The series turned 180 degrees from that point on.
Led by Nowiktzki, the Mavericks ended the game on a 20-3 run and stole game number two. My friend texted me immediately after saying “I’m so glad we actually have a series on our hands now.” From that point on, every game in that series was worthy of being shown over and over again on ESPN classic.
Charles Barkley once said “you know a series is over when you play your best and the other team still beats you.” What’s amazing about this series is that moment never happened for either team.
Just when you thought the Heat were down and out, Mario Chalmers would step up and heave up a buzzer –beater or two from half court, proving he’s not a one shot wonder from his time at Kansas.
Just when you thought the Mavs’ big one couldn’t counter Miami’s big three, Jason Terry comes off the bench and provides 27 points, making pull-up jumpers look like layups.
When you thought the games couldn’t get any better, they did. I was a doubter myself, after Bosh hit the game winner in game three, my Facebook status read “games 4-7 in this series will not match the excitement and intensity of this one.”
For once in my life, I couldn’t be happier to be proven wrong.
This series was so enthralling to watch, it’s as if David Stern scripted it.
In a series we expected the superstars to dictate, a few unsuspecting role players were able to influence the series each in their own way.
Who would’ve thought JJ Barea would influence the NBA finals like no little man has done since Allen Iverson in 2000. Barea was so effective that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admitted their game plan was to guard Barea in the same manner they contained Chicago’s Derrick Rose. Rick Carlisle’s decision to insert Barea into the starting lineup solved the Mavericks’ perpetual struggle to come out of the gates strong.
Carlisle also made another decision that left fans scratching their heads: by giving Brian “the custodian” Cardinal major minutes. When Cardinal hit a three, I started laughing; as the series progressed Cardinal made sure everyone took him seriously by taking charges, out-hustling the other nine guys on the court and being a thorn in the side of Chris Bosh. Dare I say it, but Coach Carlisle’s looked like the best coach in the playoffs this year.
For the Heat, it was the opposite; the supporting cast they signed to complement the big three didn’t show up while the Mavericks’ bench was able to provide things like a 17 point turnaround in game six with Dirk sitting with two early fouls.
Udonis Haslem wasn’t the Haslem we saw in the Chicago series. Mike Bibby was such a liability that Spoelstra had to bench him for the full 48 minutes in game six in favour of Eddie House. Mike Miller looked distracted by his family issues, and was a non-factor.
We haven’t even talked about LeBron yet; the man who took his talents to South Beach in the off-season, for a shot at a championship with two superstars.
Besides his incredible poster of Mahinmi in game three, and his triple-double in game five, LeBron was largely invisible, especially in the fourth quarter.
Jokes began surfacing the internet about the self-proclaimed “Chosen One’s” disappearing act in the fourth quarter.
“I saw Lebron James & asked for $1. He gave me $.75. I said where’s the rest? He replied, ‘I don’t have a 4th quarter’,” @postsecret tweeted.
Another tweeter posted, “we should all be like LeBron and take the last twelve minutes of work off.”
What was especially interesting was when Wade went down with a hip injury in game five, he returned almost immediately. To me, that was Wade sending a message indirectly to LeBron, making sure LeBron knows “this is still my team and I don’t trust you to lead my Miami Heat to a victory in the biggest game of the season. So even if I’m 70 per cent, I’m coming back out there because I know you can’t do it alone, as we all saw in Cleveland.”
In the most enthralling series of the decade, LeBron was the biggest loser.
Ultimately, Dallas’ complete team effort trumped Miami’s individual play.
Lest we forget, this was also Mark Jackson’s final series in the broadcast booth. By agreeing to coach the Golden State Warriors, the constantly entertaining triumvirate of Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen is prematurely broken up. Let’s cross our fingers that Shaq has already inquired about taking Jackson’s place.
As the series came to a close, Breen called this series the ultimate roller coaster ride.
I’ll take you one further Mr. Breen. This has been the best series I’ve ever watched in my young life, better than the 2009 Bulls and Celtics series, only because that didn’t nearly have as much riding on the line; and better than the 2004 Lakers and Spurs series by a hair because it didn’t only provide one unforgettable moment (Fish’s 0.4 shot), it provided enough to last us through the summer.
Game six was bittersweet, I wanted to see LeBron lose again but I didn’t want to see this series come to an end.
So congratulations are in store for Mark Cuban and his Dallas Mavericks, but we all know Kobe was watching this series somewhere with revenge on his mind.