Mavs Give Miami The Finger In Game 2
The Miami Heat fans tossed their white towels in the air, a South Beach new-tradition sign of certain victory. One Miami Heat star positioned himself in front of the Dallas bench and posed, Dwyane Wade sculpting a flesh-and-blood tribute to himself as he let his flicked wrist freeze in the air. The other Miami Heat star joined him, LeBron James bumping and grinding the way the kids do now after huge victories – and few are more large than one that gives Miami a 2-0 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.
Just one problem: There was no 2-0 lead. Because there was still a half-a-quarter left in the game.
"Watching them celebrate like that was disheartening for us," said Jason Terry – who then joined Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavs to stage one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Playoffs history, storming back for a 95-93 victory featuring the overcoming of a 15-point deficit with …. Remaining thanks to a truly incredible 20-2 run to close the game.
"No, no celebration,'' claimed LeBron, before adding an accidental admission of sorts. "That's something we've done all year. … That word ("celebration'') has been used about us all year ...''
Yes. We have used that word to describe Miami's behavior all season.
Because that's the way the Heat has behaved all season.
There are lessons to be learned and maybe some guys are too young to know or too gifted to care. But I know what I saw. Miami was igniting an Auerbach cigar, hanging a "Mission: Accmplished'' banner, swearing in President Dewey, registering for wedding presents before saying "I do.''
Somebody almost certainly was texting Kevin Durant, requesting an overnight delivery of his invisible championship belt.
I know what I saw and the Dallas Mavericks know what they saw, too.
"(Wade) followed through and left the hand up,'' Jason Kidd said.
"I was right behind them, so I saw the celebration,'' Said Terry.
"He's celebrating in front of our bench and I think it angered a lot of us,'' said Tyson Chandler, including the word "showboating'' in his description of the LeBron/Wadebehavior.
Dirk Nowitzki said "my head was down'' so he didn't see the foolishness. No problem. He was busy offering up his own symbolic gesture.
He gave Miami the finger.
Nowitzki scored 24 total and the last nine in the game, cherry-on-topped by a go-left spinning drive-and-layin over a befuddled Chris Bosh (he didn't know Dirk, even with a torn tendon on his southpaw middle finger, lives for the lefty?) with 3.6 seconds left to give Dallas the win.
"That was a big play," Dirk mumbled.
"I played with (Larry) Bird when he was the best player in the world," said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. "Guys like that don't feel pain right now. If you're feeling pain, you make yourself numb."
It will be argued that Miami now feels numb … or maybe dumb … but I doubt it. Yes, they were ahead 88-73 when the figurative parade route was being blueprinted. And yes, the 2-3-2 setup of the best-of-seven Finals suggests that Dallas' two-game split in Miami provides the Mavs "control of the series.'' And yes, Dirk declaring that his finger "feels good'' is a bullet dodged for Dallas.
"I thought it wasn't going to bother me, and it didn't," The UberMan said. "I was able to get a good grip on the ball. … Still didn't shoot the ball the way I wanted to … I gotta be sharper in Game 3 if we want to have chance.''
Indeed, Dirk missed seven of his first 10 shots. Maybe that's why Miami was comfortable with Bosh on him the end instead of Udonis Haslem, why Miami didn't blanket him with double-teams, why they didn't use the foul they had to give to force Dallas to re-start in the final seconds.
"At the time," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra explained, "they had carved us up enough on that, we left some open shooters and they made us pay. We tried to do it with our normal defense."
In other words, Spoelstra was counting on "Deferential Dirk.'' Instead he got the "Demanding Dirk'' that has made Nowitzki the MVP of these players.
So why do I doubt that Miami feels numb or dumb? Hey, didn't you see how spectacular LeBron's fadeaway 3's were? Didn't you note Wade's breathtaking dunkathon on the way to 36 points? Didn't you see the celebratory towels and the cool dancing and the stagy posing? Don't all us idiot sports fans get all your knowledge from highlight reels?
But Dallas? Dallas knows.
The Mavericks were down 16 in the third quarter of Game 1 against the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs and won. In Game 3 of that series, they were down seven with 5:05 left and won. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals they were down 15 with 5:05 left and won, stealing Durant's pretend belt. In Game 5 of that series they were down seven with 5:48 left and won.
And here … down 15 with 7:13 remaining. "Hang in, hang around, keep believing,'' Carlisle told his team in a huddle that gathered just moments after and feet away from the very spot where the Miami Heat had celebrated a Dallas loss that never happened.