Mavs 99, Heat 85

(going down 0-2 to Dallas is bad enough, but having to sit alongside JWill is just cruel and unusual.)

As the Heat eagerly await Shaquille O’Neal actually showing up before the NBA Finals are over, the Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez surveys the wreckage.

They were, essentially, the Heat’s worst fears.

¢ That the Mavericks’ combination of versatility and style would render Shaquille O’Neal a nonfactor.

¢ That the Mavericks’ shifting defenses would confound the rest of the Heat scorers.

¢ That the Heat’s improved perimeter defense would resort to its regular-season form against a deep, talented group of Mavericks perimeter players.

Riley took O’Neal out of the game with three minutes left in the third quarter and didn’t put him back in the game. The Heat came close to making a legitimate comeback attempt, coming within 12 points of the Mavericks as late as the 2:32 mark of the fourth.

Miami’s distinct levels of play with O’Neal in and out of the game opens up the idea that Miami could be better off with less of him against this particular team.

That, Wade said, won’t be an option.

They will likely have to if there’s any chance of salvaging this series.

The Washington Post’s Mike Wise has had his fill of the older, centered Pat Riley. He wants “the Gordon Gekko character back.”

I want the guy who once asked his players how much they really wanted to win and proceeded to submerge his head in a bucket of ice for two minutes, until the veins in his neck and forehead were about to burst and his players were about to pull him out. Emerging from the water, his face frozen pink, he blurted out, “You got to want it till your last breath!”

I want the guy who once heard Charles Smith was dogging it with the Knicks, remaining on the injured list while his teammates busted their behinds during the regular season. When Smith walked into the locker room in a resplendent suit while Anthony Mason, John Starks and the other Knicks were suiting up, Riley turned around and stopped writing on the chalkboard and asked Smith, “Charles, if you could give me one minute tonight — one minute — to win a championship, could you do it?”

Smith shrugged and said, “Yeah, sure coach.”

Riley went back to the chalkboard for a couple of seconds and then spun around dramatically. “Then what in the hell are you doing in that suit?” Charles Smith would soon come off the injury list.

Indeed, if only Riles had really flipped out on Smith, the latter would’ve managed to convert one of four shots right under the Chicago basket in the final seconds of the ’93 Eastern Conference finals. But Wise knows more about this motivator-of-men stuff than me.

Public relations, David Stern-style.

Gatorade Dump predicts the results of the NBA Draft’s first round. Still no takers for Jeffrey Maier, then.