Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NBA Update: The Mavs Tie It at Two

Well, give the Heat credit. After winning a close Game 3 -- and thereby regaining home court advantage -- it would have been tempting to not try so hard in this game and save everything for a big push in Game 5. But these teams have not held anything back so far, and Miami went for the knockout tonight. After three quarters, the Heat were up 69=65, and they must have been able to taste the NBA title. A 3-1 Heat lead, with Games 6 and 7 scheduled for Miami, surely would have been too much for Dallas to overcome.

But the Mavericks made another late charge. Here's what I think is happening. Dallas's stars -- Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd -- are significantly older than Miami's Big 3. I think Dallas is pacing itself through the first three quarters, and then pouring on the defensive pressure down the stretch. That pressure is extremely effective, because Miami has no good half-court offense. So the Mavs finished Game 2 on a 22-5 run that won that game. The Mavs almost came from behind to win Game 3, but Dwyane Wade scored just enough late points to hold them off. And tonight the Mavs outscored Miami 21-14 in the fourth quarter win this game by the score of 86-83.

The last few minutes of the game were painful for anyone who loves basketball. Wild, desperate heaves at the end of the shot clock. Silly turnovers. Silly fouls. Every possession looking more like a rugby scrum than a basketball game. Wade had the chance to tie the game at 82 with 35 seconds to go, but missed a key free throw. Miami had a chance to tie the game at the end, but messed up their in-bounds play and couldn't get a shot. Dallas, on the other hand, couldn't make any shots -- they shot 39 percent from the field and only 21 percent from three-point range.

I don't think anyone can say with confidence how this will end. These teams seem to be very evenly matched. The last three games have finished Dallas by 2, Miami by 2, Dallas by 3. Miami has the home court advantage, and that could prove to be the difference. If LeBron James (who had only 8 points tonight) could start making shots, Miami would be in much better shape, and LeBron is likely to shoot better at home. On the other hand, Miami's late-game offense is so terrible that it's hard to have too much confidence in them. We will all know a lot more after Game 5 on Thursday night. Given how ugly these games have been, I do not recommend watching the first three quarters. But given how hard the teams are playing, I do not recommend missing the fourth quarter.

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