NBA Finals: Fighting the temptations of Miami

Miami is a city that lures visitors to its night lifetime. Dallas coach Avery Johnson said the Mavericks once developed a “vacation mentality” and moved the team 25 miles north to Fort Lauderdale.
By John Rohde and Darnell Mayberry Published: June 16, 2012
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Fighting the temptations of Miami

Games 3, 4 and 5 of the NBA Finals will be played at American Airlines Arena in Miami, a town that lures visitors to its nightlife.


During the 2006 Finals between Dallas and Miami, Mavericks coach Avery Johnson ordered his players to switch hotels after the Heat won Games 3 and 4 to tie the series.

Johnson said his players had developed a "vacation mentality" and moved them 25 miles north to Fort Lauderdale, away from family and friends who had been sharing the previous hotel. Miami went on to win four straight and claim the series 4-2.

In last year's Finals against the Heat, which the Mavs won 4-2, Dallas players and coaches were booked into one hotel while family and friends stayed in neighboring hotels.

Asked if he was concerned about his players engaging in the Miami nightlife, Thunder coach Scott Brooks deadpanned, “What about the coaches?” before playfully revealing his wife was on the trip.

“I've never had any issues with our guys playing on the road,” Brooks said, not kidding. “They've always been focused. Miami is a great city, there's no question. It's a great environment, but we're here to play basketball. There's only 10 days, two weeks left of the season, then there's plenty of time to vacation.”

Miami guard Dwyane Wade chuckled when reminded what the Mavs did six years ago.

“That was funny back then,” Wade said. “I remember that story, but I think maybe during the regular season a team comes here once and will enjoy it, but not during the Finals. You look at the season and say, ‘Man, there's only 10 days left in the season at best.' I don't think it's a trap. I don't think the urge to want to go out and enjoy Miami is that important right now, especially when in 10 days you can enjoy it as much as you want.”

MY OWN CONCERNS

Miami's LeBron James has been heavily criticized for his fourth-quarter play in the past, but don't ask the Thunder's Kevin Durant what he's seen out of James so far the Finals.

“I haven't really been paying attention to him, to be honest,” Durant said. “As a fan maybe I would look at it, but I'm worrying about what we can do to win a ballgame in the fourth. I can't worry about LeBron or if he wants the ball or anything like that. I'm just worried about our team and how we want to try to do a good job and trying to win.”

You haven't noticed his demeanor or anything?

“No, that's the last thing I'm paying attention to,” Durant said. “I'm just worried about us. I'm sorry.”

FIRST-QUARTER WOES

The Thunder has been outscored only in the first quarter so far in the NBA Finals, yet the series is tied at 1.

The Miami Heat has outscored OKC 56-37 in the first period. The teams have tied the second quarter of both games (25-25 and 28-28), while the Thunder has outscored Miami in the third quarter (51-42) of both games and in the fourth quarter (60-43) of both games.

Though the Thunder's defense has been suspect in the opening period, Brooks said he also has his concerns about the offense.

“We talk about toughness all the time, at least I do, and one may think it's just about the defensive end, but I always look at it as the offensive (end) also,” Brooks said. “We have to do a better job of setting screens. That's one of strengths of our offense. We set screens, and we shoot a good percentage and score in the paint and we get to the free throw line. But we have to have better screens, we have to be able to come off our screens harder and we have to make the passes on time.”

Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said OKC has to “come out and attack first.”

“We can't come out and just keep taking punches and expect to keep bouncing back,” Perkins said. “They came out and were aggressive on both ends, playing more aggressive than we were, so we've got to do a better job.”

GET GOING EARLY

Durant dominated the fourth quarter in Games 1 and 2, combining for 33 points and shooting 11 for 19 from the field. What must the Thunder do to get Durant going earlier?

“I think we've got to do a better job of getting him the ball, and Kevin has to do a better job of getting open and being more aggressive,” Perkins said. “I think he has to ask for the ball more, and we've got to do a better job of getting him open on screens and letting him get to his spots and do what he does.”

Durant admitted he didn't like what he saw on film.

“It was tough to watch, go to the film and look at it and say, ‘Wow, did I really just do that?'” Durant said. “It falls back on me as a leader, so I have to start the games out with a lot of intensity, no matter if I'm making shots or missing shots, no matter if I make a bad defensive rotation, I've just got to start off with a lot of energy.”

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