["What he did? Told them he cut his eye ... in sparring." -Wu-Tang Clan, Bells of War]
I kept telling myself, even Tweeting, when Miami was looking like unstoppable beasts for all but about seven minutes of NBA Finals game two, “Is Dallas the type of team you don’t want to let hang around?”
Of course they are. The Mavs are a unit well-versed in veteran composure, lest they would have had a seven game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. But Miami isn’t Oklahoma, in so many senses.
Late in the game, after countless amazing dunks with little defensive resistance, Miami finally pulled away and took an 88-73 lead on a Dwayne Wade three. After nailing the shot near Dallas’ bench, Wade held his follow through and slowly walked toward his own bench, as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had called a timeout. LeBron came over to give Wade celebratory chest jabs.
At that point, we all thought it was just about over… and I’m taking the entire series, not just the game. I wasn’t quite traveling toward the doomsday scenario of the Heat shutting down league competition (lockout and team parity be damned) with unforeseen future domination, but figured that they were the scariest, most unimaginable basketball animals alive and the Mavericks were simply prey in their territory.
I then thought back to the first quarter. After a Miami turnover midway through, the ball found itself in Shawn Marion’s hands with mostly open court in front of him. Well, when LeBron has an angle in transition, you can’t say “mostly” — but Marion didn’t attack the basket on the break against the bigger foe with reckless abandon, as LeBron or many other NBA players larger than 6’6” would do. It was a game of calculation and deception with Marion able to deftly sneak past LeBron for a quick layup because his intentions, aside from wanting to score, were relatively hidden.
Sure, James already had one foul (and three turnovers) at that point six minutes into the game. And sure, James wasn’t chasing the block from behind like he’s done successfully so many times before. Still, thinking back to that one instance when it all but looked like Miami’s game midway through the fourth period, it seemed like a rare instance where the lamb just happened to be able to escape the wolf.
But if Miami was so dominant, why was Dallas allowed to “hang around” (even lead) for most of the game? The game was tied at 28 after one quarter, the largest lead being 12-6 Dallas. The game was tied at 51 after one half, the largest lead being 51-42 Dallas (Miami closed the second on a 9-0 run in the final three minutes). The Heat led 75-71 after three quarters, their largest lead in the period coming at 71-61 before the Mavs closed on a 10-4 run in the final three minutes.
The Heat can’t look so easy on the eyes with dunks and a show worthy of an All-Star game and still not be blowing the game wide open. ‘What was Miami doing wrong?’, I wondered.
What was Dallas doing wrong? They looked sloppy. They looked like the scars from the 2006 Finals, along with the vagabond, non-championship careers of other team veterans had been magically removed by a new-age product. Dallas finished the game with 20 team turnovers (Nowitzki and Kidd had five each) that led to 30 Heat points (almost a third of the Miami points). Those are Washington Wizards numbers.
After that Wade three and the subsequent Dallas timeout at the 7:14 mark of the fourth, the Mavs committed just one turnover that didn’t lead to any Miami points. And all of a sudden, Dallas went from the sloppy blood bath of trying to gut and clean a chicken with a plastic knife to the precision of patient butchers with the finest Honyaki knives. Their 22-5 run to close game two 95-93 in South Beach could go down as one of the epic NBA Finals memories in my lifetime (Dallas has to win first, of course.) If there’s a patience switch, the Dallas Mavericks players and coaches have it on their chest.
And the basketball beasts of the Miami Heat? Those who like for every little thing they do to be seen on the scene and the big screen at levels equal to their talent? (You know, LeBron-a-Thon stuntin’ on the jumbo-tron…)
Well, they were reduced to animals on the chopping block. The calculated German butcher won. And I think Dwyane Wade cut his eye, at least that’s what he wants you to think. Maybe he should put a cold slab of meat on that.