- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

DALLAS — With 72 hours separating Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, Miami Heat coach Pat Riley has had plenty of time to analyze — over and over again — what specifically ailed his team in its 90-80 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

That was probably 71 hours more than he really needed.

The Heat likely won’t change much from their approach. But in Game 2 tonight, they will try to erase glaring problems that highlighted their opening loss.

The Heat know they can’t repeat the 7-for-19 performance from the foul line. Only two Miami players attempted a free throw: Dwyane Wade (6-for-10) and Shaquille O’Neal, who missed eight of nine attempts.

O’Neal finished with 17 points, attempting only 11 field goals — a number Riley likely will try to increase. Wade scored 28, adding six rebounds and six assists.

But no matter how good Wade and O’Neal are, Miami must get more help from its bench. The Heat reserves were outscored 24-2 in Game 1, receiving one basket from James Posey.

Still, Riley and his team don’t appear angered by the loss as much as miffed by their sub-par performance.

“I think our players are absolutely disgusted, and they should be disgusted and frustrated,” Riley said after a 90-minute film session on Friday. “It has nothing to do with anger. When you’re frustrated, what you do is you settle for less than your purpose is.”

Backup center Alonzo Mourning, who played just 5:20 in the loss, called the performance horrendous.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that we showed the type of effort in our very first NBA Finals game,” Mourning said. “For whatever reason, they outworked us. The series will be won in the effort department.”

O’Neal has won three titles in five previous finals appearances and knows Miami needs a big game from him tonight. He willingly accepts the blame some have directed his way.

“The burden’s always going to be on me,” O’Neal said. “I’ve accepted this since 1992. I don’t have a problem with it. Whenever we don’t play well, I take a lot of it on my shoulders anyway. The key is not to have two games like that.”

Wade, meanwhile, would like to repeat most of his performance from Game 1. Much has been made of his sinus problems, a result of flu-like symptoms he endured at the end of the Eastern Conference finals, but he appeared fine in the first quarter.

He made six of seven shots in the quarter, scoring 13 points and blocking a layup attempt by Dallas’ 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. But he committed five turnovers and shot just 5-for-18 from the field the rest of the way.

“My legs, didn’t have them,” Wade said. “Even during my free throws, thought I was going to shoot an air ball on one of them.”

While O’Neal may be Miami’s most dominant player, Wade showed against Detroit he is the team’s best. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 30.8 points and shot 69.5 percent as Miami built a 3-1 series lead.

“Hopefully, I’ll be at full strength [today], but right now I have to make do with what I have.”

The Heat also will have to prepare for the inevitability that Nowitzki will return to his All-Star form. Nowitzki scored 16 points on 4-for-14 shooting in the first game.

“I thought I was nervous,” Nowitzki, making his finals debut, said. “I was forcing shots and I wasn’t accurate, wasn’t active and wasn’t aggressive.”

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