True Hoops

True Hoops

Friday, June 3, 2011

Revenge is a dish best served with Heat

There is no way anyone will believe me.
I have no proof.
But I'll just say it anyway.

While most people probably thought last night's game was over with around 7 minutes to play and the Heat up 88-73, a thought flashed through my mind:
Wasn't this the same sort of lead, with the same sort of time remaining, that Dallas had in game 3 of the '06 finals? You know, the game where an overpowering Mavericks team was minutes away from going up 3-0 until a shocking Miami comeback turned the championship tide.

Well, with 7 minutes to go last night, weren't the roles being reversed?
So naturally, this overpowering Heat team mere minutes away from taking a commanding 2-0 series lead was primed for a shocking defeat.

Yes, down 15 in the 4th quarter, I thought  - what if Dallas returns the favor?

No seriously, I did.
That kind of thinking is just crazy, right?

But after every shot Miami clanked, that thought became more plausible.
And with every shot Dallas swished, that thought became more of a reality.
So when Dallas cut the lead to 4, I finally said it aloud: "I think Dallas is going to win this game."

Does this mean Dallas is going to win this series in 5 games?
You know, by riding the momentum of their comeback to win 4 in a row.
Well, I won't go that far......will I?

Let me repeat what I said in my previous post when previewing the Finals.
Yes, I picked the Heat to win in 6 games - and I'll stand by that.
But I also said:
"...beware of the team of destiny. sometimes rules of reason and rationale don't apply to them."

Do you believe me now?
Unless of course you think that it is reasonable Dallas would have to come back the way they did in game 2 to truly exorcise their personal demons of playoffs past.

A game like this can surely change the momentum of a series.
It can also change people's perception of it - wasn't everyone just a minute ago (or rather 7 minutes ago) saying how Dallas is dead in the water?
Of course it can't change the actual outcome of the series...... can it?

Regardless of the answer to that last one, this was the type of game that for sure can change a person.
Like me.

I will readily admit that I have been rooting for Miami this entire playoff run.
I have been rooting for LeBron as well.
I very much want to see them overcome all the hate they have received all season.
But in all honesty, all of that seems secondary now.
Watching Dallas make that 22-5 run at the end of game 2 I couldn't help but feel I was rooting for the wrong team. It made me feel like I was on the wrong side, and that wasn't just because everyone around me was pulling for Dallas.

I previously asked who needed to win this series more.
I suggested that LeBron needed it more to vindicate his Decision.
After all, Dirk is hall of fame player no matter what happens.

Dirk disagrees.
He has openly said his "career will not be complete without a championship."
Talk about putting yourself out there.
What could be more important than that?
But really, what could be more honest and thus more admirable than that?
Just seeing the Mavs battle, their unwillingness to give up, how can you not empathize with them?
How can you not want to see them be successful?

And part of it was the contrast between the Heat and Mavs demeanor.

Look at the celebratory attitude of the Heat throughout the game. Dunk after dunk, shot after shot. It was certainly was impressive. No really it was. check out this, this, this, and for good measure, this. However it seemed to change the Heat's persona from that of a us-against-the world team fighting all the ridicule to one that was boastful and irreverent of their worthy opponent. Of course all the Heat Haters out their will argue this is the reason they didn't like the Heat from the beginning, but I won't get into that.

The final straw was Wade's three in the corner - right in front of the Dallas bench - to put them up 15 with 7 minutes to go. He made sure to hold up his followthrough extra-long and stand there an extra second or two to rub it in.

Apparently Jason Terry had to be held back from going after Wade, who was busy getting playfully punched in the chest by LeBron  - who was also no doubt telling him how great he was.

A bit much.

Now compare that with the venerable effort put forth by Dallas in their comeback. In particular, think about Dirk during the run. No celebrations, no loud words, no taunts. Not even his snarl look.
That all would have consumed too much energy and that man, that team, had serious work to do.
The whole time you felt like you were watching something greater than a basketball comeback and that somehow you were a part of it. A part of some gradual process of methodical redemption.
And Dirk was just caught up in the moment, not willing to let his team down. Caught up in the determination, not willing to let his team lose.
Not this time.
By the look on his face afterwards, perhaps he transcended the game.
It was so tolling he could do nothing but raise a fist:

And for all of the talk this past week of LeBron and Jordan. If I'm not mistaken, Jordan seemed to always have his fist in the air after making big plays during his last three finals. No words, yet still able to say everything. No words, but still able to have the last say. Still able to convey his greatness.

I read that Dallas said they ran no set plays down the stretch and that enabled them to play more free.

Yeah right.

I can name at least one play they ran - it's called get Dirk the ball and get out of the way.
Seemed to have worked fine to get to this point and it seemed to work fine last night.
While Dirk's numbers for the game won't blow you away (24 points and 11 rebounds on 10-22 shooting), think about this: he had Dallas' last 9 points on 4-5 shooting.

Seriously though, no plays?
What about setting a down screen for Dirk with under a minute to go, enabling him get open for a three to put Dallas up (imagine drawing that up for your 7 foot power forward).

Did you peep Dirk's body language?
Absolutely no hesitation.
You knew, I knew, and most importantly Dirk knew once he touched the ball it was going up.
And If that wasn't a 'set play' then that was just great motion offense.
The type of motion offense where Tyson Chandler sets a screen on the ball for Jason Terry and then after Terry comes off the screen, Chandler goes and sets a down screen to free up Nowitzki.
(By the way, I absolutely love how Shawn Marion is more Hype than Dirk in the team huddle after the play).

I do believe that Miami ran no plays down the stretch.
Unless of course by plays you mean LeBron taking fall away contested threes, and Wade taking a contested three as well - the one time he touched the ball in the final 7 minutes, after having 36 points in the first 39 minutes.

But who needs plays?

Okay, maybe you don't when you have an isolation for Dirk with under 30 seconds to go.
That was just pure greatness:

Can we just break this move down for a second?
1) Dirk catches the ball at the three point line.
2) He dribbles hard right then spins to his left to get to the elbow area.

We all know Dirk's spin is incredibly effective. But here is where it gets interesting.
The scouting report on Dirk must be that he uses multiple spins and fakes to get to his off balance step back jumper. In fact I had it in a recent post. Chris Bosh had to be expecting that.
So what did Dirk do?

3) slight hesitation to get Bosh to contest
4) instead of the step back, a change of speed and hard dribble with the left to get by Bosh and to the basket to finish with his left
And that would be the left hand that has a torn tendon in it's middle finger.

I won't mention the fact that Terry set a down screen to get Nowitzki the ball and then spotted up in the strong side corner so LeBron couldn't help off him.

I will point out how the entire Mavs team, staff, trainers, and seemingly even random strangers were all coming up to Dirk after the game to give him dap, and hitting him in the chest to not only let him know how bad he was, but how much they needed that and how much they are in support of him. That seemed to be a little more moving to me than the Wade-LeBron exchange.

And Again, look at Dirk's face. It's as if he just came back from an out of body experience. A look of a hero who used up his entire resources to save the day. Back from transcendence, just in time for cognition of what just transpired. It was also a look of "I told you I won't let you guys down."

I felt something coming into this series. And I feel it a little more after game 2.
To paraphrase former Steeler coach Bill Cowher when he predicted the Saints would beat the Colts in the super bowl a couple of years ago:

Who will win the Finals?
My mind says Miami, but my heart says Dallas.

Let me say it one more time:

"...beware of the team of destiny. sometimes rules of reason and rationale don't apply to them."

You know what else sometimes doesn't apply to the rules of reason and rationale?

And belief also happens to be a driving force that can be inspirational and, when resolute, extremely difficult to defeat. Dallas is a team that believes. They believe in themselves and they believe in each other. Most importantly, they believe they can win the whole freakin' thing.

So who's to say they can't?

Believe this, Miami will have to win this series. They are going to have to take it from Dallas.
And know this, there is nothing more dangerous than a team that is confident, a team that believes, and a team that will never stop fighting.

Not to mention a team that has Dirk Nowitzki and the next three games in their home court.

Now the fun begins.

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