THE DALLAS DEFIBRILLATOR: It was over. Dirt was being shoveled over the corpse of the Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki season. Misguided echoes questioning the legacy of Dirk Nowitzki were heard snaking their way through the Metroplex. Thousands were angrily searching rosters to see what a trade may bring in return for Jason Terry. This wasn't the Oklahoma City Thunder, this wasn't the Los Angeles Lakers, and this wasn't the Pismo Beach Panthers.
This was the Miami Heat. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN TV SPECIALS! And a comeback wasn't in the cards.
Dallas was down 15 with 7:13 to play, as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James once more took to premature celebration (honestly, do they ever even get the condom on?) directly in front of Jason Terry and the Mavs bench, when something happened.
Whether it was conceived in a spark of anger, or a cosmic chain of dominoes falling at the perfect rhythm, something snapped.
Clear … We have life.
An arc of electricity found its way through the skin to connect the defibrillator to the heart of the Mavs. Jason Terry responded immediately with a personal 6-0 run, Shawn Marion added a layup, Jason Kidd drained a three, one more jumper from Terry and the game found it's way into Dirk's remarkable hands.
The UberMan was 6-of-17 from the floor with three minutes to play. But he would miss only once more (a LeBron James block) and score the final nine points for Dallas to put the game away, including a final spin around Chris Bosh, slight hesitation, then directly to the left side of the rim, where he finished with his left hand, ignoring whatever pain emanated from the torn tendon in his middle finger … and forever erasing any questions over his "clutch" abilities, or misguided accusations of being "soft."
Dirk finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one block … and the Mavs had tied the series after an improbable 95-93 victory. The final seconds:
THE TOP STORY: The breach of South Beach.
As chronicled above, with the game seemingly put away, the Mavs lifted the cover from a coffin short one nail from being sealed. With Wade and James celebrating, even if they pretend "celebrating" isn't the correct term, Jason Terry looked on as the fire spread through his teammates.
"I mean, (Wade) celebrated in front of our bench," Tyson Chandler said, offering up the word "showboating'' to make his case. "I think it angered a lot of us, and, you know, we came out there with a spark."
More than a spark, they emerged from the timeout with enough juice to feed an entire city grid.
It was Jason Terry who kicked it off, doing more than enough to erase over than three quarters of poor basketball (to put it kindly), by scoring eight of his 16 points in the final 6:18; but it was Dirk Nowitzki who put the game to bed.
With three minutes to play, Dirk was 6-of-17 for 15 points. In the final 2:44 he was 4-of-5 and scored the final nine Dallas points.
Let's run through those shots, each as big and with as much pressure as any shot in basketball can be.
*An 18-foot jumper with 3:44 to play closed the gap to two on an assist from Jason Terry. After two defenders left Dirk alone to double the ball, Jet made the smart pass … on time, and The UberMan did the rest with a smooth release over a charging defender.
*57 seconds to play: Terry came up with a steal and made another smart pass ahead to Shawn Marion; the Mavs were in the midst of a 3-on-1 break. Chris Bosh took a step towards Marion, so instantly he fed Dirk, who finished the 3-on-1 break with his left hand to tie the game at 90.
*26.7 seconds to play: Once again, the ball started with Terry. Dirk came around a beautiful screen from Tyson Chandler, preventing Udonis Haslem from contesting as Nowitzki set his feet behind the 3-point line and rose … nothing but net and the Mavs are up three.
*Then, just as we were all ready to forgive Terry his struggles, he unleashed a huge mental error, leaving Mario Chalmers wide open in the right corner.
"I don't even want to tell you what (Dirk) was saying in the huddle," Terry said. "Lot of curse words, because that was my mistake, it was my error that left Chalmers wide open for three, but as we got ourselves together we got composed, we knew what we wanted to get accomplished on the offensive end. Dirk knew it was coming to him, and he does what Dirk always does. He comes through in a big way."
A sidebar here -- and one of the beauties of our association with FoxSports and of your involvement as a Premium Mavs Fan: Our watching companion for the game was the legendary Nancy Lieberman with Nancy and Fish serving as the studio analysts for FoxSports Southwest.) Coach Lieberman's view is that a Mavs player may have yelled "switch'' and may have done so wrongly/prematurely, causing Jet to run to the top of the key in anticipation of where Wade was going rather than sticking with his own man, Chalmers.
So even as Jet is taking the blame, a member of the Mavs coaching family is wondering whether it was more of a team error. ...
*24.5 seconds to play: The ball was inbounded to Jason Kidd, who calmly bled 14 seconds from the clock. Terry set a pick to give Dirk enough room to receive the pass with 10 seconds to play and Chris Bosh between The UberMan and a win … not enough.
Using a spin, Dirk closed the space between his starting point and the goal, gave a slight hesitation and then moved with heavy determination to the left side of the rim, rose over the late contest from Haslem, and finished gracefully off the glass to put the Mavs up by two with 3 seconds to play.
For a split second, I just played bad defense and it cost us two points," Bosh said.
Well, yeah. Why wasn't Bosh shading Dirk's fave driving path, his left? But more, why was Bosh on Dirk instead of Haslem? And how painfully slow were Haslem and Wade to come help? And one more thing, Miami ...
"I thought they might foul and we'd have to take it out of bounds," Nowitzki said, aware that Miami had a foul to give (apparently more aware than Miami was).
YOUR NBA HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE: Enjoy.
QUOTEBOARD: More to come in the morning ... here's a sampler:
"If I think things are going on out there that aren't fair, I'm going to fight for them. That's just how I do business." -- Rick on getting a T.
*"We always believe that we could come back regardless of the score. The game is over when the final buzzer rings." - 'Trix.
That left hand? It may have given Dirk problems that he's unwilling to concede.
Said Jet: "I don't know how that finger felt, but I know he didn't care. He was going to do whatever it took to win."
Hey, there's nothing to say some of 6-of-18 shooting start wasn't impacted by the torn tendon on the middle finger or the tape/brace created by trainer Casey Smith to protect it. Yet, in the final moments, it was a forgotten handicap as The UberMan finished with his left twice, and dribble-drove left in the game's biggest moment.
THANK YOU SHAWN MARION: As the stage continues to grow, so does the impact of Marion. He's not only being asked to defend LeBron James, or Wade at times, he's become the Mavs' second-leading scorer in the Finals.
After 16 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1 he took another step forward with 20 points (9-of-14 field goals), eight rebounds, one steal, one block and three assists in Game 2.
It hurts to ponder where the Mavs would be in this series without the work of the Matrix. He's given the team everything they could possibly have asked for, and then some.
If there's anything in the Dallas offensive attack that Miami may have not expected it has to be the play of ‘Trix. For the series, he is now averaging 18 points while hitting 57.7 percent of his shots to go with nine rebounds through two games.
We might argue that it's an imperfect sign when 'Trix is your No. 2 scorer. But we nitpick.
THE OTHER INJURY NEWS: Brendan Haywood left early in the fourth quarter with what is being reported as a strained right hip flexor.
His stats may not jump from the page, but Haywood has been a key member of the Mavs rotation, allowing the interior defense to maintain its length and force when Chandler sits. Two days off come before Game 3 in Dallas Sunday. If Big Wood can't go, or is extremely limited by the injury, it will hurt.
A little more Cardinal, who played one minute on Thursday? The Ianimal ordered to get ready in a hurry?
"We're deep,''Carlisle said. "Depending on Haywood, we may have to go deeper.''
Tyson Chandler played very well for the majority of the night, including bringing the battle within the paint to the Heat, and totaled 13 points, seven rebounds (including four offensive boards – only two less than the entire Miami team) and a steal … but he also reminded us of just how important Haywood can be as Ty battled late foul trouble. Had he picked up his sixth, Dallas would have been in a dangerous position of either being forced to go small or try their hand with Ian Mahinmi.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PEJA: When looking over some of Peja Stojakovic's numbers, we noticed what might be the beginning of a disturbing trend. Is Peja wearing down?
He has now played in 17 consecutive games, something he had not done this season. There have been the extended breaks between series that almost mirror "games missed" but not entirely … maybe we'll call this a wash with the raised level of intensity present in the playoffs.
After joining the Mavs, Peja played 506 regular-season minutes over the course of 25 games (averaging 20.2 minutes per game), while sitting an additional 14 contests.
Prior to Thursday's Game 2, Peja had played 339 playoff-minutes over the course of 16 games (averaging 21.2 minutes per game).
Breaking this down to a per-day figure, Peja played 6.3 minutes per calendar day for the Mavs in the regular season, and was up to 7.4 minutes per calendar day in the playoffs (prior to Game 2).
He hasn't made more than a single 3-pointer since Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, and has hit only two of his last 13 tries behind the arc … and didn't get off an attempt in five brutal minutes Thursday night.
Things were bad enough that Peja did not check in after the intermission, and Brian Cardinal was handed his minutes.
When the Mavs get home and resume practice, we plan to re-examine this issue with the help of coaches and hopefully Peja himself.
THE BATTLE OF THE BENCHES: Jason Terry played three-and-a-half quarters of atrocious offensive basketball. He seemed rattled and out of sync. You may point to the fact that LeBron shut him down, and he did for brief stretches, but Terry also failed to muster effective play while being checked by Mario Chalmers.
Almost six minutes into the fourth quarter, Terry was 2-of-8 for eight points. He was worse than a non-factor on offense, though he wasn't as bad on the defensive end.
For the final 6:18 he was 3-of-3 to put up eight more points … including providing the spark to ignite the Dallas improbable 22-5 run to close the game.
JJ Barea was only 2-of-7 from the floor, but provided a needed lift in the first half, when he scored all five of his points. And hey … 2-of-7 is better than 1-of-8, right?
Peja gave nothing (literally no stats beyond one turnover and minutes played) and Haywood left injured.
As a whole, the bench was better, but still not up to form – scoring 23 points on 8-of-20 attempts as a group, up from 17 in Game 1. The difference was in holding the Miami bench to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. In our preview of Game 2, was asked how much of a difference just raising the play of the bench to slightly below their average efficiencies would make … we may have our answer.
From being outscored by 10 in Game 1 to outscoring the Heat's bench by 12 in Game 2 … definite improvement, but with room for more.
MAVSELLANEOUS: That hesitation Dirk used to shake Bosh on the game-winner? It's a clever change-of-speed thing. Just like a slow wide receiver in football, slowing down even more causes the defender to move at that pace -- and then the WR/Dirk speeds back up again. The Hesistation Move. ... LeBron scored an "incredible'' 20 points. Same as Marion. LeBron also scored an epic two points in the final quarter, which is just two more than Dexter Pittman scored ... The Heat now travel to Big D for the next three games in a 1-1 tie in these best-of-seven NBA Finals. Supposely that means the Mavs are now "in charge.'' Does it not feel that way to you, or are we just feeling MavVirus'y? ... Maybe Miami should dance less and practice FTs more. The Heat was 16-of-24 from the line.
THE NUMBERS GAME: Let's crunch.
*Miami used a 13-0 run to build their 15-point lead with 7:14 to play. As they celebrated, Dallas used a 22-5 run to close the game out with a win.
*Per Elias, no team has come back from down 15 points in the fourth quarter of a Finals game since 1992, when the Bulls did it to Portland -- well, until the Mavs did just that in Game 2, that is.
*Beginning with Terry's bucket at 6:18 remaining the Mavs hit 9-of-10 shots and grabbed seven rebounds. The Heat went 1-of-10 from the floor and collected only two boards.
*Miami closed the first half on a 9-0 run to tie a game it felt like they were winning by 30. The Heat opened the third quarter and quickly pushed their run to 29-10 while building a 10-point lead.
*Dallas gave away 20 turnovers that led to 31 Heat points. 12 of those turnovers came in the second half, with six coming in each of the third and fourth quarters.
*The rebounding totals were much improved. The final tally was 41 (11 offensive) boards for Dallas and 30 (6 offensive) for Miami. From down ten in Game 1 to up 11 in Game 2.
WHEELCHAIR WADE: Boy, on that last desperation heave, Wade sure went down hard! Who hit him! Why was he holding his eye? Did Dirk foul-poke him in the eye?
Wade falls down on his own. And as our man KentATM notes, he doesn't pretend he's been blinded until after he uses that same eye to see that he's missed the shot.
We don't think 2006 is much of a factor right now, but we'll say this: Wade vs. Dallas in Miami has already benefitted from a lifetime of charity calls. No more.
FOURTH-QUARTER MISTERS: It's not just Jason Terry who's Mr. Fourth-Quarter, you know.
Consider the whole package here: Dallas outscored Miami 24-18, outshot 'em 10-of-21 to 5-of-18, and look at the arc numbers: Miami was 2-of-11, Dallas 2-of-5.
"When it started to slide, it just kept on going," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "No question about it, that's about as tough as a fourth quarter you can have."
Hey, Spo: Whomever it is that has Miami (a 33-percent shooting team from 3) that is should continue to launch 30 a game all the sudden ... keep it up.
TO THE PODIUM: Rick, Dirk, LeBron and Wade:
THE FINAL WORD: Throughout the game, as Dirk and Terry struggled, Miami put together a highlight reel of dunks and brilliant displays of athleticism. As we said on the postgame show, that's the sort of stuff that gets all the schoolgirls all giggling.
Yet, the Mavs continued to work and answer every bit of flash thrown their way with simple execution and persistent work.
There were countless moments that left the viewer to question aloud how the Mavs were tied, were only down four, were within striking distance. Despite Wade and James going 14-of-20 for 33 points in the first half while Dirk and Terry came in at a combined 4-of-15 and 13 points, the game was tied at the intermission.
Dallas wasn't winning the spectacle, but they weren't being swallowed by it either.
In a circus of dunks, steals and celebration, Miami kicked into overdrive in the fourth quarter and shoved the lead to 15. Yet, while we all collected the shattered pieces of our remote controls and wondered if we had what we needed to fix that hole in our wall, the Mavs observed the pomp and strut of their opponent as Wade posed in front of the Dallas bench after his final 3-pointer, and the Mavs reacted with a controlled fury.
This fury allowed them to take the game and head on home with the series all tied up at 1-1.
From one must-win game to another: History has told us the winner of Game 3 in series tied at 1 in the 2-3-2 format is 11-0 in those series.
"In each Finals there will be a turning point,'' Jet said. "Tonight was ours."
Maybe. And while we find that out, let the other team pose. This team must keep working. Because it was over ... and then it wasn't.