Defense wins championships.
It's an adage long embraced by coaches and players in all sports. Football, basketball, soccer - you can't go far without a strong, fine-tuned defense. In this particular series, it's the ONLY way to win. With the offensive firepower that both teams have to offer, the only way to outscore a LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki is to not let them score at all.
Of course, if you stop LeBron, you still have to worry about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Which is precisely why Miami is unstoppable when all three play well (see box score of last night).
Although the Big 3 had solid performances, the Mavericks did a pretty good job on the rest of the Heat. Out of Miami's starters, James, Wade and Bosh were the only ones who scored the entire game. Bibby went 0-4 and Joel Anthony was 0-1 with 3 rebounds and a turnover.
The real problem for Dallas was its efficiency on the offensive end. J.J. Barea penetrated the lane well, but was either blocked or just unable to finish in the paint. Jason Terry had a great first half, and apparently decided to take the second half off. Peja Stojakovic was brought on to the team for his sharpshooting abilities, but he went 0-3 from beyond the arc against that swarming Miami defense. Dirk played his game, but he is going to need some help from his teammates if Dallas doesn't want a repeat of the 2006 Finals.
As for Miami, there isn't really much room for improvement on the defensive end. 84 points allowed, holding the Mavs to 37% shooting - the Heat did their job defensively. The only thing I would suggest is more contribution from the rest of Miami's roster. Mike Bibby can't score 0 points again, and I'd like to see Erik Spoelstra give James Jones some minutes - the kid won the 3 point contest for crying out loud. Logic would have Jones in for at least 10 minutes so he can have a chance to knock down a few jumpers for the team. At the minimum, the Heat could use him when they are on a scoring drought, which they experienced for a period last night. Other than that, Miami just needs to keep up the defensive pressure and act like every game is their last.
I expect more out of Jason Terry and J.J. Barea in Game 2, but I don't think Miami will slow down on its defensive pressure. The Heat are too motivated to prove their doubters wrong. I don't think it's physically possible for LeBron, Wade, or Bosh to lower their levels of intensity. Miami should take Game 2 with no problem. Don't count out the Mavericks though, when they're hot they can be extremely tough to beat. Miami can't let Dallas heat up because when Dirk and Terry are locked in, it's a long night for any opponent.