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NBA Finals Game 1 Notes

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/10/2006

There were several interesting aspects of the first game of the NBA Finals, most important was tempo and defense. Both teams played strong defense. After shooting 70% in the first quarter, Miami scored 13 points in the second quarter and 12 in the fourth. The Heat shot 35 percent from the field over the final three quarters. Miami shot 43% for the game, explosive Dallas just 44%.

The tempo was the big question on everyone's minds, especially those who like to play totals. The expectation was that a veteran Miami team, with two centers aged 34 and 36, wouldn't want to go uptempo, while the younger Dallas might want to push the ball up the court, as they had against San Antonio. Overall, the pace was relatively slow, almost a halfcourt game, as neither team wanted to allow easy baskets. The game sailed under the total by 23 points.

Dallas was outrebounded for the first time in the postseason (by 2). All in all, the game came down to free throw shooting, and Miami was awful at 36% (7-of-19). While winning three titles with the Lakers Shaq often said he doesn't practice free throws much because, hey, one player can't do everything great. Which was just an excuse for the fact that he didn't feel like improving his game. In Game 1 Shaq was an embarrassing 1-for-9 from the charity stripe. That doesn't even count two other free throws Shaq missed that were discounted for Dallas lane violations. He and Dwyane Wade missed 12 free throws and they lost by 10 points.

Adrian Griffin, Josh Howard, Marquis Daniels all struggled defensively in the first quarter as they could not keep Wade from the basket. He attacked Dallas for 13 first-quarter points. But Dallas did an effective job against Shaq, limiting the three-time NBA Finals MVP to 17 points and seven rebounds.

While all the attention was on Dirk, Wade and Shaq, the guy who stepped up was Dallas guard Jason Terry. It was Terry's fourth 30-point playoff game for Dallas. He has scored 30 just twice in regular-season games as a Maverick. For the night, Terry hit 72 percent from the field. The rest of the Mavericks hit 35 percent.

Another problem for Miami was that Antoine Walker took almost twice as many shots (19) as Shaq (11). Pass the ball, Antoine, you are not a star! Wade scored 28 points but shot just 5 of 18 after the first quarter. The Heat bench provided a total of two points and one assist. Dallas went with a zone in the fourth quarter, and the Heat managed just 12 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-20 shooting.

Dallas has to feel very good. They trailed by 11 early and ended up winning by 10. They won on a night when Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard shot 25 percent. “It's just one game. We've got many more to go,â€쳌 said Wade. Not if Shaq doesn't practice his freebies! “Horrendousâ€쳌 is the word Heat Coach Pat Riley chose for his team's free-throw woe. Shaq likes to say he makes them when they count. Well they counted Thursday and he didn't make them.

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