunities in the second half as I did in the first," Terry said. "Again, I was in transition, looking to be aggressive, and those same opportunities weren't there."
There's no secret why. Terry and the Mavs will have to come up with an answer for James.
"Please believe," Terry said, "we will be aggressive in Game 2."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.