I think most basketball fans assumed the Miami Heat were going to find a way to win the NBA championship, even after Dallas tied the series at 2-2 in Game 4 on Tuesday night.
Well, it’s time to take the Mavericks seriously and to acknowledge this veteran team, led by two players hungry for rings, is capable of winning these NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 lead with a three-pointer-fueled 112-103 win over the Heat in Thursday night’s Game 5.
As “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson would say, Dallas is in it to win it. And even though the series shifts to Miami for Game 6 on Sunday night and a potential Game 7 on Tuesday, the Mavericks are going to be extremely difficult to beat two games in a row.
The LeBron James haters will say he again disappeared in Game 5, as he did just two nights earlier. I’m not buying it. James had the ball in his hands on nearly every fourth-quarter possession for the Heat. He made four nifty passes that resulted in easy baskets. Yes, he did score only one basket, a lay-up late after the game had been decided.
But James was involved, something he wasn’t in Game 4. This loss can’t be laid at his feet like the Game 4 defeat rightfully was.
Dallas made 13 three-pointers. No defense in the world was going to slow down the Mavs, who got four of those three-pointers from diminutive guard J.J. Barea, who was 1 for 10 from beyond the three-point line previously in the series.
It was, for once, an offensive game and fun to watch. But while Miami cooled off late, the Mavericks never did. They depended on their veteran core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to make big shots down the stretch. Miami, meanwhile, went cold.
It’s troubling that James has scored only 11 points in the fourth quarters of games during the Finals. But especially late in games, Dallas can focus its defensive energies on James and Wade. The Mavs were burned a few times because of the attention they paid to those two players, but mostly the double teams on Miami’s two superstars has paid off.
I made the comment during the fourth quarter that the more I watch the Heat in this series, the more I think Miami is one really good player away from being a dominant team. I’m not saying the Heat won’t win the championship, but they could really use another perimeter play-maker.
Guard Mario Chalmers was that guy in the first half, but you knew he couldn’t sustain his offensive fireworks. In the fourth quarter, when these games are on the line, Miami hasn’t had enough. And Dallas has, especially since Terry has overcome whatever was affecting him early in the series. Now when he shoots, it’s a surprise when the basketball doesn’t go in.
I still think Miami will win this series. But don’t take me to the bank on this one. Dallas has proven itself to be a tough and resilient team. And very talented with a superstar (Nowitzki) who has outplayed everyone on the planet in these playoffs. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a player in history who has had a better run in the postseason. I’ll look into that for a blog tomorrow.
Miami is going home. Dallas won’t be intimidated. I can’t wait for Sunday night.