It will be the “chicken or the egg” question out of Game 1, and we will not really know the answer until we are well along in this series.
Did the Dallas Mavericks just miss shots, or did the Miami Heat make them miss?
Because the key Dallas shooters were shooting like they played for the Bulls. Jason Terry was 3-of-10, J.J. Barea 1-of-8, Peja Stojakovic 0-3, Jason Kidd 3-of-8. In the two previous series, the Mavericks shot 44.5 percent from 10-to-23 feet, but they were 4-of-14 in Game 1 (28.6 percent). That all was key in Miami’s 92-84 win.
“We had opportunities we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Jason Terry said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Defensively you hold them to 92 points, but offensively that was just a disaster for us….
“You have to finish at the basket, you have to make your wide open shots and we didn’t get that accomplished tonight.”
These were the kind of looks that Dallas hit to beat the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Thunder. Barea got loose in the lane but his floaters rimmed out. Terry got good looks at threes but they fell short.
If you’re a Mavs fan, you hope it was just Game 1 nerves, just one of those nights.
Because the other explanation is that the Heat threw off their rhythm.
Miami is the most athletic and aggressive defense the Mavericks have faced. Oklahoma City and Los Angeles were both plenty long, but neither played with the aggression that the Heat did. The Lakers never bothered to close out on shooters, Miami closed out fast. Shawn Marion curls off a pick and Dwyane Wade still blocks the shot. Shooters felt footsteps.
It looked to be that way with Terry — the closeouts of the Heat seemed to rush him, throw him off his rhythm.
“They are a very good defensive team and it was tough to get shots all night,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Both teams shot under 40 percent, so that gives you some idea of how difficult good, clean shots are going to be to get in this series.”
Then on top of all those missed shots — 42 of them — the Mavericks grabbed just six offensive rebounds. Miami got second chance opportunities the Mavs did not.
For Dallas to score enough to win Dirk Nowitzki has to have a big night (he had 27 and was solid), but Jason Terry and one other player have to join him. Shawn Marion had 16 points on 12 shots to help out the cause.
But if Terry and the other Mavs shooters are not more efficient, this series will end early.
Dallas needs to play at a faster pace, not get sucked into a grind-it-out defensive game. They need to run sets that make Jason Terry a playmaker, not just a spotup shooter.
Unlike the Bulls, we know Dallas can knock down open shots. That they didn’t was either just one of those off nights or it was Miami’s athleticism forcing them to rush. Miami will be the same relentless defense in Game 2 Thursday.
That’s when we’ll start to get a clearer picture of what went wrong for Dallas.