Mavericks must configure defensive scheme for Heat's Big Three

May 29 2011 - 5:07pm

DALLAS -- Jason Terry would like to help everybody build the story line, but he'd be fibbing if he did.

Despite the natural, national stories about this Mavericks' trip to the NBA Finals being all about avenging the meltdown in 2006, that thought process simply isn't there.

Different teams. Different times. Dwyane Wade is still with the Heat. Terry and Dirk Nowitzki are with the Mavericks. Beyond that, the focus is elsewhere.

"For us, once these playoffs started, we looked at the road to the championship, and you have to go through the Lakers," Terry said Friday. "That was the only thing that was a given.

"Destiny? Maybe. Fate? Yeah. But for us, the only two people on this team still playing (from '06) are Dirk and I. For them it's Wade and (Udonis) Haslem. It's really not the same. People wanted to compare us at that time to this time now. It's just different."

Rather than get caught up in the history, the Mavericks are more concerned with devising ways to deal with the potent Heat.

Having dispensed with a Lite-version Big Three from Oklahoma City in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Mavericks now can zero in on the full-bodied trio in Miami.

And they know how difficult it will be to handle LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh.

"There are similarities," coach Rick Carlisle said. "They're more experienced and they're more powerful at those wing positions. James and Wade are just built bigger physically. So that presents a different kind of challenge.

"For me, the big keys in the series are going to be efficiency with the ball, because when you turn it over, they convert better than any team in basketball. It's challenging because they're a great defensive team and they get their hands on a lot of balls. We're going to have to be aggressive, but play smart.

"And (secondly), then keeping them off the free throw line is going to be a big challenge because of James and Wade. Their ability to attack is going to create huge challenges for us."

The Mavericks' defense has grown teeth during the playoff run. They have handled LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant, Durant and Westbrook.

Now, the league's brightest star-powered team is in front of them. It will require a lot of teamwork, which is a good thing since that's been one of the Mavericks' strengths.

"They're tough to keep in front of them," Nowitzki said. "They're so good at putting their heads down and getting to the basket and getting fouled, but we had some of it, actually, last series.

"That's a big part of the series, trying to get those guys out of the lane, and the whole league is trying to do it. But it's hard. If they get in the lane, they're so explosive."

Invariably, though, each team's fortitude will be a determining factor, Terry said.

"This is primarily about will to win," Terry said. "Who wants it more? That's what it's going to boil down to -- to a man. It's not going to be one individual, three individuals. If three of y'all want it and the other 10 don't or there's some indecision, the balance is going to shift."

The free throw line, of course, brings up painful memories for the Mavericks.

Wade wore out the hardwood making constant trips to the stripe during the 2006 %Finals, shooting 97 free throws in the six games, including 72 in the final four, all Heat victories.

The Mavericks had trouble keeping Westbrook and Durant off the line.

A parade to the free throw line is always possible. But these NBA Finals figure to evolve into an entertaining two weeks, no matter what.

"It's two teams that have played extremely well," Carlisle said. "Both teams have come through their series in similar fashion. It's a great matchup. They're playing their best basketball right now. We feel like we're playing well.

"Listen, their three stars, they're major challenges, all of them."

 

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