Bibby gave absolutely nothing to the Heat in Game 5, and in fact contributed to Dallas' momentum that carried it to a 3-2 series lead. He made only shot -- when the Mavs gave him about 10 feet of space on the left wing. And his atrocious defense helped J.J. Barea -- a non-factor as a backup earlier in the series against the quick and athletic Heat reserves -- become a postseason hero as a starter, largely by scoring eight points while guarded by Bibby in the third quarter.
How many people guessed correctly that the only thing that could slow Wade in this series was Brian Cardinal? Incredibly, the hip injury that Wade suffered in a first-half collision with Cardinal -- which left Wade limping gingerly and kept him off the court for five minutes in the first half and seven minutes at the start of the second -- only took him down a small notch. He still hit half his shots, continued to aggressively drive and draw contact, got to the free-throw line 12 times and efficiently ran the Heat's offense. He wasn't the same unstoppable force that he was in the first four games of this series, but with a game-high 10 fourth-quarter points, he was still arguably the best player on the floor despite the injury.
It's not difficult to understand why Anthony played only 16 minutes in this game. The Heat don't demand much from him, but they need much more than the zero rebounds (how can that happen from a starting center in the Finals?) and just one shot attempt. Anthony creates problems for opponents when he is aggressive around the rim and active following plays, where he has effectively scrapped for points off rebounds and loose balls in this series, and every one has proven to be a big bonus for the Heat. But he was nowhere to be found in those areas on Thursday night.
LeBron's supporters are going to hate this statement, particularly after all the criticism he took after Game 4, but his performance was as ineffective a triple-double as you'll see. The reason: In the final 7:13 James produced two points (which came in the final 30 seconds with the Heat already down seven), made one of three shots, and had no assists and no rebounds while Miami was outscored 19-13 during, possibly, the most critical stretch of the entire series. Yes, James' triple-double helped Miami stay in position to win - an important point considering Wade missed a lot of time because of his hip injury. But triple-double or not, the same criticisms hold: James was invisible in the critical stretch for the second consecutive game, and that's what matters. He could end up with the most criticized triple-double in playoff history.
Bosh came out playing aggressively for the second consecutive game, and finished with a nice stat line. But where has he been in the second halves of those games? In both Games 4 and 5, he has looked terrific in the first half, combining for 13-of-21 shooting and 29 points. But in the second halves, he's just 2-of-10 for 14 points, with most of that coming in Game 4. On Thursday he took just three shots and committed four turnovers in the second half. In both games, Bosh withdrew from the attack mentality he showed early in each game and settled back into a passive approach, mainly playing away from the basket. With James also struggling late in games, the Heat can't afford for Bosh to ease off on the aggressive approach that has made him effective in the first two quarters of games.
The Heat's bench is the reason they even had a shot at victory in the final quarter. Miami's reserves made up for horrific games by Bibby and Anthony: Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller combined for seven of the Heat's eight three-pointers, Juwan Howard scored six points in six minutes and the entire bench grabbed one-third of the Heat's total rebounds. The reserves provided a terrific performance when Miami desperately needed it.
Erik Spoelstra, Head Coach
At some point Spoelstra is going to have to answer for the repeated fourth-quarter meltdowns. The Heat have looked one-dimensional in the final minutes of this series, with Wade shouldering too much of the load and James failing to get anything going off isolation plays from the perimeter. The Heat look like Spoelstra is trying to force his game plan down the Mavericks' throats, but there should be enough evidence by now to show that it's not working.
Barea needs to send Bibby a gift basket. Barea's insertion into the starting lineup is looking like the coaching move of the series, as it's put him into his most favorable matchup position and has revived his game after a rough opening to the series. Barea has brought a more aggressive style to the Mavericks' starting unit, helping to push the ball faster and create shots before Miami has a chance to set its defense. And with Bibby guarding him, Barea has had little trouble breaking down Miami's half-court defense as well, as he showed while scoring eight points against Bibby in the third quarter on Thursday.
Kidd has struggled at times in this series, but his Game 5 performance was typical of what he's done for the Mavericks throughout the playoffs, quietly stringing together key baskets -- including a monumental three-pointer that put Dallas up 105-100 with 1:26 left -- creating plays and making timely steals. It isn't flashy, but when Kidd has nights like this, the rest of the Mavericks' offense comes together.
Chandler had his best offensive game of the series Thursday night by playing more aggressively on pick-and-rolls -- at times catching passes that were leaving heat trails -- to score easy layups. Chandler's play on high ball-screens has helped revive Dallas' offense in the last two games. It has not only helped the Mavericks' guards penetrate deeper into the lane against Miami's quick and lengthy perimeter players, but his effectiveness in rolling to the basket on Thursday added a wrinkle that helped Dallas get into the most comfortable offensive rhythm that it has had in the series.
Marion has been brilliant at moments in this series, but Game 5 was far from one of them. Marion wasn't aggressive like he's been in his most effective performances. He didn't look to drive, hit only 36 percent of his shots, and for most of the night was nowhere to be found. The Mavericks didn't need one of Marion's best nights to win, but they can normally count on much more.
Nowitzki has been so good and consistent in the playoffs that you can pencil in his numbers before games start and be certain he'll come through. All he did on Thursday, yet again, was hit half his shots, went to the free-throw line 10 times, pulled down six rebounds and handed out three assists. Yawn. Even Nowitzki seems to know how predictable his performances are becoming. Midway through the third quarter, when Barea passed to him with four seconds remaining on the shot clock, Nowitzki casually threw up a rainbow three-pointer over Bosh that barely seemed to strike nylon as it swished through for a 70-65 Mavericks lead. And he did it with the relaxed nature of a man who already knows it's in the script.
Clutch play is no longer a problem for Jason Terry. He was brilliant in Game 5, turning into the Mavericks' top playmaker. In fact, the Heat had to respect him so much that Kidd's critical three-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter was set up by a Terry drive, taking James off the dribble and drawing Mike Miller -- who was guarding Kidd -- deep into the paint to help. That left Kidd alone to bury his game-changing shot. Terry then followed up that play with a gutsy three-pointer with four seconds on the shot clock that bailed out a Mavericks offense that was in disarray with 33 seconds remaining in the game, putting Dallas up 108-101.
Rick Carlisle, Head Coach
The changes Carlisle made in Game 4 seemed to take full effect in Game 5. Barea clearly is in his most productive position as a starter. Dallas has discovered an new offensive option by working Chandler into more pick-and-rolls. And Cardinal has provided solid minutes in a rotation spot that provided nothing but disaster when Peja Stojakovic was filling it. And once again, Carlisle has gotten more out of his team in the final six minutes than Spoelstra, this time closing out with a 17-4 run.
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