The Real Big Three of the 2011 Playoffs?

The Real Big 3

A lot gets said about the 3 player combination of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. And why not? Not only are they in the 2011 NBA Finals their first ever season playing together, but they’ve made it look relatively easy, losing only one game each series.

They are without question the best offensive trio in the 2011 playoffs. According to NBA.com, in the 2011 playoffs, the Miami Heat have scored 1,004 points during the 524:25 minutes they’ve played together on the floor. The next highest scoring trio in the 2011 Playoffs is the Chicago BullsDerrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah (920).

The problem is, basketball is still played on both ends of the floor.

While the Heat may score more than any other playoff team with their “big three” on the floor, they also give up 940 points, leaving their “+/-” at just +64.

Obviously, +64 has been good enough to get the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals, but here is a surprise for you: when you consider both offense and defense, guess which three players are the most effective in the 2011 playoffs?

According to NBA.com’s +/- stats, as of June 3, 2011, the most effective three player combination in the 2011 playoffs is: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry+140 in 235:55 minutes.

The second most effective trio? Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler (+118 in 223:27 minutes).

In fact, the top 7 most effective three player combinations of the 2011 playoffs so far are all Dallas Mavericks players!

Where does the Heat big three fall? 28th. James, Wade and Bosh are the 28th most effective trio in the playoffs.

Again, the Miami Heat big three outscore every other 3 player combination in the 2011 playoffs, however while they are on the floor the Miami Heat give up too many points, placing the trio at 24th in the NBA in +/-.

2011 Playoffs Power Trios

Since Mark Cuban took over the Dallas Mavericks, he has spent $911,844,217 on player salaries. That is nearly a billion dollars! In the same time period, only the New York Knicks have spent more.

Even so, who would guess that Nowitzki, Terry and Kidd would be more than twice as effective when playing together with their team than James, Bosh and Wade. After all, when Jason Kidd came into the NBA, Dwayne Wade was 12 years old and LeBron James was 9 years old.

One of the most remarkable things about 38 year old Jason Kidd isn’t just that he still plays so well, leading the entire 2011 Playoffs in both steals and assists, but that he continues to improve his game. Remember when they used to call Kidd “Ason Kidd” because he had no “J?” Now Jason is currently 2nd in the post season in 3-pointers made. Improving aspects of his game this late in his career? That’s a stark contrast to Shaquille O’Neal who never did work much to improve his game late in his career, as evidenced by his free throw shooting.

At any rate, as an Alaskan, I’ve always been cheering for Miami point guard Mario Chalmers who my wife and I watched play at Bartlett High School, Anchorage Alaska. But I have no predictions as to whether or not Mario will have an NBA championship ring to go along with his two state championships.

After all, the Mavericks look awfully good — on both ends of the floor.

The Mavericks literally handed the Heat 31 points in game 2 off of turnovers, and a surprising number of those turnovers were unforced. Cleaning up turnovers alone would have provided the Mavericks with a blow out of the Heat in Miami.

The veteran Mavs are showing impressive composure.

With 7:24 left in Q4, Shawn Marion was stripped of his rebound, Chris Bosh knocked the loose ball to Lebron James and the Heat were off and running. It took Lebron 3 seconds to drive the length of the court and get the ball to the free throw line where he hit a cutting Chalmers under the rim. However, four Mavericks were already back on defense and Chalmers couldn’t get a layup or dunk. He kicked it out to Dwayne Wade standing just outside the arc in the corner by the Mav’s bench. The scariest part about this possession is that as Wade squared up for the 3, there were still 18 seconds left on the shot clock. All that devastating Heat offense of getting end to end on the court, getting the ball deep into the paint and scoring a 3 pointer took all of 6 whole seconds.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)The crowd went nuts and Lebron James and Dwayne Wade held their alpha male celebration ritual right in front of the Mavericks bench. It did not look good for the Dallas Mavericks.

Just like that, the Heat put and end to the Mavericks’ hanging around with a 13 to 0 run with 7:14 left in the game. I’m sure everyone in that building was thinking, “Game over.” Everyone that wasn’t wearing Maverick blue.

I say the Heat thought the game was over because from then on, they didn’t bother to do the “little things” that win championships.

After Wade’s 3, the Mavericks called timeout, and substituted miniscule point guard JJ Barea with starting center Tyson Chandler, then finished the last 7:14 of the game out rebounding the Heat 9 to 3, and had only 1 of their 20 turnovers for the game.

The Miami’s Heat’s advantage in this series is the talent of their big three. Their weakness isn’t their supporting cast, but their pride. Winning basketball is about rolling up your sleeves and doing the dirty work for 48 full minutes, not celebrating your own greatness all game long.

And Wade and James… how about playing a man’s game like a man?

There are dozens of embarrassing examples I could cite in this game alone, but a good one came with 5:30 left in the game. Lebron James drove untouched to the rim and blew a layup.

I’ve reviewed the play many times in super slow motion from my HD DVR on my 70 inch plasma, giving me a far better look than even the officials on the floor have, and no one touched James. James simply finger rolled the ball too much and pushed it back so far he had an air ball where he could have had a dunk.

Nevertheless, when James saw he missed the layup, he complained to the refs, slapping his forearm to illustrate where he supposedly got hit. As if that wasn’t pathetic enough, his dishonest lobbying of the officials made James the last Heat player back on defense, giving Jason Terry an advantage and a trip to the free throw line. And then while Terry shot his free throws, James continued to embarrass himself with further efforts to manipulate officials.

The Miami Heat’s “big three” can’t man up and take responsibility for their actions; instead they demand face-saving accommodations from basketball to cover for their mistakes. Oh, in a post game press conference they’ll give accountability lip service, they’ll claim they let them down, but they only do it when doing so attracts praise. On court, where it really matters? It’s a different story.

For all his problems, even the beleaguered Isaiah Thomas is an example to James and Wade about character and accountability. The Detroit Pistons lost the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics in 1987, in large part because they gave up game 5 on a boneheaded play by Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah never blamed an invisible, imaginary slap on the forearm for his mistake. He blamed himself, and with a blame that went far beyond a post game press conference. In fact, Isaiah Thomas said it ate him alive all summer. He was sick about it again and again, but it made him so determined and steeled his will to beat Boston and get a championship.

When the Heat’s big three rob themselves of accountability and responsibility, they likewise rob themselves of much of the fire it takes to win.

Maybe they don’t need that fire though. Maybe they are talented enough to win without it, I honestly don’t know.

On the other hand, maybe living with the agony of his own melt down in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat has given Dirk Nowitzki the fire it takes to never let that happen again.

By the way, is anyone else sickened by the hypocrisy of NBA officiating? Dwayne Wade and Lebron James continually abuse officials over the most petty, and often incorrect things, while Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle gets a technical foul for being right as he protests a non call? What a joke. If NBA refs were to suddenly call games fairly with no superstar treatment, it would be a severe wake up call for James and Wade. Calling their moving screens alone would be a revelation.

Without question David Stern is the most incompetent chief executive in professional sports. Every NBA fan, every single one, 100% of the people who have watched the NBA has been frustrated with the inadequate officiating. Hundreds of ideas for improvements come from all sorts of credible sources, including the winningest coach in the history of the NBA, Phil Jackson. With all this need, and all these resources, what is David Stern’s big play to improve NBA officiating? Stern fines people who complain about it.

At any rate, with 1:40 left in the game, and clinging to a 2 point lead, the Miami Heat gave up team basketball for “hero ball.”

Lebron James dribbled out the shot clock, refusing to pass to anyone, then put up a bad, contested 3 pointer. Mario Chalmers was unguarded at the arc with his hands open for a pass.

Dwayne Wade got the rebound, the got the ball back to Lebron and the Heat squandered away the clock again leaving James to huck up another ill advised 3 pointer with 3 left on the shot clock. Mario Chalmers was again wide open with his hands ready, but James wouldn’t pass.

This led to a Dirk Nowitzki layup in the resulting fast break, tying the game with 57.6 seconds left to play.

By the way, only Chris Bosh ran back on defense to try to prevent the Mavericks from scoring. He faced Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki 1 on 3, but he was there trying. Remember, Lebron James, the shooter, was at the top of the arc when the play unfolded. Bosh ran past James who was just walking at half court watching the game slip through his fingers.

Where’s the heart? Where’s the character?

The Heat called time out. What was Miami’s first play out of the time out? Lebron dribbled the ball for 14 seconds, then passed to Wade who hucked up a contested 3 pointer with 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Again, Chalmers was standing at the arc unguarded.

The long rebound was grabbed by Dallas who turned it into a Nowitzki 3 pointer, taking the lead 93 to 90 with 26.7 seconds left in the game, culminating a 20 to 2 run.

This led to the big Chalmers 3 pointer to tie the game with 24.5 left, but when you think about it, the reason Chalmers was so open is because on the previous plays, the Mavericks refused to pass to him.

Ironically, the Heat’s hero ball was in reality preventing any actual hero from having a chance to do it for them.

The last 24.5 seconds of the game was intense. Which big three would be bigger?

The Mavericks executed staggered screens, Chris Bosh guarded Nowitzki. Dirk made a move and blew past Bosh. James, by far the closest defender to Dirk, didn’t give help. Instead Dirk dribbled all the way to the rim laid it up off the glass with 3.7 seconds left.

As the statistics show, Wade, James and Bosh can score, but they give much of it back on the defensive end.

At any rate, Wade and James were the only Heat players to touch the ball the rest of the game, even though once again, Mario Chalmers was standing unguarded at the arc with his hands open for a pass. Chris Bosh was even more open and closer to the basket.

Dirk showed that fire, that desire to do whatever needed to be done, scoring the last 9 points for the Mavericks.

I have no idea who will win this series, but if the team that is basically 3 players with a supporting cast, the Heat, wins the Finals, who would be the MVP? Wade? James? But if the Mavericks, the team that plays a more balanced team ball wins, is there any question who the MVP should be?

When the Mavs protect the ball and rebound, they make it very difficult for the Heat to press their advantage with transition and early offense. They force the Heat to beat them with half court execution which they are still very good at, but perhaps not better than the Mavericks are in theirs. For the Mavs, rebounding and caring for the ball levels the playing field against the Heat’s super friends trio, and that gives them the chance to win.

By the way, if I were the Mavericks, I would worry that not enough of my team’s rebounds are coming from bench players.

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