Nowitzki, Mavs finish off the Heat

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki lifts the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy with his teammates after they beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

With LeBron’s legacy (not to mention, the NBA title) on the line, the Mavs went into Miami and beat the Heat on their home floor. Dirk Nowitzki struggled to 1-of-12 shooting in the first half, but rebounded with 18 points in the second half, including 10 points in the final 7:22 to help close out the series.

Nowitzki was unbelievable in the Playoffs, averaging (a 36-minute adjusted) 52.6 points per game in the clutch (under five minutes to play with the score within five points), and deservedly won the Finals MVP. Jason Terry kept the Mavs in the game in the first half, and scored 27 points on the night.

As for the Heat, LeBron James finished 9-of-15 for 21 points, six assists and four rebounds, but he turned the ball over six times and wasn’t able to take the game over when it mattered most. Dwyane Wade went 6-for-16 from the field but turned the ball over five times. It should be noted that Chris Bosh (7-of-9 from the field, 19 points) played the best of Miami’s “Big Three.”

LeBron and the Heat better brace for even more criticism after the loss. Ever since “The Decision” and the trio’s over-the-top celebration last summer, throughout a season of ups and downs, the team became one of the most scrutinized in league history. Questions remain about LeBron’s play in the clutch and whether or not the “Big Three” actually fit together.

No matter how many championships the trio goes on to win, this loss to the Mavs will tarnish the legacies of LeBron, Wade and Bosh – they had control of the series after Game 3 and let it slip away.

Kudos to Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and the entire Dallas Mavericks franchise. I picked the Mavs to lose to the Blazers in the first round, but have been impressed by the team’s grit and resiliency throughout these Playoffs. I’ll gladly eat some crow after this performance.

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

NBA Finals Game 5 Mini-Movie

This should get your ready for Game 6 (8 PM ET, ABC)…

Game 5 Reaction

Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki (C) dunks the ball between Miami Heats Mike Miller (L) and Chris Bosh (R) in the fourth quarter during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Sharp (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Gregg Doyel, It was a triple-double, if you’re into stats. But as LeBron James told us after Game 3, forget about the stats. Stats are for dummies. So let’s dig deeper than the 17 points, the 10 rebounds, the 10 assists, and let’s do what LeBron wants us to do. Let’s ask a better question. Hey, I have one: Anyone seen LeBron James? What happened to him? This James? The guy in these NBA Finals? Never seen him before. Never seen a LeBron James who refused to attack when someone like the shorter, slower, older Jason Kidd was guarding him. Never seen a LeBron who couldn’t make shots outside of 10 feet, or who wouldn’t get close enough to Jason Terry to stop him from shooting — and making — a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left on a night that Terry was locked in from long distance. This guy isn’t doing anything LeBron James did in the playoff series against Boston or Chicago, but the more I think about it, it’s him — the headband gives him away. He wears it at a tilt, but not because he’s sweating. Because he’s balding. The headband hides his receding hairline. And nothing can hide his receding game. The shrinkage continued in Game 5, shrinkage that started in Game 1 and Game 2, was mentioned after Game 3, and was acknowledged by most everyone else after Game 4. The shrinkage was so bad in Game 4 — James was so bad — that these 2011 NBA Finals stopped being about Miami and Dallas. Days ago the typical white noise generated by a championship series had been drowned out by the shrieking about LeBron.

Randy Galloway, Star-Telegram: It was another stretch run that seemed Hollywood scripted, which has become the norm in this series, and speaking of Hollywood, there was even bad acting by one of the NBA’s most noted actors, Dwyane Wade. His hip hurt. This is the same guy who blew off Dirk Nowitzki’s illness of Game 4 with “he’s a great player without all the dramatics.” What’s this? The drama queen of the league scoffing at someone else’s misfortune? Right back at ya, D-Wade. And where was your game when you were needed? With the Mavericks now up 3-2, the Heat will have to use home court, starting Sunday night in Miami, to rescue their egos and their reputations by winning twice.

Greg Stoda, Palm Beach Post: Before the game, the Heat insisted that it likes – wants? – the NBA Finals this way. It insisted that the challenge Dallas is providing makes more meaningful the emotional, psychological and physical tests Miami endured throughout the regular season and in earlier playoff rounds. Better, figured Wade, that adversity present itself. “That’s what we run on,” Wade said. “It wouldn’t feel right if it was (easy). “All the things we went through all year? If we had come out and won (4-0)? Really? All that for that? “This is what this team is used to. I always look forward to how we’re going to respond.” My guess is that there’s more rationalization than whole truth in those words, and the Heat is using whatever’s necessary to get through these worrisome nights. But it’s difficult to imagine Wade ever thinking that James would be at the root of Miami’s problems.

Mavs take Game 5

Dallas Mavericks’ Jason Terry celebrates a basket against the Miami Heat during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, June 9, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Up by three with 3:38 to play, the Heat were in position to steal Game 5, but the Mavs once again went on a late-game run, outscoring the Heat 15-3 over the final 18 possessions to take a 3-2 series lead.

Dirk Nowitzki led the way for the Mavs with 29 points and six boards, but the momentum swung on two big three pointers by Jason Kidd and Jason Terry; Terry hit his shot with 0:33 to play from about 26-feet with LeBron in his face. “The Jet” finished with 21 points, six assists and four rebounds. J.J. Barea (17 points, five assists) was terrific in the second half even though he eventually gave way to Terry, who closed the game.

All eyes were on LeBron James and while he registered a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists), he was awfully quiet in the fourth quarter (two points, 1-3 shooting), which will only increase the scrutiny that he’ll be under for the rest of the series. He did have four assists in the final quarter, but none were in the final six minutes. The Heat did a nice job of posting LeBron up in the first half, but didn’t go to it much in the final two quarters.

Dwyane Wade gutted out a hip injury for 23 points and eight assists, and the Heat really passed the ball well in the fourth quarter until the Mavs were able to tighten the screws. Chris Bosh had 19 points and 10 rebounds, but turned the ball over four times and missed two crucial free throws with less than four minutes to play.

The series moves back to Miami where the Heat face two elimination games to keep their title hopes alive. The momentum is with the Mavs, so their best chance to close out the series will be Game 6.

A cure for LeBron’s late-game blues

Miami Heat’s LeBron James pauses during a break in play against the Dallas Mavericks during Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Over the last few days, much has been written about LeBron James and his late-game performances in Game 3 and in Game 4. People say he has been too passive, disinterested, or that he doesn’t have the mental makeup to succeed in big moments.

I think the issue is with his involvement in the offense. In Game 2, LeBron controlled the ball late and wasn’t able to generate good shots. The Mavs won. In Game 3, Miami gave the ball to Dwyane Wade and let him do his thing. The Heat won. So in Game 4, they did the same thing, only Dallas was ready for it and Wade wasn’t nearly as productive down the stretch. The Heat lost. Criticism rained down on LeBron for his 3-of-11 shooting and his eight points.

But think about it — LeBron has been used to handling the ball on every possession for the last seven years. Suddenly, he’s spotting up on the wing watching Wade run a pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh and waiting for a pass that’s probably never going to come.

He’s not involved, and when he is involved, he’s running a version of Mike Brown’s drain-the-clock-and-force-a-bad-shot offense from his days in Cleveland. Or maybe Mike Brown is an offensive genius and LeBron refused to run his brilliant plays, who knows.

Regardless of the cause, here’s the solution: Go post, young man.

For years, I have been harping on LeBron for his lack of a post game. He’s a 6-8, strong-as-an-ox 250 lb small forward with terrific vision and passing skills and he refuses to go down to the block. Granted, he has posted up a little bit since arriving in Miami, but I haven’t seen it much (if at all) against the Mavs when he’s being guarded by the likes of Jason Kidd (6-4, 210 lbs) and Jason Terry (6-2, 180 lbs). LeBron’s unwillingness to post (or Spoelstra’s play-calling) is the reason the Mavs are able to get away with those matchups. So LeBron stands on the perimeter, covered by a guard who is used to covering people on the perimeter. How does this make sense?

As regular readers know, I played for (current Wisconsin coach) Bo Ryan while at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and his #1 offensive priority was to get the ball in the post. He preached that throwing the ball inside led to better quality shots and more free throws, leading to more efficient offense. And he was right. As the years went on, he became more willing to let knockdown three-point shooters do their thing, but the Heat don’t have many of those, so it’s not really relevant. (Why am I mentioning it? Because I was a knockdown three-point shooter who wasn’t allowed to do his thing. Grrr.)

Anyway, Spoelstra and LeBron could take a page from Bo’s book and run the offense through LeBron in the post. If he has a smaller guy on him, the Mavs would be forced to double-team or LeBron would be able to score at will (assuming he has any post moves, which is a big assumption). If the put Marion on him, he could setup in the mid-post, catch the ball and go.

But this strategy is predicated on the notion that LeBron and Co. have actually practiced this type of offense and it’s pretty clear that they haven’t, not enough to utilize it in the Finals, anyway.

The Heat may very well go on to win the Finals doing what they’re doing. If they do, I wouldn’t expect LeBron to suddenly become a serious post player. If they lose, perhaps he’ll be motivated enough to improve his game in the same way that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant did mid-career. Both players realized that they needed a way to punish teams for covering them with smaller defenders, and both players became excellent shooters/scorers in the post. LeBron would be able to add the extra dimension of passing out of the post as teams cheat or double.

A few years ago, LeBron said that playing on the block was “boring.” There’s still time for this leopard to change his spots, but perhaps it would take another Finals loss to finally convince LeBron to take his talents to the post.

Related Posts