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Friday, June 3, 2011

Mavs Turn Up the Heat in Miami

by Connor Witt

Dwyane Wade's emphatic three pointer in front of the Dallas bench to put Miami up 15 with 7:14 to play was supposed to be the nail in the Mavericks' coffin. As we watched the ball sink through the twine, my friend and fellow Court of Appeals writer Danny Franks yelled "That's game!" to make it official that the Mavs no longer had any glimmer of hope. All of us watching the game in Danny's living room had no reason to disagree; even the lone Mavericks die hard in attendance had written his team off.

The only problem: when Wade hit that corner three pointer, he and his cohort LeBron James decided the game was over as well. However, as Dwyane Wade triumphantly held his follow through, the Dallas players forced to look on at his pose had other plans. This veteran Mavericks team had not made it to the Finals by rolling over in the closing minutes of games (just ask the Thunder) and Game 2 proved to be no different.

After spending much of the game staring upwards as witnesses to the aerial assault of the rim provided by LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, Dallas ratcheted up their defensive intensity, forcing James and Wade into contested threes at the end of the shot clock. On offense, clutch shots from Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki put the Mavs ahead in the final minute, only to have Mario Chalmers tie the game with 24.5 seconds to play. Unless you've been under a rock for the past day, you know the rest of the story: Dirk drives past Chris Bosh and finishes with his supposedly incapacitated left hand.

(Sidenote: the coverage surrounding the middle finger of Dirk's non-shooting hand was so incredibly overblown. Comparisons of Dirk's shooting from Game 1 to Game 2 showed no visible differences, yet ABC continued to harp on the issue throughout the game. At no point during the game did the "injury" appear to impact his play, and I suppressed the urge to vomit when Doris Burke came out wearing a replica of Nowitzki's finger splint during one report.)

Though Thursday's performance was a devastating implosion for the Heat miraculous win for the Mavericks, there is still much basketball to be played in this series and no team has a clear advantage. The Mavs return to Dallas with the series tied and the next three games in their building, but they would be foolish to think that the Heat will fold just because of one bad loss. In fact, the result of Game 2 may very well benefit Miami more so than Dallas.

When Dwyane Wade's three pointer fell through the cylinder with seven minutes left and LeBron greeted Wade with a series of playful jabs as they headed into the timeout, it became apparent that Miami's two superstars believed they had the game and the series in hand. After the dominance the Heat displayed throughout the third period, I couldn't blame them either. This was why LeBron took his talents to South Beach in the first place, to know that even when he wasn't taking over games he had an sidekick capable of similar heroics. Miami began to think that their championship run would be one highlight after another as opposing players watched helplessly, left to marvel at the spectacle taking place. Seven minutes and fourteen seconds later when Wade's desperation three point attempt struck back iron and the final horn sounded, Miami felt much differently.

Over the last few minutes of the game Miami failed to find any offensive rhythm and their defense could not match the dominance we saw in Game 1. It was just the type of failure the Heat needed. Miami needed to be reminded that it will not be handed a ring just because every night it is most talented team in the gym. Miami needed to be reminded that it is mortal.

Looking forward, I expect that the final seven minutes of Game 2 will give a greater boost to the Heat's play than Mavs'. Sure, American Airlines Center (not to be confused with Miami's American Airlines Arena) will be rocking at the Sunday tipoff, given the momentum coming off Dallas win. But more important than the atmosphere at tip will be each team's mindset in the game's final minutes. Miami has faced hostility on the road all season, and they come into Game 3 with the added motivation to avenge their heartbreaking loss. Wade and LeBron both put on tremendous shows in Thursday's Game 2, but they quickly learned from Dallas' comeback that putting on a great show doesn't necessary lead to W's. Don't expect Miami to necessarily change their intensity for Sunday's game in Dallas, but watch for them to improve their focus, and turn up the heat (pun intended) down the stretch.

Court Adjourned.

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