The Dallas Mavericks said their shots would eventually fall. Give them some credit. They knew what they were talking about.
The Mavericks held off the Heat again last night, 112-103, and in the process pulled themselves to within one win of winning the NBA title. They now find themselves in an opportune situation heading to Miami leading the series 3-2. Dallas now has two chances to win one game and step into their place in history.
For the Heat it’s the exact opposite. The Heat were the favorites heading into this series. After finding their mojo against the Celtics and Bulls, everyone assumed the Mavs would be nothing more than a speed bump on the way to their coronation as the top team in all of basketball. Instead they find themselves in their first win or go home situation of these playoffs which has only been compounded by Dwyane Wade’s hip injury and LeBron’s continuous pooping of the bed.
Everything went right for the Mavs last night. Dirk did what Dirk does leading the way for the Mavs with 29 points. The real story of the game however was the perfomances of Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, and JJ Barrea. The backcourt trio combined for 51 points and drilled 10 of the 15 three pointers attempted. Everything they threw up went in, including a late game, irrationally confident, my balls are the size of the moon three pointer over LeBron by Terry. It effectively served as the nail in the coffin. This was the perfect game Dallas had been waiting for and with it they just placed their foot on the throat of the Miami Heat.
However, the story remains the performance of LeBron James, or rather, lack there of. Another fourth quarter came and went and once again we saw LeBron James shrink in the moment. Wait a second, can we actually say he shrank in the moment? Wouldn’t that mean he actually showed up at some point in the first place? Despite racking up a triple double, LeBron’s performance just seemed empty. Much like game 6 of the Boston series last year, it wasn’t a dominant triple double. It was more a result of racking up stats from playing an absurd number of minutes.
After coming out and saying that game 5 would be “the most important game of his career,” LeBron came out and played without any resemblance of fire or passion. Even when Dwyane Wade injured his hip and everyone assumed LeBron would seize the moment and take over out of necessity, it just never happened. It’s almost like Lebron keeps rearing back to throw the fastball and instead of firing it out at 99 MPH it’s coming out very a hittable 88 MPH. He can’t hit an outside shot, he can’t beat his man off the dribble, and when he does get to the rim he’s throwing up floaters rather than taking it strong and drawing contact. If I wanted to watch Larry Hughes I’d throw in tape of the ’07 Finals.
The Heat, and more so LeBron, have talked ad nauseam about how they have responded well to pressure; that each and every time they have faced adversity this year they have responded. That’s great and all, but at no point did they face the possibility of there being no tomorrow. Perhaps this is the moment where the Heat dig deep and find the greatness within. Then again, maybe they fall on their faces.
By the way, the Mavericks just drilled three more threes since I started writing this.
The basic point is that LeBron James needs to be better. Right now he’s been outscored by Dirk Nowitzki 52-11 in the fourth quarters. LeBron regularly leads the league in fourth quarter scoring. He spent seven seasons in Cleveland dominating fourth quarters. Hell, he even did it in the previous two rounds of this year’s playoffs. So far in the Finals he’s been invisible in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Dirk is seizing the moment. He’s putting the Mavs on his back and carrying them to victory. He’s also getting an insane amount of help, but without him this series is already over. Right now he’s one more fourth quarter away from winning his championship and getting himself a statue in Downtown Cleveland.
With all of that said, Sunday we’ll find out what LeBron and the Heat are made of. It should be a great game and either the end of one of the best Finals I’ve ever seen, or the appetizer for what could be an epic game 7. We’re all but guaranteed of seeing another nail biter, every game has been thus far. We also guaranteed that Dwyane Wade, injured hip or not, is going to come out like this is the last game of his life and will go down in a blaze of glory. Dirk Nowitzki will put the Mavs on his back once again. Chris Bosh will wander around aimlessly just playing the games. Jason Terry will talk an unbelievable amount of trash.
And LeBron James will… I’m not sure what LeBron will do. How the hell did we get to this point?