When the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat made the finals , I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if Dallas were able to beat the Heat and exorcise their demons from 2006. Not that I ( or the experts ) gave them much of a chance. The Heat had looked awesome demolishing the Celtics and the Bulls in the earlier rounds and , while the Mavericks had played well too , it seemed a tall order for them to upend Miami . After the first game , won handily by Miami , a Dallas victory did not seem in the cards . Then the Mavericks won the second game and ,after a momentary stutter , won the next three in a row to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Not only did the Mavericks win , they won going away. While all the games were closely contested , last night’s series clinching victory was the easiest by far and the final margin ( 10 points) was the largest yet. As in the previous game , it was a close contest until the Mavericks pulled away in the fourth quarter. This time , the outcome was apparent halfway through the quarter as Miami seemed to panic. I couldn’t believe my eyes as the Heat players , Wade and James included, unravelled under pressure throwing away the ball , taking low percentage shots and being out of position for rebounds . Meanwhile the Mavericks grew stronger contesting every shot , snaring offensive rebounds , bailing out each other. It was wonderful to see how the Dallas defense rotated towards the ball forcing Miami into hurried long-range shots and limiting them to a single shot on each trip down the court. Dirk Nowitzki , whose shooting had been off, began to make his shots and Jason Terry seemed to drain every shot he took. Meanwhile , the Heat’s outside shooting, which had been effective in the first quarter , let them down and the Mavericks pulled away to a well deserved victory . The Mavericks won because they played as a team ; the Heat lost because they became a bunch of jump shooters.
While my distaste for Lebron James is no secret , I must say that my happiness at the Mavericks victory is first because they ( and Dirk and the two Jasons , Terry and Kidd) got their first championship , and that too in such style. Only secondly is it because Miami( and LeBron ) lost.
Like many others , I too had written off Dirk as another soft, jumpshooting European player who wilted under pressure. Boy , did he ever prove us wrong ! After his performance in these finals , no one is ever going to lay that charge on him again . As for the two Jasons , Jason Kidd was thought to be too old and too slow and Jason Terry a streak shooter who came apart when the going got tough . Last night , they proved us wrong . Terry carried the team offensively when Nowitzki went cold and also gave LeBron fits on defense. Jason Kidd was a steadying influence on the team , kept cool under pressure and hit big shots when called upon . Everyone on the team chipped in and the bench came alive in the last three games. Barea played great when pressed into service as a starter , Marion played the series of his life at age 33 and Deshawn Stevenson backed up his trash talk by hitting some big threes yesterday and playing some tough defense. Yes , it truly was a team effort .
And what about Miami ?
Even for one who had watched James check out in the fifth game of the Cavaliers- Boston series last year , his disappearance in the fourth quarter of Games 3, 4 and 5 of this series was a mystery. It was even more mystifying because he HAD played well in the earlier series against the Celtics and the Bulls.One such performance can be written off but three … no way. His performance these last three games will taint his ” legacy” , perhaps even after he wins his first championship or two . He is a good player … No , scratch that , he is a great player with tremendous physical gifts but for him to live up to his self styled nickname of “The King”,he has to take Miami on his shoulders and be the linchpin of a championship team . He can’t play second fiddle to Dwyane Wade and expect to be mentioned in the same breath as MJ or Kobe .. or even Dirk.
I truly like Dwyane Wade who is all the things that LeBron is not . He steps up when the game is on the line and he is not afraid to take the big shots . He is also an exciting player and it is wonderful to watch his slashing drives to the basket. That said , it is sad to see him making the same mistakes as LeBron . His and LeBron’s mocking of Dirk Nowitzki was illadvised and, last night, he too seemed to fall apart in the fourth quarter. For his sake , I hope he takes stock of himself , concentrates on his game and influences LeBron and not the other way around.
As a LeBron hater, I thought I would be over the moon to see him lose and be taken down a peg. Curiously , that is not the case. Oh , I’m happy enough that he and Miami lost but not as much as I thought I would be . The last week or so has brought the realisation that while he is immature and arrogant and selfish and too cocky by far , he is not really mean spirited . Even his mockery of Dirk’s illness is a sign of his self-absorption , his stupid immaturity rather than sheer nastiness. This is a kid who came straight out of high school to the NBA , immediately got a huge contract from Nike and even more millions from the Cavaliers who then did him no favors by acceding to his every whim . In addition, he was surrounded by sycophants who kept telling him how great he was . Is it any wonder that he has turned out the way he has ? Still , he’s not yet 27 and can turn things around if only he concentrates on basketball , rather than thinking about his place in NBA history or about how many championships he is going to win.
The Heat came close this year and they would have won if the Big Three had been on the same page . Providing D.Wade remains healthy ( the other two are less injury prone ) , they will be serious contenders for years to come . Pat Riley hates to lose and he can be relied upon to do whatever he can to bring a championship to Miami. He did a great job as GM this year in assembling this Heat team in spite of payroll restrictions . Given the presence of D.Wade, LBJ and Bosh on the team there will be any number of aging stars willing to take a pay cut as they chase that elusive ring. Even without real size at center , the Heat were a great defensive team this year . Perhaps , even more than a big man in the middle , what they need is a veteran point guard who can bring some poise to the team when the game is on the line and lessen the burden on James.
As for Dallas , owner Mark Cuban and his GM have craftily put together a good team whose members mesh well with each other . Their closeness and trust was evident in the playoffs as they played unselfishly picking each other up when necessary. Let’s not forget that they played most of the year without SF Caron Butler and that C Brendan Haywood was a non-factor in the Miami series . True , their core of veterans is aging but they should come back strong next year.
Even so , Miami and Dallas are by no means shoo-ins for repeat appearances in the finals . In the East , Chicago is an up and coming team and Orlando can be expected to retool and mount a challenge . In the West , the Lakers have a solid, if aging , core and are a threat as long as Kobe Bryant is healthy . Oklahoma City and Portland are teams on the rise and Denver will be dangerous. No , there are no runaway favorites for next year and that’s what makes it fun , isn’t it ?