I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 2011 NBA Finals just got serious! On Thursday, June 9, 2011, Miami fell to rival Dallas Mavericks in a 112-103 out-lasting in Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals. The series is now 3-2, in favor of Dallas. Before the season, many people thought that the Miami Heat would easily walk through the league and win so-called, “multiple championships,” especially after signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh before going into the 2011 season. The new trio of Bosh, D-Wade and LeBron, all together in Miami, reminded people of the Celtics of 2007-2008, when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both joined forces with Paul Pierce in Boston to go and win a ring. What happened? They went and won the ring that very same year–2007-2008. However, with the series now in Dallas’ favor and with only one game left for them to win, it’s starting to look like that same type of championship plan that LeBron had for himself and the city of Miami, might have to be put on hold for at least another full season of basketball.
From the onset, Miami inherited the automatic burden and pressure to win the Finals this year. There were to be no excuses with all that talent in Miami at one time. Did anyone even have Dallas in the Finals’ plans this year? Nobody else knew it, but Dallas nation knew it. The Mavericks stunned the Heat in Game 5 with up-tempo basketball and smooth, clean play. Many watchers, followers, fans, and general people of the game did not even pick the Mavs or talk about them even making it to the finals while holding the number 3 seed in the West. Yet here we are in the 2011 NBA Finals with Dallas actually here and only one game away from winning it all.
With a 2011, regular-season record of 57-25, good coaching from Rick Carlisle and stellar play from Dirk Nowitzki and others, the Mavs were able to sweep right into the playoffs under the radar and a bit unannounced—a surprise attack if you will. I’m sure everyone had teams like San Antonio, Boston, Miami, New York, L.A. and Chicago all at the top of their minds—but no, not Dallas. Anyone that follows Dallas basketball, however, knows that the Mavericks have lived in the playoffs throughout the past decade and are certainly capable of winning and are long over-due for a championship ring.
I’m sure Dallas will begin to smell glory once they realize it’s the fourth quarter and ushers have started tampering with the trophy in anticipation of a Dallas victory. It should still feel like a must-win game for Dirk and company as they still cannot afford to get too comfortable with Miami being more than capable of winning two games in a row to end the series. Dallas must keep that same competitive mentality and begin to go in for the kill. As Stan Van Gundy would say, “let sleeping dogs lie.” In this case, the Miami Heat are now the sleeping dog.
D-Wade missed a good portion of Game 5 because of a hip contusion as a result of hard contact with Maverick forward, Brian Cardinal—who, by the way, played excellent defense and provided much needed hustle and energy off the bench. Ailing hip and all, Wade still played 34 tough minutes and finished with 23 points and 8 assists. LeBron James on the other hand, had plenty of opportunities to hit big shots and came up empty on many crucial and clutch-time occasions. You would think that Wade going down would spark LeBron to try and carry the team like he did in Cleveland, but the fact of the matter is, Bron Bron didn’t hit the big buckets that he needed to hit late in the game. LeBron had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Although the triple double for James looks good on the stat sheet, it was in a losing effort during the battle for Game 5, and as a result, will most-surely burn in his mind, deep into the remainder of the night.
Once again, Dirk Nowitzki was clutch, pretty much all game en route to a 29 point, 6 rebound and 10 for 10 from the free throw-line- day. Quick question, do people even still say “Dirk can’t handle the big game anymore?” Yeah, people used to say things like that. Can you believe it? Anyway, J.J. Barea and “The Jet,” Jason Terry, finally got it going offensively tonight and hit big shot after big shot all game long. Barea finally woke up and came out of his series-long slump and spark plugged the Mavericks and the American Airlines Arena by scoring 17 much needed points, handing out 5 assists and going 4 for 5 from downtown land. The Jet Terry got loose going 3 for 5 from beyond the arc and finished with 21 points on the night. Jason Kidd also hit several big three-pointers during the game in clutch moments of the fourth quarter as Miami began to threaten—Kid finished 3 for 5 from beyond the arc as well. As a team, Dallas shot 13 for 19 from three-point range and Miami shot a grizzly 8 for 20.
It is also worth it to mention the turnovers in Game 5 of the Finals. Dallas had some big turnovers right after they would make Miami turn the ball over. Imagine playing defense and getting an interception in football and then on the resulting possession for your offense, the quarterback throws a pick, right back to the other defense. The turnover has now been rendered useless and your defense is right back out onto the field before they can even get some water in. That is what Dallas did on several occasions tonight in Game 5, but the good thing is it didn’t come back to haunt them with a loss. We all know how dangerous either team can be out in transition, so limiting the turnovers will always be important.
Miami turned the ball over 16 times while Dallas only had 11 turnovers. There was a lot of scoring in Game 5 as this was the first game of the series to reach at least 100 points for either team. Statistically, Dallas was out-boarded on the glass today, but was at least able to get the ones they really needed, late in the game, when possessions mattered most. I’ve been saying it from the start, this 2011 NBA Finals series is going to come down to rebounding, turnovers, knocking down open looks and plenty of heart! In Game 6, we will see which team comes out playing with the most of these four elements to NBA Finals success and we will see which team just plain wants it more. Can Dallas finish the series in Game 6? By late-night Sunday, June 12, 2011, we will know.