The hype surrounding this series, like most others, was all about the big name scorers. Even if the scoring prowess of Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh wasn't the element of the series most worthy of being talked about, that was where the pre-series hype was going to lie. It was completely inevitable. Now that this series has a game in the bag, it's worth taking a look at something that really happened, at least briefly, and not what most hope will happen into the future.
Without a doubt, the story of Game 1 of the 2011 NBA Finals was the fantastic defense of the Miami Heat. Wade's heroics and James' monster slam are what will make the late night and early morning highlight shows, but their ability to frustrate Nowitzki and nearly incapacitate everyone else was what ultimately affected the outcome of the game more than anything else.
Nowitzki scored 27 points, but Miami's defense altered a great deal of shots that would have gone down against other teams. Serge Ibaka was able to cause Nowitzki some problems in the Western Conference Finals, but Nowitzki ultimately dominated because Nowitzki had plenty of one-on-one opportunities, where as in Tuesday night's game, it was much more about team defense than the play of Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony.
Shawn Marion played a very solid game, but he can't be expected to be a second scorer at this point in his career. Jason Terry kicked in 12 points off the bench, but he shot just 30 percent from the field. Far and away the biggest struggles of the night came from J.J. Barea, who shot 1-8 from the floor. A man who is rarely held back by his lack of size, Barea was physically over-matched in Game 1 and completely unable to overcome that obstacle.
With Nowitzki looking just very good and not super-human, the Dallas Mavericks had no answer for the Miami Heat's Big Three, who actually didn't do anything particularly spectacular by their standards, at least on the offensive end. That was mostly because the Mavericks played some fantastic defense of their own, but in the final minutes of the game, that defense was cracked.
And that takes us back to the scorers. Though defense was the story in Game 1, the reality is, the hype machine may have it right after all. In the end, the Heat just have more ways to score than the Mavericks do. When both teams are playing suffocating defense, the Heat have three players who can create offense from absolutely nothing, while the Mavericks have just one. If one of the Heat's stars isn't playing well while their opponent is playing spectacular defense, it just becomes the turn of one of the other stars to try to take over. In the same case for the Mavericks, if their superstar isn't on his game, there's not another player who is anywhere near his talent level who can take over.
The Mavericks might play perfect defense for the entire series, but it might not matter when Miami has players who can create points from nothing. They have three guys who can do it, and it's hard to believe that they won't get one of their three guys to do it at least four out of every seven games. Oh, and all three of those guys are high-level defenders as well.
One down, three to go.
For live coverage of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, keep it tuned to this StoryStream. To see the up-to-the-minute score, along with information from around SB Nation on the game, keep your browser on this Heat-Mavs score page. Throughout the NBA Finals, check out our 2011 NBA Finals hub for more coverage. For more on the two teams, Mavericks fans should head over to Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas, while Heat fans should check out Peninsula Is Mightier.