MIAMI -- If you were with the Daily Dime on Saturday, you were treated to some terrific inside analysis of Game 1 by ABC TV basketball scout Bob Salmi. He's the "coach in the truck" during ABC broadcasts of the NBA Finals. Bob's tape breakdowns help the producers, directors and announcing team isolate meaningful plays that illustrate what the teams are doing well and what they're not doing well.
Revealing tale of the tape
Daily Dime: Why did Shaq have so many problems on offense in Game 2?
Salmi: Pat Riley made some adjustments in Game 2 so that Shaquille O'Neal could catch the ball on the move. If he catches on the move he's in better position to score or pass before the double team arrives. Unfortunately Miami's execution was not top notch ... the entry pass to Shaq was not crisp and Dallas was able to steal the ball a couple of times.
Daily Dime: What about after Shaq caught the ball? It looked like he was struggling with the double teams.
Salmi: He's being guarded by a 6-foot-11 guy in Erick Dampier or DeSagana Diop and he's being doubled by a 7-foot guy in Dirk Nowitzki. That's a very difficult double team to pass out of ... it's not like a guard is coming to double.
Also, his teammates didn't deliver. Shaq was double-teamed 15 times in the first half and they only scored seven points. There were missed layups, there were turnovers, there were travels. There were opportunities to score, but Miami didn't finish the play by putting the ball in the basket.
A lot of people are saying Pat Riley needs to change his strategy. I think the strategy is fine, it's the execution of the strategy that has to change.
Daily Dime: What can Miami do to help Dwyane Wade be more productive on offense?
Salmi: The Dallas Mavericks have decided that it's not going to be Dwyane Wade and it's not going to be Shaquille O'Neal who beats them. When those guys touch the ball the Mavericks are converging on them, so Wade and O'Neal have to make plays for their teammates and those guys have not delivered so far in the NBA Finals.
Daily Dime: What about the Mavs on offense? They look pretty strong.
Salmi: The Mavs' depth comes into play. In Game 1, Jason Terry scored 32 points. In Game 2, Jerry Stackhouse scored 19. Their depth really helps them. It doesn't necessarily have to be the No. 1 or 2 guy on any given night. They have eight guys who can contribute.
Daily Dime: After looking over the tape of Game 2, what in particular impressed you about the Mavs' offense?
Salmi: They got the ball to Dirk on the move. In Game 1, he was a stationary target. He came to the top on an isolation and Miami could deny him or extend him deeper on the floor. In Game 2, he was a mobile target. He was harder to double team because he wasn't in the same place all the time. His movement made him much more difficult to find and much more difficult to double team.
Bob prepares dozens of clips for use on-air during the game and shared five of those scouting breakdowns with the Daily Dime.
Late Miami entry (see box 6, right): You see Shaq get good, deep position in front of the basket, but the entry passes from Udonis Haslem and Antoine Walker come too slow and are too soft. Miami needs to make a much better pass to take advantage of Shaq's deep post-ups.
Later, the clip shows you why the Mavs' double team on Shaq is so successful. The players that they're using to double Shaq are in the 6-foot-11, 7-foot range. The "giant" double makes it very difficult for Shaq to make a quality offensive move or even get off a shot.
Finally, you see Shaq make good passes out of the double team, but his teammates can't score in the basket area.
Dirk on the move (see box 7, right): You see Dirk Nowitzki on the move without the ball. When Nowitzki moves he's a much tougher cover for the Heat. He frees himself up, catches, drives and scores. If Dirk is standing still in isolations, the Heat have the advantage.
On the next play shown, you see Jerry Stackhouse burn the Heat from behind the 3-point line. First from the left side, then the top and then the right corner. The Heat have to do a better job of defending the perimeter against the Mavs.
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Heat guard Dwyane Wade is facing a blur of Dallas defenders, including a "three-headed monster" that Scouts Inc.'s John Carroll credits Avery Johnson for deploying.
During the otherwise meaningless fourth quarter, Miami seemed to catch on that Dwyane Wade could back down Devin Harris and shoot over him if given the space. That could be an important adjustment for Game 3.
A second long-overdue strategy shift would be to turn the focus of the offense away from Shaq and toward Wade. Riley has been leery of putting too much on Wade's shoulders thus far, saying his team has lost all three playoff games when the third-year guard has 50 or more touches, but who else is going to score? Shaq has been enfeebled by the Mavs' double-teams and the rest of the supporting cast is AWOL.
Besides, O'Neal might get some easy baskets playing off of Wade and might get back into a groove offensively. Remember, much of the damage O'Neal did against Detroit came when Wade beat a defender into the paint and then lofted an easy alley-oop pass for Shaq. Those plays have been few and far between in the first two games, as have the second shots that O'Neal normally converts into thunderous dunks. Those two factors have suppressed the big man's numbers as much as Dallas' defensive tactics.
However, the adjustments to emphasize Wade and use his size against Harris are the only obvious ones available to the Heat. The rest of the recipe for Game 3 simply boils down to the supporting cast playing much, much better.
The microscope should focus particularly hard on Miami's perimeter players. Through the first two games, Jason Williams, Gary Payton and James Posey have failed to infuse any scoring in their secondary roles, allowing Dallas to double Shaq with impunity.
Brandon, San Francisco: Paul, when you were on the road in the NBA, what was the most depressing city that you visited? We all hear about how great Miami and New York are to visit when you are on the road, but seriously, which was the worst city that you traveled to?
Paul Shirley: Cleveland in the winter is pretty rough. But Sacramento never fails to truly disappoint. It's like Topeka with fewer trees. Honorable mention to Orlando; it's really hot and humid there, it turns out.
Citizen (World): You know, I think you look more like Jens Lehmann, the German goalie, than Matt Leinart. Any World Cup thoughts?
Paul Shirley: Blank slate. I tried to watch with my brother yesterday. It's just too boring. I even went to an FC Barcelona-Juventus match once when I was playing in Spain. It did not cure my apathy for soccer. I've tried and tried; I just don't have the attention span, apparently.
Steve, Las Vegas: Despite playing substandard basketball and display of poor writing, how do you maintain the high level of arrogance?
Paul Shirley: I surround myself with yes men and lackeys.
AP Photo/Eric Gay
A Mavs fan tracks Shaquille O'Neal's free-throw woes after two NBA Finals games.
Bob Salmi, ABC's "video coach", explains why entry passes to Shaq have been poorly executed by his teammates.
Too Many "Lollipop Passes"
Bob Salmi, ABC's "video coach", explains how Dirk Nowitzki was able to shake defenders.
The Mavs are a confident team because of their defense. They completely overwhelmed the Heat offense. They had a game plan coming into this series and have been outstanding in implementing it. The Mavs have limited the Heat to only 82.5 points per game.
Mavs coach Avery Johnson deserves the credit for their defense, but something tells me that assistant coach Del Harris has had a lot of input into the schemes they have used to defend Shaq. The Mavs have used multiple defenses and by changing defenses, they have kept the Heat and Shaq off balance. They have surrounded Shaq, and decided that the other four players would have to beat them. They have fronted Shaq, doubled him, used fresh centers on him and zoned him. And it has all worked.
Dallas has implemented a three-headed monster to guard Wade and it has worked quite well. Johnson starts the slower but fundamental Griffin on Wade, then brings in the more athletic and quicker Howard and Harris. This strategy allows the Mavs to give Wade different looks in an attempt to wear him down during a 48-minute game. Look for Johnson to keep this strategy because he had Wade frustrated in Game 2.
Pat Riley has his work cut out for him, and he has only a short period of time to solve the problem of his team's missing mojo. The Heat must execute an offensive plan that will counter the Mavs' strategy. But the bigger challenge for Riley is to get O'Neal's mental game back where it belongs. Dwyane Wade will come through in Miami, and the supporting cast will be ready because those guys had a fairly effective fourth quarter as the two stars sat and watched.
If Shaq helps his team rise above his opponents' best and is willing to lead his team, even when things are not going his way, the Heat still have a chance. Anything less than O'Neal's best mental and physical game will not be nearly enough.
Dave (Charlottesville): Is this going to be an anticlimatic end to a fantastic playoffs?
Chris Broussard: I want to stay with my pick of Miami winning just for sheer consistency. So I want to believe they can make this a series by taking two games at home. But they are getting beat in every conceivable way. Dallas is deeper. Dirk Nowitzki had a great game last night but there were lots of players who were great. Dallas is far from a one-man show. We heard so much about Detroit being a true "team" but Dallas is every bit as much a team as Detroit was. Jerry Stackhouse was great. Josh Howard was good. Jason Terry was good. Erick Dampier outplayed Shaq! This is a true team.
Justin, San Francisco: Chris, what are you seeing in Dallas now that you didn't see when picking Miami to win it all?
Chris Broussard: On my blog I explained why I picked Miami in 6. I admitted there was every reason on paper to pick Dallas. You knew Miami was weak on the perimeter defensively and Dallas would exploit that. We knew Dallas had the big bodies to throw at Miami. We knew Dallas could go with a finesse lineup and force Shaq to come out on the perimeter. We knew Dallas had tremendous depth and could fill any offensive void. On paper, I would have picked Dallas. But I just had a feel for Miami. I justified it by saying they have two of the best superstars in the game on their team. But now I think that feeling was just indigestion.
To really answer the question, I think I underestimated the defense that Dallas is playing. The Mavs are putting some real pressure on the Heat and double-teaming Shaq while still being quick enough to contest the Miami shooters.
Shaq has seen every kind of defense there is. But for Dallas to do what no other team has been able to do over two games is a real credit to their defense.