Wrapping up the 2011 NBA Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki walks with his MVP trophy and a bottle of champagne after the Mavericks won the NBA Championship defeating the Miami Heat in Miami, June 12, 2011. At right an assistant is carrying the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy (R). REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In an attempt to put the final nail in the coffin that is the 2010-11 NBA season, it’s a good time to look back on the 2011 Playoffs and try to make sense of it all.

Let’s start with…

DIRK’S LEGACY

Easily the biggest winner of these Playoffs, Dirk has shrugged off charges that he was soft and/or a choker by leading the Mavs on one of the most epic postseason runs in recent history. Firing up the NBA StatsCube, we’ll find that Dirk averaged 47.5 points per 36 minutes in the clutch (game within five points with under five minutes to play). Not only did he score a ton, but he did it efficiently, shooting 54% from the field, 97% from the free throw line and 60% (!!) from long range. Even in Game 6, after a miserable 1-for-12 first half, Nowitzki had the mental toughness to go out and score 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final 7:22. He’s never going to win as many championships as Larry Bird, but dynasties are a rarity these days (which favors Bird, historically speaking), so now the Bird/Nowtizki comparisons are legit.

CUBAN

Yes, he’s irritating. Most billionaires are. He made his fortune during the internet bubble and had enough sense to get out when the getting was good. He parlayed that into an NBA team, and is definitely a loudmouth outspoken, but in an age when team owners don’t always show a commitment to winning, Cuban has been more than willing to spend in his chase for a ring and in collecting all these aging All-Stars, he finally found a combination with enough grit, determination and defense to put his franchise player in a position to close the deal. Love him or hate him, he’s entertaining, and in a matchup with the Heat, he was most definitely the lesser of two evils. (And give him credit, when interviewed after the Game 6 win, he was quick to defer the spotlight. Classy move.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (R) celebrates with his family after the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

KIDD, MARION

Jason Kidd didn’t do much stat-wise in the Finals, and seemed to turn the ball over a lot, but he hit a huge three towards the end of Game 5 and played tough defense on LeBron and Wade for the entire series. After leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals in the early ’00s, he finally got another chance at a ring, and played an important role, even at 38-years-old.

The Mavs got a similar contribution from Shawn Marion, who many left for dead after stints in Miami and Toronto. He helped score when Dirk was getting his rest and played inspired defense on LeBron and Wade at different points in the series. Dallas would not have won the title without The Matrix, especially once Caron Butler went down during the season.

THE JET

Other than Dirk, I can’t see a bigger winner (legacy-wise) in these Finals than Jason Terry. He jumped from also-ran status to clutch Finals performer — one who most definitely backed up his smack talk. He outplayed LeBron down the stretch and didn’t miss a free throw in the clutch in the entire Playoffs. When we look back on these Playoffs a decade from now, we’ll remember Dirk, the Jet, and the Heat’s disappointing performance.

THE BIG THREE

There’s plenty of time for LeBron to redefine his legacy, but this was not a good start. He was mediocre to bad in the fourth quarter for most of the series, and it sure doesn’t seem like this leopard is going to change his spots after tweeting that God decided that it just wasn’t his time to win a title. Um, okay. That doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to hone his post game (like MJ or Kobe) or spend all summer with a shooting coach to make his jumper more consistent.

As for Wade, he doesn’t get off scot-free after fumbling away a chance to tie Game 5 and dribbling the ball off his foot late in Game 6, but he already has a ring, so his legacy has a higher floor than LeBron. And it’s not like the guy didn’t produce — he averaged 27-7-5 and shot 55% from the field in the Finals.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (L) and teammate LeBron James wait to leave the stadium after losing the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Lastly, let the record show that Chris Bosh played his best ball of the Finals when the chips were down. In the last three games, he averaged 21-8 on 55% shooting, and even hit the winning jumper in Game 3 after a rough shooting night. Bosh was something of a punchline during the season, but he came up big against the Bulls (23-8, 60% shooting) and did some damage in the Finals.

Where does Miami go from here? While some are arguing that Pat Riley should trade LeBron for Dwight Howard, this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of this trio. They made it to the Finals in their first try, and did it with a substandard supporting cast. I expect changes to be made, but I’d be shocked if any of the stars are moved.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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