The Miami Heat won a convincing if competitive Game 1 over the Dallas Mavericks to start the 2011 NBA Finals on Tuesday, and on Thursday look to strap on a 2-0 lead as the teams reconvene at the AmericanAirlines Arena in South Beach (9 p.m. ET, ABC). Some of the Game 1 proceedings went totally as planned -- Miami's triptych of All-Stars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were great, Dirk Nowitzki scored plenty of points (27), and defense ruled the day. But there were some surprises, too.
Central among them was the bench disparity ... where the Heat outscored the Mavericks 27-17. Dallas' depth was supposed to be a difference-maker, or at least an equalizer, given Miami's superior top-line talent. But Jason Terry shot just 3-10 -- LeBron guarded him down the stretch, flummoxing everyone, but especially Terry himself -- and J.J. Barea, hero of the playoffs, made one of eight shots. On the other end, Mario Chalmers (12 points) made up for Mike Bibby's spell of invisibility.
Will that continue in Game 2? Note that LeBron played 45 minutes in Game 1; Wade and Bosh received normal rest (10 minutes apiece), but Erik Spoelstra is not chancing much rest for his MVP. (Understandably so.) Even if the benches get back to normal, LeBron is almost always going to be the game, and chances are both Wade and Bosh will be in there too. If they are, it's hard to imagine Terry or Barea going ballistic.
Dirk, however, could easily improve on his Game 1 performance; he missed some makeable shots around the rim and is a good enough passer to punish the Heat's swarming defense. Of course, the status of his finger -- he tore a tendon on his non-shooting left hand in Game 1 -- could hurt Nowitzki's ability to make those passes and take his defender off the dribble. Miami pushed to keep Dirk from getting into the middle of court in Game 1; they may decide to take away his right hand in Game 2 to test the injury.
Be sure to check out our 2011 NBA Finals hub for updates on injuries to Nowitzki and Mike Miller. For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.