We’re three games into the Mavericks-Heat series, enough to do some comparisons with the five-game Thunder-Mavericks series. Most interesting is how the Thunder defended Dallas, compared to how Miami is defending Dallas.
Let’s take it player by player.
J.J. Barea:The primary reason Dallas trails two games to one, instead of leading two games to one or even 3-0, is that Miami has won the battle of the backup point guards. Mario Chalmers has outscored Barea by an astounding 33-13. Barea torched the Thunder, making 22 of 46 shots, with 15 assists and just three turnovers. Barea averaged 11.4 points a game against OKC. He’s averaging 4.3 points a game against Miami, making just five of 23 shots, with five assists and four turnovers.
Jason Kidd: Both the Thunder and Heat did a decent job of not letting Kidd get off on open shots. Against the Thunder, Kidd made 15 of 39 shots, 38.5 percent. Against the Heat, Kidd has made eight of 23 shots, 34.8 percent. But Miami has put much more defensive pressure on Kidd. In three games, Kidd has 21 assists and 12 turnovers. In five games against OKC, Kidd had 43 assists and 10 turnovers. Per-game, that’s twice as many turnovers against Miami as against the Thunder, with more assists per game (8.6-7.0). Both Dallas point guards were much more effective against the Thunder than they’ve been against Miami. Clearly, OKC’s defense must improve — on keeping point guards out of the lane and on putting more pressure on the ball.
Tyson Chandler: Chandler’s forte’ is rebounding; offensive rebounding, to be exact. In three games against Miami, Chandler has 11 offensive rebounds and 11 defensive rebounds. In five games against OKC, Chandler had 19 offensive rebounds and 34 defensive rebounds. So considering the higher scoring and higher-paced games against the Thunder, no discernible difference. Rebounding was OKC’s strength against Dallas. The Mavs have 29 offensive rebounds in three games Miami; they had 50 in five games against the Thunder, but with many more shots.
Shawn Marion:The similarities are amazing. Marion is shooting 50 percent (19 of 38) against Miami, averaging 15.3 points a game. Against the Thunder, Marion shot 50 percent (29 of 58) and averaged 14.2 points a game. Matched up against LeBron James some of the time and Kevin Durant a lot of the time. Remarkable.
Dirk Nowitzki: Nick Collison did yeoman’s work on Nowitzki. But the numbers are stark. The Heat is doing a much better job against Dirk. He’s made 28 of 61 shots against Miami (45.9 percent) and all 24 of his foul shots. Nowitzki is averaging 28.3 points a game. Dirk shot 55.7 percent from the field against OKC (49 of 88), made 59 of 61 foul shots and averaged 32.2 points a game. The Thunder fouled Dirk much more often and allowed him to shoot much more effectively. OKC did keep Nowitzki off the boards; he has averaged 10 rebounds a game against Miami, just 5.8 against the Thunder.
Jason Terry: Terry did not shoot great OKC; he has shot worse against Miami. Against the Heat, Terry has made 13 of 34 shots, which is 38.2 percent. He’s 4-of-12 on 3-pointers. Against the Thunder, Terry made 24 of 65 (36.9 percent); he was 4-of-12 on 3-pointers.
Peja Stojakovic: Totally ineffective against both. Peja is 1-of-5 shooting against Miami and looks totally overmatched. Against the Thunder, Peja was 10 of 32, including five of 21 on 3-pointers.
DeShawn Stevenson: He’s been a thorn in Miami’s side, having made 6-of-10 shots, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers. Against OKC, the Thunder begged him to shoot — Stevenson made just six of 28 shots, including 5-of-21 on 3-pointers.
So what to make of the comparisons? Clearly, Miami has more defensive answers for Nowitzki than did the Thunder. Collison did a decent job against Dirk; Serge Ibaka was completely lost. Miami throws Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony and, in limited doses, LeBron. And like I said, the Thunder didn’t defend Dallas’ point guards anything like Miami has. That’s one area where I think the Thunder can make major strides; Russell Westbrook, in particular, can get a lot better defensively, and so can the collapsing defenders who help clog the lane.