Wrapping up the 2011 NBA Playoffs

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.

Laughing at LeBron

Miami Heat’s LeBron James (C) drives through Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki and Brian Cardinal (R) during Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Dan Wetzel from Yahoo! Sports sums up the mood in Cleveland very well after watching the LeBron James meltdown in the Finals:

Late Sunday night, a crowd of Clevelanders gathered here to watch their onetime hero turned all-time traitor, and with each disinterested LeBron offensive possession, each failed LeBron chase down of Jason Terry, each embarrassing LeBron crunch-time turnover, the prevailing emotion was simple.

Laughter.

They weren’t hating LeBron here. They were laughing at him.

LeBron started it, of course, laughing at Cleveland nearly a year ago when he took himself to a Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut of all places to announce on national television that he was taking his talents to South Beach. That South Beach has about a million nightclubs and technically no basketball arena said it all.

So on Sunday, Cleveland laughed right back.

All over Flannery’s and places like it across Ohio, they cracked oft-told jokes. (“I asked LeBron for a dollar, he gave me 75 cents back. He doesn’t have a fourth quarter.”) They showed pictures on their cell phones mocking LeBron as a quitter. Bartenders rang bells and shouted things like, “Last call for LeBron.”

He’s right. I watched it and I was laughing away throughout the fourth quarter. We saw LeBron’s limitations under pressure, but everyone else around the country bought into LeBron’s excuses. His teammates weren’t good enough. They didn’t rise to the occasion. He couldn’t win in Cleveland.

Well, he couldn’t win with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh either. And he wilted. His performance was an embarrassment.

If you want to understand how people felt in Cleveland, read the entire article.

And as Wetzel said at the end of his column, “LeBron James had the right to leave. And Cleveland has the right to laugh.”

Miami breaks losing streak by upending Lakers, 94-88

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade (L) and Chris Bosh celebrate after scoring against the Los Angeles Lakers during fourth quarter NBA basketball action in Miami, Florida March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The little things that were going wrong down the stretch for the Miami Heat during their five-game losing streak didn’t go wrong tonight. Dwyane Wade had eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Heat got a few breaks on the defensive end — Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ non-goaltend, the no-call on Wade’s baseline reach-in on Kobe and LeBron’s box-out flop against Artest — and Miami was able to get one giant monkey off its back.

After a fairly nightmarish game against the Blazers on Tuesday (along with some fairly inappropriate grumbling about the quality of his looks), Chris Bosh came up big, posting 24 points and nine rebounds, outplaying Pau Gasol, who posted 20 points and five boards. Mike Miller (12 points, seven rebounds) was also big off the bench and Mike Bibby (six points) chipped in with two key three-pointers in the second half.

For his part, LeBron James (19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) didn’t shoot the ball all that well, but his near-triple-double was crucial to the Heat’s success. He made a great decision with 2:49 to play with the Heat nursing a one-point lead. After Wade retrieved his own miss, he kicked it out to LeBron, who had a wide open three, but was 0-for-3 on the night. Instead of taking the open shot, LeBron waited for Wade to get open on the baseline and found him for the easy score. It was a mature play to pass up his own so-so shot to create a great shot for his teammate.

Kobe had 24 points, but after making his first four shots, he went just 4-of-17 for the remainder of the game. Wade did a nice job of staying in his grill and forcing him to take tough shots.

This is a huge win for the Heat, who can finally stop answering questions about why they’re playing so poorly. They host the Grizzlies on Saturday while the Lakers have to visit the Mavericks in Dallas.

Is Chris Bosh justified in complaining about role?

Miami Heat Forward Chris Bosh (1) during 1st half action against The New York Knicks at the American Airlines Arena, in Miami Florida, December 28,2010. The Miami Heat beat the New York Knicks 106-98.. UPI/Susan Knowles…

After the Heat’s loss to the Blazers on Tuesday, Chris Bosh grumbled about the types of shots he’s getting. (ESPN)

“I just have to get it where I’m effective. I’m a big man. I can shoot the ball but I’m a big man. So I have to get it where big guys get it. Then I feel I can start helping out this team more.”

“I’ve got to get back in my comfort zone, I haven’t been in my comfort zone,” Bosh said. “A lot of things are new for me. I just have to be more aggressive in demanding my [the ball] comfort zone, you know I’ll take the fault for that… I’m effective down in the low post area, so that is where I need to start getting the ball. I need to be assertive in demanding it.”

“I’m saying what I need to do as a player, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” Bosh said. “I’m uncomfortable now so you might as well do something else. If there’s a disagreement or something, that’s fine, we can talk about it. If they don’t want that, that’s OK, but I just feel that I have to be my normal self. I’m not there right now. I haven’t been there many times this season.”

All right, so he’s a big guy and he wants the ball on the post. That’s all well and good, but he said this back in October…

“I never really like to bump against people that are a lot, lot bigger than me,” Bosh said in October. “I’m not the biggest guy in the world. Coach is going to put him in that position sometimes. He’s not going to hang me out to dry. He’s going to put me in there when we have an advantage.”

That sure doesn’t sound like a guy who wants to be fed the ball on the block. I always thought that he was more effective at the mid-post or the elbow, where he could hit the little jumper or go by the defender.

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Chris Webber breaks it down for Erik Spoelstra [video]

He doesn’t start making sense until the 0:30 mark, but from that point on it’s a good monologue.

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