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Schmeelk: Mavericks Down But Not Out Against Heat

Dirk Nowitzki (L) and DeShawn Stevenson (C) of the Dallas Mavericks grapple for a rebound against Corey Brewer (R) of the Miami Heat during Game 1 of the NBA Finals on May 31, 2011 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Dirk Nowitzki (L) and DeShawn Stevenson (C) of the Dallas Mavericks grapple for a rebound against Corey Brewer (R) of the Miami Heat during Game 1 of the NBA Finals on May 31, 2011 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (credit: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

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By John Schmeelk
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The Mavericks blew a golden opportunity to steal a game on the Heat’s home court in Game 1, something I would usually consider an early death knell for a team trying for an upset. But I saw enough to give me confidence — the Mavericks can still win this series. Here’s what I liked about Dallas’ loss on Tuesday night.

1. They missed open shots.

This is far preferable to not getting open looks. Dirk Nowitzki missed shots he’s been canning all postseason long, and the same can be said for JJ Barea.

Dallas shot just 37% from the field overall, with good shooters (like Peja Stojakovic) missing wide-open looks. If Dallas continues to shoot this poorly they’ll lose the series, but it won’t be because of anything the Heat are doing. Their superior athleticism didn’t seem to bother the Mavericks much, who ran their offense and created open looks with superior ball movement.

2. Nowitzki was simply off.

He was missing shots that were much easier than ones he was hitting routinely against the Thunder. No one on Miami can guard him and he seems primed for a big series.

I’d like to see Dirk be more aggressive throughout the game and take more than 18 shots. He got to the free throw line 12 times, a good number. He was good, but Dallas needs him to be great.

3. The Mavericks got to the free throw line more than Miami.

The fact that a team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, playing at home, shot fewer free throws than Dallas is startling. It’s a credit to the Mavericks’ smart team defense and Dirk’s ability to get to the line. If Dallas can keep this category close for the rest of the series, they’ll have a great chance of winning.

4. Much like the Heat’s athleticism didn’t overwhelm the Mavericks’ offense, it didn’t hurt their defense either.

Even though Wade and James shot a combined 6-9 from behind the arc, that’s a good number for Dallas. It shows they are settling for long jump shots. We saw some zone style defenses from Dallas designed to do just that — and it worked. Their pick and roll defense (showing and getting back with rotations) worked well too, taking away drives to the basket.

Shawn Marion didn’t look overmatched guarding LeBron and it was the same for Kidd guarding Wade. If those two hit threes, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and accept defeat. It makes them unguardable. Dallas did the best they could.

5. The Mavericks were outrebounded by double digits, something I doubt will happen again in this series.

Wade, James and Mike Miller won’t combine for 24 rebounds again and Tyson Chandler should grab more than four. Expect this number to even out and Miami’s 16 offensive rebounds to dramatically decrease.

6. The Heat shot 46% as a team from three point land.

That’s something that probably won’t happen again. Against athletes like Wade and James, teams have to collapse the paint. If the Heat shoot like that all series, you can end the series now. But that’s very unlikely.

The bottom line here is the Mavericks didn’t play well, but they were still very much in position to win the game in the 4th quarter. The Mavericks’ bad play had little to do with what Miami was doing defensively. They were just missing shots — and that should change.

So all you Dallas fans and Miami haters can relax. This series is far from over.

You can follow me on twitter throughout the playoffs at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk

Will the Mavs rebound? Let Schmeelk know in the comments below…