BALL DON’T LIE: The Heat were cool throughout as they worked their way to a 92-84 win in Game 1 of the Finals. The team handled an initial first quarter Dallas flurry of threes and a hot start to the third quarter from the Mavericks by turning up the pressure defensively, and paying mind to their own work from behind the 3-point line. The Heat shot just 38.8 percent from the floor in this game, but they more than made up for it by making 11 threes in 24 attempts. Toss in 16 offensive rebounds, and you have a Heat team that was able to put up a very efficient game overall (more than 109 points per 100 possessions) despite missing more than 60 percent of its looks from the field.
DAILY DIME: The night before their first NBA Finals as teammates, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together for a last private session. Having traveled such a long road since they had their oft-criticized introduction party inside AmericanAirlines Arena in July, their desire to get back together was partly symbolic and partly a collective deep breath. For an hour or so they worked and sweated and laughed. Later on, teammate Erick Dampier arrived because, well, they needed a rebounder. Most of these now commonplace late-night shooting sessions in the NBA take place in practice gyms. But for this occasion the Miami Heat players pulled some strings and got a few lights flipped on in the arena bowl. The Finals logos and signage now scattered across the place glowed, an effect that pulled the guys into the moment. This, after all, is what they’d come down this road to do — to play together in the Finals.
EYE ON BASKETBALL: When Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah called the Miami Heat “Hollywood as hell” this is what he meant. The Heat led the Dallas Mavericks 89-79 with less than a minute to go in Game 1 of the NBA Finals and had possession of the ball. Most teams would simply wind the clock all the way down and put up a contested jumper before the buzzer, playing conservatively and using the clock with a double digit lead. Not the Heat. With the shot clock near 10 seconds, Heat guard Dwyane Wade used a high screen and roll to his right hand. As the Mavericks defense shaded to the strong side to spy him, Heat forward LeBron James snuck in front the weakside corner by cutting hard on the baseline. As Mavericks forward Nowitzki rotated to Wade and Mavericks guard Jason Terry got caught up marking Heat forward Chris Bosh in the paint, Wade lofted a picture-perfect alley-oop to James, who caught it and flushed it with two hands.
PRO BASKETBALL TALK: Mike Miller aggravated a left shoulder or arm injury late in the Game 1 Miami win and left the arena wearing a sling, according to multiple reports. Erik Spoelstra played it down in his press conference, almost blowing the question off and saying that Miller had no real problem.
MAVS MONEYBALL: There were so many shots that, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have even been an afterthought, but tonight the Mavericks could not get them to fall. Their trips to the line proved to be absolutely vital, though missed chances there would hurt them as well. I will not suggest that the referees were calling a bad game, but there were some calls I would have liked to see a few more times in slow motion. With under five minutes to play, the Mavericks were still in a position to win the game, if they could only get their shots to fall. Looking back, I’m sure they’ll smack themselves for missing so many free throws, but at least they were getting some calls. Fouls or no fouls, however, the Mavericks were allowing far too many easy buckets, and the three-point shooting team was getting out-shot from beyond the arc.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said he tore a tendon in the middle finger on his left hand while fouling Chris Bosh during the fourth quarter of Dallas’ Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. “Well, it was just a freaky play,” Nowitzki said. “Bosh got a bounce pass and I stepped in. I thought I stripped him clean, and then I kind of looked down and I couldn’t straighten my finger anymore. I guess it will be alright. I have to wear a splint probably for the rest of the playoffs, for a couple of weeks. But it will be alright.”
ESPN DALLAS: The Heat have won each of their first nine home games in these playoffs, allowing fewer than 95 points in each game. According to Elias Sports Bureau, only three other teams in NBA history won at least their first nine home postseason games while allowing fewer than 95 points in each game: Chicago in 1996 (first 10), the Lakers in 2004 (nine) and Boston in 2008 (nine).
TRUE HOOP: The Mavericks bench entered Tuesday averaging over 39 points per game this postseason while shooting an efficient 45.8 percent from the field. They managed just 17 points in Game 1 while shooting a combined 4-for-22 from the field, including just one made basket from inside the three-point line. In addition to bench play, Miami also won the offensive rebound battle 16-to-6 over the Mavericks. The 16 offensive rebounds were the second most the Heat have gotten in any game this postseason and fourth time they have gotten 15 or more offensive rebounds. Not surprisingly they are 4-and-0 in those contests.
A WOLF AMONG WOLVES: Well, the deadline for signing Ricky Rubio for next season under the rookie wage scale has come and gone. And, as usual in this long, baroque saga, all we have to show for it are supposition, innuendo and uncertainty. At issue are the same old things: 1) the new CBA, under which Rubio would almost certainly make less money than he would under the current rookie scale; 2) the lockout which, if Rubio signed with the Wolves this summer, could keep him from playing any basketball at all next year–and right now, what Ricky most deeply needs and wants is to play basketball; 3) the fact that Rubio may just not want to play for this weirdly managed, perennially terrible cold-weather team.
Land O’Lakers: During Matt Barnes’ exit interview, the small forward all but said he planned to exercise the player option in his contract and remain a Laker. By showing up to a press conference formally announcing new head coach Mike Brown, Barnes made his plans even more evident, since nobody attends an event like this while uncommitted to his current team. (For that matter, Barnes was actually the only Laker on hand.) Thus, it was only fitting he finally went whole hog and vocalized what everyone already knew. Barnes will be in purple and gold next season. “I’m gonna pick up my option. I’m gonna be a Laker next year,” smiled Barnes. “I wanted to be back. I still feel, granted what happened in that Dallas series, we have a very talented and very good team and I want to continue to try and get that ring.”
SB NATION: Under the age minimum, you’d expect fewer busts in the top 10 — those tempting high school kids are out of the equation. But GMs have still found a way to mess a good thing up. In the four years before the age minimum was put into place, teams saw decent success in the top 10 in the draft. A rough sorting reveals 21 top-10 picks in the four years (2002-05) as successes, nine as disappointments and 10 as busts. (We used the “disappointments” category as a group for players who weren’t quite busts but underperformed their draft position substantially. Think Marvin Williams.) In the four years after the age minimum’s institution — 2006-09; we left out 2010 because even with 2009, it’s hard to make judgments at this point — teams have picked 22 successes, seven disappointments and 11 busts. (Note: we were liberal in the post-minimum span, listing Andrea Bargnani as a success and guys like Corey Brewer and Randy Foye as disappointments, not busts.) So this rule that was supposed to save GMs from having to make a tough decision on iffy draft prospects hasn’t helped decreased the number of busts chosen with the highest picks. As it turns out, college and international players have the same exact question marks as high school kids.