MIAMI -- The Heat struck first in the 2011 NBA Finals, muscling out an ugly, 92-84 Game 1 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
• How about that defense? Yeah, how about it? Miami's defense was swarming, double and triple teaming Dirk Nowitzki but still rotating fast enough to get out on Dallas' dangerous three-point shooters. Spoelstra got into his team during an early third quarter timeout after a DeShawn Stevenson three swelled the Mavericks lead to eight. "He checked for the wind, had three days to shoot that," Spoelstra said. The Heat were a changed team after that, holding Dallas to ten points over the final ten minutes of the quarter and limiting the Mavs to 40 percent shooting in the fourth. Overall Dallas shot 37.3 percent, its lowest shooting percentage of the playoffs.
•A brilliant fourth quarter for Miami. We talked about the defense. The offense was pretty good, too. Dwyane Wade led the team with seven points in the fourth. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem chipped in with five points apiece. Mike Miller knocked down a three. The Heat scored 27 points and shot 47.4 percent in the final period, continuing a playoff-long tradition of performing in critical moments. Said Spoelstra, "We had some good ball movement possessions in the fourth."
• Chalmers steps up. With Mike Bibby (zero points, three assists) struggling, Spoelstra turned to Chalmers, who delivered 12 points in 29 minutes, including three first half three-pointers that Spoelstra said "really kept us in it." Chalmers added some tough defense, helping limit Jason Kidd (nine points) and J.J. Barea (two points) to tough shooting nights. Spoelstra is unlikely to tinker with his lineup at this stage -- it's a little late in the game for that -- but expect the younger, more athletic Chalmers to see big minutes from here on out.
• Big play from the bench. Dallas' bench (playoff-best 39.4 points per game) has been a strength. But Miami's second unit outscored the Mavs 27-17 in Game 1, while forcing Dallas' top subs Barea (1-for-8) and Jason Terry (3-for-10) into tough shooting nights. Haslem (seven points, six rebounds) has been a big boost to the bench since his return late in the second round while Chalmers and Miller (six points) have settled into their roles nicely. "I never judge our bench by reading that final line on the box score," Spoelstra said. "A lot of times, they give us defensive energy. We've been able to change the momentum of the games with that energy lineup."
• Help! Sincerely, Dirk. Nowitzki (27 points on 7-of-18 shooting) didn't have one of his typical, flowing nights. But he didn't get much help, either. Kidd knocked down some shots early but disappeared in the second half. Terry (12 points) shot poorly, Barea struggled and Peja Stojakovic (zero points) was a non-factor. Nowitzki has had a brilliant postseason but Dallas's depth has been an equally important part of their success. At the postgame press conference, Nowitzki revealed that he tore a tendon in his left (non-shooting) hand during the game, making it especially important for the Mavericks supporting cast to step up. "We'll play better," said Rick Carlisle. "I'm very certain of that."