Game 2 should bring out the best in strategizing

Originally Published: June 5, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
DALLAS -- Now, for the fun part.

The first game of any playoff series tends to be pure vanilla, with teams trotting out their basic alignments and spending much of the game feeling each other out. That was certainly the case Thursday. Sure, there were a few wrinkles -- such as Miami's use of a zone for stretches -- but, by and large, Game 1 held little intrigue in terms of strategy.

Avery Johnson
AP Photo/Don RyanAvery Johnson's been pushing the right buttons for the Mavs.

Fear not, however, for things will change soon. With two off days in which to dissect more film and plot new strategies, both coaches could come back with much different strategies that shift the tide of the series on Sunday.

Certainly, that's been the case for Dallas throughout the postseason. The Mavericks lost the opening game in each of their past two series, only to come back in Game 2 with revamped lineups that ultimately led them to victory. Against San Antonio, it was Avery Johnson's daring switch to Devin Harris in the backcourt that helped the Mavs outpace and ultimately vanquish the defending champion Spurs. In the Phoenix series, Johnson inserted DeSagana Diop after he took a DNP in the opener, and he proved to be a defensive difference maker the rest of the series.

However, our eyes should be equally focused on Pat Riley. In general, it's the losing coach who has the most incentive to upset the apple cart, because he's the one whose Plan A didn't work. If that's the case here, the Heat coach should have several changes to introduce when he tries to even the series on Sunday. While Riley's team isn't as deep or flexible as Johnson's, giving him fewer options in this area, he still has several options to choose from.

Here's the fun part: trying to figure out what adjustments each side will make heading into Game 2. While any number of arrangements are possible, a few can safely be eliminated. For instance, I doubt Michael Doleac will replace Jason Williams at point guard, and I can pretty much rule out Dallas' using Darrell Armstrong to guard Shaq.

Beyond the ridiculous, however, everything is on the table. Based on what happened in the opener, here are some of the shifts in strategy you're most likely to see in Game 2:


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