MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – With Game 1 in the books, the Miami Heat will look to extend their 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals Thursday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena. On both ends of the floor, the Heat suffocated the Mavericks and easily won with a fourth quarter run, 92-84 in Game 1.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used LeBron James, who he called “one of our better impact defensive players” in a variety of roles. He was often matched up against Mavs guard Jason Terry who couldn’t get any part of his game going in the second half.
Even the Heat’s bench got into the action, outscoring what was considered by some to be the superior Mavericks bench, 27-17. Heat guard Mario Chalmers, forward Udonis Haslem, and forward Mike Miller all played big roles in the Heat’s Game 1 victory.
“I don’t anticipate that every game we would outscore their bench,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Dallas’ reserves shot 18 percent from the field and Peja Stojakovic didn’t even manage a single point in Game 1. The Heat’s bench also outrebounded the Mavs’ reserves, 15-8.
It was especially sweet for Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who has battled back from a season-ending injury to provide the Heat with a boost, especially in defensive intensity.
“I’m not focusing much on offense,” Haslem said. “We have enough guys making shots. Right now, my job is to defend probably the best player in the playoffs right now.”
And Wednesday, while Udonis was focusing on defense, Heat head coach Erik Spoestra said the team was, “gaining more confidence in the fourth quarter. Listen, we had to go through a lot of struggles. Our team understood we had to get better.”
Also, Coach Spo wasn’t at all concerned with the sheer physicality displayed in the first game of the NBA Finals.
“All the games are physical in the playoffs,” Coach Spoelstra said. “We’ve had an incredibly physical road to get here. I don’t think anyone is leaving anything away from the court.”
And Spoelstra saved special praise for Udonis Haslem, who has come back from a season-ending injury to become a key cog in defending Dirk Nowitzki.
“The first thing is nowitzki is such an incredible talent. You can book him for his numbers, regardless of what your schemes are,” Spoesltra said. “All of this is such an element of the unknown (UD). My plan was to just have him around in the playoffs to have our captain in the huddle.”
But the gathered national and international media Wednesday were most fascinated with how the Heat doesn’t sweat a second half deficit. It wasn’t always this way for the Heat.
“I was used to closing games, CB was used to closing out games, DWade was used to closing out games, so we had to figure out how to do it together,” LeBron said.
“Whether you are leading or not, you just want to be playing well,” Wade said. “Our coaches don’t like it, but I have a sense with this team that if we can get to the fourth quarter; we can get the win.”
And the Heat knows they are in a battle to try and bring the O’Brien Trophy back home in Miami.
“This is the most challenging offense we’ve played this offseason because of the firepower they have on offense,” LeBron said.
But, even though the teams are fighting for every point they manage to find; they still have time to poke a little fun at each other.
Wade was asked about Jason Kidd, who was a top five pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. Wade sang Kidd’s praises, but also had a little fun at Kidd’s expense.
“I think I was watching him in black and white,” Wade joked. “Seems so long ago.”
Miami and Dallas will do battle in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday starting at 9:00 p.m.