MIAMI ( – For most of the 2010-2011 NBA season, the skinny on the Miami Heat was that they couldn’t win a close game and would choke in the clutch. The playoffs have proven this wrong and during Game 1, it was Dallas who couldn’t close the deal.

“Our shots didn’t fall,” Mavs point guard Jason Kidd said. “The name of the game is to put the ball in the basket and we just didn’t do that tonight.”

To underscore Kidd’s point, the Mavs were outrebounded by 10 and only shot 37.3 percent from the field. It was the worst Mavericks performance in the 2011 NBA playoffs. While Dallas wasn’t hitting shots, there was something to be said for the Heat’s defense as well.

Countless times throughout the game, as Dallas would swing the ball back and forth in its half-court offense, the Heat were waiting for them with a hand right in there face. Plus, Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade had key blocks to help spur Heat runs.

“I had my opportunities; I just have to finish,” Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzi said. “I missed a righty layup, I missed a lefty layup. I’ve just got to keep attacking. When I put the ball on the floor, I’ve just got to finish.”

But if the Mavericks hope to win, they’re going to need a lot more production from their bench. Mavs guard Jason Terry was invisible in the second half and J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic combined to score 2 points in the entire game.

“I’m very encouraged right now knowing that if we continue to get those same opportunities, we’re going to have some success,” Terry said.

Still, overcoming the Heat’s spectacular playoff defense has confounded the 76ers, the Celtics, and the Chicago Bulls. All three were effectively shutdown in successive series and the Heat are showing no signs of letting up after Game 1.

Plus, trying to stop the Heat in the fourth quarter has proven more difficult than ending the gridlock in Miami traffic.

“That’s kind of the way we’ve been winning games, of late,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “You’ve got stay with it. You can’t get frustrated because the ball’s not going in. There’s other ways you can dominate the game and we was able to do that tonight. I thought we did a great job in the second half of rebounding the ball, limiting them to one shot as much as possible.”

And if you ever wondered how much winning a title means to the teams, consider this. At one point in the first half, Heat forward Juwan Howard ended up guarding Jason Kidd on a switch after a screen. What’s unique is that both players were top 5 picks in the 1994 NBA Draft.


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