Friday, June 3, 2011

NBA Update: The Hare Finally Trips Up

Throughout the playoffs, the Heat have defied the traditional wisdom about not turning your effort on and off. Time after time, the Heat have messed around until late in the game, only to bring the hammer down as needed in the fourth quarter. Twice, they faced late-game situations where the other team had the ball in a tie game for the last shot -- but both times LeBron James forced a bad shot, and the Heat won in overtime. But tonight, the Heat finally learned why children are taught the story of the tortoise and the hare.

In this game, the Heat followed their usual pattern. On their home floor, with 10:52 left in the game, they led Dallas by only 75-73. At this point, they went on a spectacular 13-0 run, putting themselves up 88-73 with 7:15 to go. The game seemingly in hand, they went back to sleep -- particularly on offense, where they wasted possession after possession. Meanwhile, the Mavs -- who have made a number of spectacular comebacks in the playoffs, including two big wins against the Lakers -- caught on fire. The Mavericks went on an amazing 20-2 run, taking a 93-90 lead with only 25 seconds left. The Heat called their last time out, and on the inbounds play, LeBron found Mario Chalmers all alone in the corner. Chalmers buried the shot to tie the game.

So once again the Heat found themselves tied, with the other team holding the ball for the last shot. The Mavericks, however, have more offensive options than the other teams Miami has played. The Mavs worked the ball to Dirk Nowitzki (24 pts and 11 rebounds in the game), who was being guarded one-on-one by Chris Bosh. Nowitzki did not settle for the fall-away jumper so often seen in these situations; he drove past Bosh for a game-winning layup with only 3 seconds left. A last desperate heave by Dwayne Wade failed, and the series was tied at one game apiece.

It is too early to tell what this means. For most of the last two games, the Heat have clearly seemed to be the better team. But the next three games of this series are in Dallas, and Mavericks are much more capable of scoring down the stretch than the Celtics or the Bulls.

One thing is for sure: if the Heat do lose this series, this game will be seen as the turning point.


  1. I've been reading the June 3, 1974, Sports Illustrated this week (Johnny Rutherford won the Indianapolis 500 from a ninth-row start!), and, of course, there is no basketball news because basketball season is over. But I went back to the May 20 edition, and John Havlicek is on the cover and the focus of the coverage of the Celtics' seven-game win over the Bucks. It appears, however, that the key to the deciding game was Boston's pulling center Dave Cowens (Newport, represent!) to the perimeter of its offense--a plan that Tommy Heinsohn drew up in advance of Game 7 in Milwaukee. The Celtics averaged 109 points a game during the regular season but had been held to 95, 96, 95, 89, 96 and 101 (in overtime) in the first six games of the series. In the seventh game, Cowens shot and passed well enough (he was eight-of-13 in the first half and finished with 28 points) that Kareem Abdul-Jabaar had to defend him tightly, and this kept the Bucks' 7-foot-2 center from clogging up things around the goal. Boston won 102-87 to give the Celtics their first championship since Bill Russell left the team.

  2. In the ABA, meanwhile, Julius Erving and the Nets won 12 of their 14 post-season games to win that championship.