Give Dallas credit — this is not their first massive comeback these playoffs. They are in the finals because they executed better at the end of games better than any team in the West. This is a veteran team that does not easily fluster and they started running a fantastic staggered screen for Jason Terry that the Heat could not stop. Dallas has shooters. Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas earned this 95-93 Game 2 win with their 22-5 run to close the contest out.
But you don’t have a comeback like this without some help.
Miami helped choke this away down the stretch. As our own John Krolik noted, the Heat had spent a season trying to shake a perception of arrogance, of a team celebrating before they won anything. Then, fair or not, they got it back in six minutes.
What did the Heat do wrong down the stretch? A few things.
• Horrible shot selection. With their 15 point lead, Miami went into the NBA equivalent of the prevent defense — they started trying to milk the clock, so they started their offensive sets late in the shot clock. Well, “sets” is a bad description of it. It was more like run out some clock then let LeBron James or Dwyane Wade make a play in isolation. Chris Bosh took some long jumpers late.
Remember the 55-second, three-chance possession the Heat had starting with 1:37 left in the game? Miami was up two and if that becomes four they regain some control. But what happened? A LeBron contested three from the top of the key, a Heat offensive rebound followed by running the clock down and LeBron taking another contested three, followed by another offensive rebound, but eventually Udonis Haslem gets stripped. That typified what the Heat ran late.
We should note, to be fair, the Heat took a lot of bad shots in the first half and at the end of Game 1 — this is a team that when pressured falls back to isolation “hero-ball.” They just have guys who can get away with it more than they should, but it will kill them in this series if they keep it up.
• Bosh on Nowitzki for the final play. Even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had some regrets about not going with Udonis Haslem after the game, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” Spoelstra said. “I know UD probably is really wishing he had that opportunity to defend him. He had gotten a couple over the top, and the end of the game running it all the way down to the clock, could have gone with either guy. Both guys are good defenders.”
• Not fouling/double teaming Dirk Nowitzki on the final play. Miami had a foul to give (meaning they could foul Dirk before he shot and there would be no free throws, just Dallas ball out of bounds). They could have forced Dallas to run an out-of-bounds play with five or six seconds left, an easier play to defend because Dallas would have limited options in that time. But instead, Bosh did not foul, Nowitzki spun to the basket and Haslem never came over to help. Ballgame.
The other option — make someone other than Dallas’ best player beat you. Dallas had fantastic ball movement all night and had made the Heat pay for double teams with open shots. But still, you have to make someone other than one of the best scorers in the game beat you.
The Heat made mental mistake after mental mistake late. Like a team that had thought it had won and exhaled. And you can’t do that against Dallas.