The Shaq Factor
by Kevin Monroe


Unlike any center since Wilt Chamberlin, Shaquille O’Neal forces defenses to try and stop him first, and the other 4 players second.  Shaq stands over 7 feet tall and weighs in around 330 lbs. There isn’t one center in the NBA that can play him one on one and be successful consistently.  After Sunday night’s NBA finals game, two people are wondering what happened to the big guy.  There’s no doubt that Maverick’s coach Avery Johnson had an awesome game plan for Shaq, but it was nothing that he hadn’t seen before.  The only team that guards him one on one are the Pistons, because they have the best defensive player in the NBA in Ben Wallace.  Even Ben would tell you that shutting down Shaquille when he doesn’t want to be stopped is near impossible. 

The big guy only played 33 minutes Sunday night versus the Mavericks, but even he would tell you that they were not a very productive 33 minutes.  Sunday night Shaq scored 5 points on 2 of 5 shooting from the floor and 1 of 7 from the free throw line.  Never before in his entire NBA career has he scored so few points in a playoff game.  Taking it a step further, Shaquille usually dominates in the NBA Finals. He is a 3-time finals MVP and has scored 40 plus points 5 times in the finals and has a 32 point finals scoring average, which is third best behind Rick Barry and Michael Jordan.

The thing that confuses me about Sunday night’s game is that Shaq touched the ball nearly every time the Heat got the ball in a half court scenario.  It was evident from the beginning that Pat Riley wanted the offense to run through him.  Each time Shaquille got the ball, the Mavericks ran another defender at him to double team.  99% percent of the players in the NBA should pass the ball when double teamed, but that is not necessarily the case for Shaq.  He is big enough and fleet footed enough to maneuver over and around double teams, he has had to do it his entire career.  Instead of trying to figure out a way to score he decided to pass the ball back out each time with out even attempting to make a move. 

The real problem for the Miami Heat was they didn’t knock down any open shots that they received because of the double teams on Shaq.  The series is far from over, because Miami has yet to play their style of basketball.  Add to that, the Heat are a very good team at home and have some of the best fans in the NBA.  No team has come back from being down 2-0 in an NBA finals series since 1985 when the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format.  In 2005, the Pistons came very close. After being down 2–0 to the Spurs, they won the next 2 games at home to tie the series.  This series will live up to the hype as soon as the Heat start playing up to their potential.

Kevin Monroe