The grandest of congratulations are in order for the 2010-2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. Tonight in Game Six, the Mavs finished their remarkable post-season run by closing out the Miami Heat, 105-95. Dallas, finishing the post-season 4-0 in close-out games, led almost throughout the contest. The game was characterized by opportunistic offenses, intelligent defense, short offensive bursts, and role players who carried most of the game on both ends of the court. Even so, Dirk Nowitzki deservedly won the Finals MVP, old-timer Jason Kidd finally got his ring, and a number of Mav veterans got personal victory after years of enduring defeat at various stages of their careers.
Go share the love with the victors at Mavs Moneyball .
Or, help the Miami fans mourn the Finals loss at Peninsula Is Mightier.
Both SB Nation sites did a great job covering these finals, and regardless of whether you're happy or sad tonight, both of these sites were instrumental for us all in enjoying the NBA to its fullest.
A few random thoughts on my Game Six predictions as I bask in the afterglow of a thoroughly enjoyable NBA Finals:
NBA fans were looking for a Heat loss.
Based on polling, it seems that there were definitely many more fans rooting for the Mavs than the Heat, and no doubt it is because of what happened in the off-season as much as anything. The Heat cast themselves as the villain. Even if they did not intend it, they still played this role well, and in the end, the villain has to be the guy who gets pinned by the hero.
Tyson Chandler was limited in effectiveness.
Tyson Chandler was greatly hindered throughout the game, and when he went out early with his 3rd and then 4th fouls, I expected that the Mavs would be in trouble. I did not think they had the bodies to keep Miami off the boards. However, just as Dallas has all season, coach Rick Carlisle moved his chess pieces around and figured out how to keep the Mavs competitive in this area. Dirk Nowitzki led everyone with 11 rebounds, Shawn Marion grabbed eight, Jose Barea grabbed three (2 of them offensive!), and seldom used Ian Mahimni chipped in with three rebounds of his own in 11 key minutes of play (and even scored a buzzer-beater at the end of the 3rd!). Chandler did what he could in his marginalized time, but in his absence everyone stepped up to let him know they had his back.
Miami did not sweat the details.
More than anything else in these Finals, including LeBron's soft play, I think that it was Miami's inability to take care of the minutia that cost them in the end. As I predicted, they looked pretty proficient for most of the night. They shot well (47.2%) and hit 7-23 from 3-point range. The Heat got key contributions from Mario Chalmers (18 points, 7 assists, 3 steals), Eddie House (3-6 from 3-point range), and Udonis Haslem (11 points, 9 rebounds). They even got to the free throw line with regularity (33 times). The big three was not terrible either, combining for 57 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 assists.
Unfortunately, all of this solid play was undone by sloppy play and wasted opportunity. Front and center is the missed free throws. Despite those 33 attempts, Miami missed 13 of them. Despite gathering nine offensive rebounds, Miami turned the ball over 16 times and took 10 fewer shots on goal than the Mavs. Lebron James, looking aggressive for the first time since Game One, turned the ball over six times. Dwyane Wade, suffering a let-down after several remarkable performances, turned the ball over five times on his own. All told, the three guys who dominated the ball the most, the three guys who staged a rock concert pep rally at the beginning of the season, turned the ball over 12 times and missed seven free throws. Those are two elements that this Heat trio could directly control through competent play, and they failed to do it.
Dallas beat the world.
The forces that were against Dallas:
- Dirk Nowitzki shot 1-12 in the first half and had a total of three points.
- Dallas ended up with 10 more fouls than the Heat.
- Miami took 15 more free throws than Dallas.
- Chandler was rendered inert for most of the game.
- For the briefest of moments, Miami looked like they had come to play. After falling behind 40-28, Miami went on a 14-0 run in the 2nd quarter to take the lead.
- Eddie House made a surprise appearance, and immediately got the crowd going with three 3-pointers in the first half. Dallas looked shaken.
- Nowizki responded with eight points in the 3rd and 10 in the 4th.
- Bench players stepped up in Dirk's absence - Jason Terry scored a game-high 27, Jose Barea had 15, Shawn Marion had 12, and DeShawn Stevenson had nine. In total, the team also shot 11-26 from 3-point range.
- After Miami's run and went up by four at 47-43, Dallas responded with a 10-4 run to finish the half up by two. They had averted Miami's last best threat. You could see it on their faces as they walked into half-time; the Heat threw their best punches and still could not solve Dallas.
- Dallas never trailed in the 2nd half, and as they pulled away Miami pulled up short. They knew they had been beaten by the better team.
Although I got just about everything wrong in predicting Game Six, at least I did get one thing right.
Dallas epitomized the concept of team.
Lastly, I personally feel that Dallas' win tonight marks one of the great post-season runs I've seen in a long time. As I watched the Mavs move forward, especially against the Lakers, I started to get a feeling that they were playing the best basketball of any team still competing. This assessment was confirmed when they took out a very talented Thunder team, 4-1. The one thing that stood out, other than the man Dirk himself, was how Dallas always had the perfect mix of coaching, personnel, and performance to deal with whatever got thrown their way. This inner trust manifested itself at its best when the stakes were highest. I thought that Miami was more talented, but that they were lacking in this one area, and for that, they could be beaten. Despite the pressure and the odds against them, Dallas never folded and now can finally be considered the best in the NBA.
Congratulations to the Mavericks and Mavs fans everywhere. You're the best. Job, well done.