The Miami Heat had many, many problems coalesce during the final six minutes of Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals, as the Dallas Mavericks stormed back from down 15 to steal a win in South Beach. Dirk Nowitzki's performance can only be called stunning if you haven't been paying attention to basketball for the last six weeks. Similarly, it's no shock that Miami's offense dipped into prevent mode, relying on LeBron James prayer, fell apart as the Heat moved from quick strikes and ball movement to isolation plays.
But the depths of how bad Miami's offense looked over Dallas' 22-5 run really must be explored in full. Here's the rundown of the plays Miami ran during the fateful stretch that gave the Mavericks a win.
5:52 remaining, fourth quarter: Ball movement leads to Mario Chalmers three-pointer. It's errant, and Shawn Marion picks up a long rebound that turns into a fast break as Jason Terry is basket-hanging a bit. Erik Spoelstra calls an immediate timeout.
5:32: After running off of screens, LeBron receives the ball in the mid-range, rightside. He drives, gets an apparently open lay-in ... but the ball hangs on the rim and the Mavericks collect. James indicates a foul call was missed.
5:02: Miami inbounds baseline after Chris Bosh loses it out-of-bounds with five seconds on the shot clock. Chalmers and Bosh run a quick pick-and-pop for a Bosh 20-footer. No good. Dallas rebound.
4:10: A James drive on Marion results in a foul by Tyson Chandler. (It's Chandler's fifth. Replay indicates it's an iffy call.) LeBron hits both, and the Heat lead 90-81 with four minutes left.
3:27: After a Jason Kidd three, the Heat run a long isolation play for LeBron. It results in a setback 16-footer with the shot clock winding down. It's a miss. Dallas rebounds, Terry hits a pull-up, and it's 90-86. Timeout.
2:53: Bosh is isolated in the triple-threat on Chandler on the left baseline. Off the dribble, Bosh goes baseline ... and loses the ball out-of-bounds, perhaps off his his leg. Dallas quickly inbounds and moves up the floor. Nowitzki sinks a jumper. Two-point game.
2:23: Wade has Kidd in the post, so Dallas sends Dirk down from Udonis Haslem to double. Wade hits Haslem at the free throw line. The shot is errant. Dallas rebounds, but can't tie the game after two missed shots and a failed putback attempt by Chandler. Miami finally gets a stop ... but can they get a score?
1:37: LeBron isolation. He lets the shot clock drip away before firing up a very well-contested three-pointer from the top of the circle over Marion. It rims out. But Wade tips out the rebound to Bosh. Miami milks the clock again, resulting in another contested LeBron three. It misses, but Haslem grabs the rebound. Terry strips it, Haslem is forced to backtap it to save it from going out-of-bounds and the Mavericks eventually collect it. Two shots, two offensive rebounds, zero points. What's worse: it starts a fast break, allowing Dirk to tie the game. Another timeout.
0:42: James milks the clock (in a tie game) as Wade tries to work off the ball. Wade eventually goes to get the ball -- clearly, Miami wanted to get Wade a shot coming out of the timeout. But instead of a good shot in rhythm, Wade ends up taking a contested three-pointer off the dribble with the shot clock winding down. Obvious miss. Dallas rebound. Nowitzki hits a spot-up three -- the kind you'd prefer to take 100 times out of 100. Dallas leads by three.
0:26: Miami runs a brilliant sideline out-of-bounds play, with all the action at the top of the key, all attention on Wade. Chalmers slips to the far corner, the Mavs' Jasons forget to follow. LeBron hits Chalmers with a pinpoint cross-court pass, and Chalmers nails the three. We're tied, and it's up to Miami's defense. More specifically, it's up to Bosh and Haslem's defense on Nowitzki. We know how that turns out.
Avoiding so-called "hero ball", which lets LeBron and Wade create on the fly, is a must for Miami, whether they trail by two in the first quarter or lead by 15 in the fourth. Milking the clock to shorten the game you lead is one thing; abandoning all offensive principles is another. That Miami ran set action out of a couple of timeouts shows that Spoelstra wanted to avoid the dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot nonsense LeBron gave us in the possession with Miami up 90-88. That LeBron did it anyway, and that it was replicated with Wade after aborted off-ball action on the next possession, shows how far Spo still has to go to fully reach his stars.
Defending Dirk is a whole new problem that Miami hasn't quite figured out -- Game 1 seems decades ago, after what Nowitzki did late. But the offense stuff? Just as important, and just as worrisome as the Finals move to Dallas.