Game 5 Recap and Game 6 Preview: Giving Credit To Tyson Chandler.
Tyson Chandler’s lone career accolade thus far has been making the NBA’s All-Defensive 2nd Team, which he accomplished this season. Throughout the course of his career, Tyson has played on four teams since getting drafted #2 overall in 2001. Along the way, his work has often gone unheralded or credited to the brilliance of teammates. I believe it’s time that we dole out some real credit to Chandler and the defensive intensity he’s delivered, regardless of the team and role he’s played for.
When he played for New Orleans, the Hornets won 56 games and finished one game out of winning the West. Since they traded Chandler away, they haven’t won more than 49 games and haven’t advanced past the first round. When Chandler arrived in Charlotte, the Bobcats made their first ever playoff appearance. Then Michael Jordan dumped Tyson’s salary for the same amount of salary in a move that makes as much sense as Jordan’s taste in fashion.
Dallas was the new team ready for Tyson’s defensive influence. For years, Dallas was labeled as a team with the propensity to choke. Most of their shortcoming came due to the fact that Dallas was a jump shooting team and relying on the inconsistent skill of scoring to win games can be disastrous — ask Mike D’Antoni and his Phoenix teams.
Enter Tyson Chandler.
His defense has been contagious and has allowed Dallas the ability to switch in and out of zone defense which has brought about staggering results for Dallas. Tyson’s ability to roam the middle and essentially act as an automatic double team on any superstar has been vital to Dallas’ drive towards the franchise’s first Larry O’Brein trophy.
In Games 4 & 5, I watched how Tyson would rotate over in the key as the pass to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade was still in flight. The wall that he forms has been a deterrent for Miami, preventing them from driving into the key. On pick’n’rolls, Chandler has been able to flash onto the ball handler, preventing them from turning the corner and even forcing them to retreat back towards mid-court. This isn’t Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby that Tyson is having to switch out on, this is LeBron and Wade we are talking about. Two of the most lethal perimeter players in the NBA. Two guys have never been stopped from getting to the rim yet this one mortal man has been able to do it.
Never has Chandler’s effort as palpable as it was in the clutch moments of Game 5 when he stepped up to stop a Dwyane Wade drive to the basket. Wade dumped the ball of to LeBron, who was driving along the baseline from the corner. As LeBron got to the rack, he was met by none other than Tyson Chandler. LeBron went up, drew contact and his the layup. But the whistle wouldn’t be favorable for LeBron, much like it hasn’t gone his way all series. Chandler had drawn the charge and Dallas would go on to clinch game 5.
So here we are, 5 games into the NBA Finals and Dallas leads 3-2 because they’ve been able to come up with huge stops late in games and no one deserves more credit or praise for that than Tyson Chandler.
LeBron, on the other hand, has received ALL of the media’s attention. Justified or not, LeBron has been a bigger story line than the games themselves. For the first time since Michael Jordan, the NBA has a truly transcendent figure to market. I won’t draw any conclusions on whether this is a good or bad thing but it is now a thing.
LeBron might be the only player in NBA history to drop a triple-double and have that game labeled as a bad game. TWICE! So let’s be clear here, LeBron had a “B” game. Nothing spectacular but not putrid either. In the fourth he had just two points and that’s what people are killing him over but LeBron also had 4 assists, 3 rebounds and a crucial block (which wasn’t credited as a block) on a Shawn Marion fast break which kept Miami in the game.
Miami’s issue has been figuring out how to keep Wade and LeBron involved at the same time. According to ESPN Stats, LeBron was 4 for 6 with Wade out of the game and 4 for 13 with Wade in. Most of this is because the main ball handler is typically taking a pick and the other superstar is tucking themselves away in the furthest corner possible. When Wade and LeBron ran Pick’n’Rolls together, Dallas sent three defenders at them, putting two on the ball handler and having the third rotate over from the corner player to shadow the picker. This has giving Dallas time to recover without allowing the drive and gives Miami two bad options, a long shot or a though cross court pass to the opposite corner over a very tall Chandler or Marion. This defense has worked perfectly for Dallas.
Now for my eight factors to Game 6.
1. No Rebounds, No Rings - Dallas got murdered on the glass again, but that’s part of their defensive strategy. Much like the Boston Celtics did this year, Dallas doesn’t put much effort into rebounds unless they are within reach. This allows them to get back on defense and setup quickly despite having an aging core that log heavy minutes. I don’t see this changing for game 6 considering how well Dallas’ defensive strategy has worked thus far.
2. J.J. Barea - Mike Bibby should never play basketball again. He can’t defend, pass or shoot anymore. With that said, J.J. had his best game in Game 5, going for 17 points, 5 assists on 6 of 11 shooting including 4 of 5 from deep. Perhaps it’s time for Miami to play Chalmers every time J.J. is in the game. Mario, on the other hand, was also brilliant for Miami and should have played more than just 23 minutes, in which he logged 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists a steal and just 1 turnover. Speaking of turnovers…
3. Turnovers - Miami had 16 turnovers to Dallas’ 11. Dallas had 14 fast break points to Miami’s 11. Miami has to get out and run but, more importantly, they have to take care of the ball on their end. LeBron, Wade and Bosh had 4 turnovers each. That’s inexcusable.
4. Odd Lineups - It almost seems like the magic of inserting Haslem and Miller is gone for Miami. In fact the only good lineup change that happened in game 5 was Wade getting hurt. It gave LeBron free reign during which he went 4 for 6 from the field and Miami outscored Dallas by 1 point. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t a good thing. Miami shouldn’t be worse with better players on the court and this responsibility falls on their head coach. He’s got to figure it out. For Dallas, they seem unstoppable when both JJ and Terry are feeling it. Ask the Lakers.
5. Chandler, Marion and Cardinal - Cardinal? YES! Dallas even ran two plays for Brian. Have no fear, Dallas fans, Haywood is active for game 6. As for the other two, they have been brilliant on defense and Chandler has been key on Pick’n’Rolls on offense, giving Dallas a safety valve as he rolls to the basket, much like his days with Chris Paul in New Orleans.
6. Like A Bosh - A stat that explains everything, via Zach Lowe of SI.com: Chris Bosh is averaging 0.53 points per possession on post-ups in this series, compared to 0.88 regular season. Again, Tyson Chandler deserves so much more credit than he is getting. Chris Bosh has been worse than LeBron, a lot worse. We just won’t grill him as much because LeBron’s been putrid. Another reason Chris wanted to come to Miami, he can stay out of the limelight when he plays bad. Chris needs to step it up and play at least a “B” game for Miami to win a ring.
7. Getting Dirk’d On - This play is pretty much all I need to show you:
Dirk is leap-frogging NBA legends left and right during these Finals. He went from a possible top 30 player to a solid top 20. Then he made another jump, becoming the third power forward that gets us to ask “Karl Malone and Charles Barkley who?”
8. Free Throws - The free throw game was about even in game 5 and the refs haven’t been as bad as we all expected. In fact, that questionable call on LeBron might have actually been a great call. Part of the reason that a 3-point shooting team like Dallas is staying even (or even shooting more FTs) is because of the great defense Dallas has played. Once again, a nod to Tyson Chandler.
Pivotal Game 6 is tonight, 8:00PM EST on ABC. Tune in to see if LeBron can go for 50 and still get criticized. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.