All-Access Game 3: Miami 88, Mavs 86
FOREWARD: Five long years have crawled by. Three first- and one second-round exits have scraped our hopes. Yet, at long last, the Dallas Mavericks have overcome the Blazers, the two-time defending champion Lakers, and the Thunder to bring the Heat and the 2011 NBA Finals, once again back in Dallas.
Let's begin with the AAC audience, by reputation a wait-and-see crowd ... that was ready from before the 7 p.m. tip of Game 3 ...
The mood, in other words, was right ...
THE TOP STORY: The Mavs would fall behind by as much as 14, but refused to yield as Miami once again dominated the highlights. In the end, it came down to two shots (though that always oversimplifies an entire game of opportunities missed or capitalized upon); one made and one missed. Chris Bosh, an afterthought for the majority of the night, hit his. Dirk Nowitzki put the Mavs on his shoulders with 15 fourth-quarter points, but missed his final attempt as the buzzer sounded and the Mavs lost 88-86 … Miami regains control, and home-court advantage, of the series with a 2-1 lead.
STAR WARS: This game evolved into a battle between two superstars: Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade … if you want to break it down to two plays, you may also say it came down to what a teammate was able to do with a shot after a pass.
Bosh hit the shot he was given … Jason Terry did not. And then later, Dirk did not, either.
Wade was mesmerizing early, and walked into halftime with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He often appeared unstoppable and in control of the game. Yet, at the end of the half, Dallas would pushback with an 11-to-2 run to cut what had been a 14-point lead at one time to only five at the break … though Miami quickly erased that run with an 8-0 push of their own to start the second half.
Wade finished with 29 points on 12-of-21 shots, 11 rebounds, one steal, one block and zero turnovers.
Dirk ended the third quarter with 19 points, matching Wade's halftime total, but would explode in the fourth with 15 points on 4-of-7 field goals, including 6-of-6 from the line. When his team absolutely needed him in to close out the game, Dirk stepped up in a big way, including scoring the final 12 points for Dallas.
He lifted his team, but fell one shot short of delivering them another chance to win in overtime.
Dallas passed the ball in with 4.4 seconds remaining down two after a LeBron James missed three. It was no longer Bosh guarding Dirk on the final shot, but Udonis Haslem. Facing the constraints of the clock, Dirk made a quick move, Haslem stayed between the ball and the basket, and The UberMan turned to a fadeaway we've seen him make so many times … only it wasn't meant to be.
Dirk makes that final shot "nine times out of 10,'' said teammate Jason Terry of The UberMan's 17-foot One-Legged Euro Lean-Back. "This was the time he didn't."
Dirk ended the game with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, 11 rebounds, three blocks (including knocking away a Bosh dunk attempt), one steal and three turnovers.
And one miss on a look that's "as good as it gets,'' as Dirk himself put it.
THE SITUATION: And now? What is the situation?
"Basically a must-win situation,'' Dirk said of Tuesday's Game 4.
MISSING BIG WOOD: The stats may never jump out at you, but Game 3 clearly showed the impact Brendan Haywood can make on a game. It wasn't particularly that Ian Mahinmi played poorly, but he wasn't able to have the defensive impact of Big Wood, who missed with that hip problem.
"I think Ian gave us energy," Dirk said. "He's very athletic. He's quick on his feet. I actually think he played all right. But Haywood has been big for us in the paint over the last year and a half we had him. He's a big guy, and he can change a lot of shots at the rim."
Without Haywood, Chandler stepped up his performance on the glass, grabbing a personal high for the Finals with 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end (only two less than the entire Miami team), and added three blocks … but the lack of Haywood behind him caused Chandler to play his most minutes of this series at 40.
THE OTHER GUYS: For the first time this series, the team that won the battle of the bench scoring did not win the game.
Dallas had 25 from the bench. Miami scored 19.
*Jason Terry started off well enough, scoring ten points in the first half by hitting three of his six shots. He followed this up with a solid third period, going 2-of-3 for five points. Unfortunately for his team, he had that scoreless fourth, missing all four of his shots.
*JJ Barea was a key member of a Mavs group that made a big fourth-quarter push, after being exposed for much of the game and continuing to miss makeable shots. In the fourth he was 2-of-4, over the first three he went 0-of-4.
Barea continues to be a factor with his dribble, but has struggled to get the ball to Dirk cleanly at the correct times or to convert his shot attempts. This inability to get the ball to the Uberman undoubtedly caused problems with the offensive flow as it forced guys like Terry to make attempts with a higher level of difficulty.
Looking in a slightly different direction, Barea had four turnovers. The entire Miami bench committed three.
For the series, Barea has now made 5-of-23 field-goal attempts, a conversion percentage of 21.7.
*At what point do you start to question what role Peja Stojakovic can play in this series? With 5:11 to go in the first quarter, Peja did score his first points in the Finals, but it continues to feel as though the Heat quickly begin runs as soon as Peja enters the game.
Conclusion on the bench play in Game 3: As long as a single player on the Miami bench is able to essentially match Jason Terry's production, as Chalmers did here (12 points), Dallas is going to have problems.
The Mavs may have been plus-six in scoring, but that number much came inefficiently, as the Miami bench hit seven of their sixteen shots (43.8 percent). To counter that, the Dallas bench needed 24 shots to get their 25 points, hitting only 33.3 percent of their attempts.
THAT HEAVE: Nope. Shouldn't have counted.
Mario Chalmers clearly didn't yet have his foot established in the forecourt when he received a pass from the forecourt. What should've been a backcourt violation was instead, a second later, a Mario Chalmers heave from 37.
"They throw in a halfcourt shot that may have been a backcourt violation at the end of the first," Carlisle said. "That's a great play for them, and it's a tough one for us."
MAVSELLANEOUS: Chandler on Haywood: "He's definitely missed because he brings a big presence for us, but I don't want to say that's the reason why we lost because we definitely had opportunities to win." ... Dallas is now 5-1 when Dirk scores 30-plus this postseason. ... Mario Chalmers grossly outplayed his opposite number at backup point guard, J.J. Barea, Chalmers the single guy on Miami's bench who did anything – but the thing he did was make four 3-pointers. ... There's not much we can do about this except to write about it again, so here goes: It's not Dallas' turnover total (14) that is suicidal; it's the fact that the turnovers are being committed in a way that allows Miami to get into quick transition, where LeBron and Wade are allowed to jump off their "launching pads,'' as Rick calls the moment before dunk. "They are the best in the league at that,'' said Carlisle of turning the steal into often-spectacular conversions at the other end. ... Nowitzki worked his way to the line and into the score sheet -- in the last 4:56, Dirk had all 12 of Dallas' points -- and we have no complaints. When we say "Dirk needs more help,'' it can come in the other 43 minutes, you know ... A stifling Dallas defensive sequence forced Miami into one of two late-game shot-clock violation and a bit of a griping match involving LeBron and Wade. The gripes will subside. But the stifling must continue. ... Needing do-overs in a two-point loss: J-Kidd 1-of-2 at the line, Terry 4-of-6 at the line, JJB 1-of-2 at the line ...
ODDS-DEFYING: With the spectacular show being put on by Dwyane Wade, or James at times, and Dirk Nowitzki in these Finals, it's easy to get drawn into the theater of it all.
Look, NBATV is doing it!
Yet, it's hard to deny the feeling that those surrounding these players are deciding the outcome of the games.
In two of the games, the Heat's role players have outperformed those of the Mavs, and quite simply, that's been the difference. The hope was that a little home cooking would correct the shots ailing for many, and it may have for Dirk. Unfortunately, it did not for the rest.
This is a team in Dallas that has been defying the odds throughout their playoff run, making the fact that the team to win Game 3 since the adoption of the 2-3-2 series format has won the series in each of the previous 11 instances almost irrelevant … almost. If Dallas were to bend to the odds, we'd be watching another team taking on the Heat right now.
Nothing is over, but the Dallas role players and bench must begin to show the superiority we all assumed they had entering the series.
"If we have the open looks, we just got to make them," Dirk said. "We haven't made enough of them. If we're going to keep shooting in the low 40's, it's going to be tough to win."
ONE SHOT EACH: As for those other guys, and what they were able to do: Bosh and Terry each had their chance to have the final say in the outcome.
Wade was forced to pass. LeBron was forced to pass. With 39 seconds left on the clock, Bosh, who had passed up a number of clean looks throughout the night, did not hesitate, and buried the shot presented to him … as Haslem set a solid pick to keep defenders at bay.
With the game tied at 86 and 58 seconds remaining, Dirk drove hard right and passed to an open Jason Terry, who rose over a charging defender and missed the corner 3-point attempt.
Terry was 0-of-4 from the floor in the fourth quarter, including that one chance to be the hero.
So goes the tale of two stars, two passes, two shots and one game.
BOSH BOTCH?: Was the Bosh basket -- the game-winner, as it turns out -- a botched play, as Dirk said? Let's take a look:
We'll ask around, but ... who botched it? Dirk himself?
NUMBERS-CRUNCHING: It's math!
*Over the course of the regular season, Dirk attempted ten or more free throws 12 times, and the Mavs won all 12 of those games. In far less opportunities, Dirk has already taken at least ten free throws eight times in the playoffs, further evidencing the manner, the aggressiveness with which he has stepped up his game in the postseason. Of those eight games, Dallas is 6-2.
In Game 3, he had nine free-throw attempts.
*Dallas is 9-0 when they total at least 20 assists in the postseason. They had 18 in Game 3.
*At the offensive end, Shawn Marion has shot considerably better on the road than at home in these playoffs. Coming into this game he was averaging 10.3 points on 43 percent shooting at home, and 13.6 points on 51.5 percent shooting on the road.
He finished Game 3 at 4-of-12 for 10 points.
*Dallas won every quarter, but the first … looking back, how much does that last second 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers hurt that pushed the score to 29-22, rather than a much more manageable 26-22.
"You know, I think we got down 15 again and we're fighting our way back, and we cut it to five at halftime," Jason Kidd said. "But the big thing is, you know, they win the first quarter, and that's pretty much – if you want to look at it, that's the game because we won the next three."
*In the fourth quarter, Dirk went 4-of-7 from the floor. The rest of the Mavs went 3-of-11.
For the game, Dirk was 11-of-21 (52.4 percent). The rest of Dallas went 17-of-49 (34.7 percent).
*Miami dominated the points in the paint with a 40-to-22 advantage, including 16-2 in the first quarter.
*Is it just us, or does it feel like turnovers are at the root of almost every significant Miami run? In Game 3, Miami scored 19 points off of 14 Dallas turnovers … Dallas countered with 15 points off of 13 Heat turnovers. Four points in a two-point game can be significant, not to mention the nature of these Heat points, which are almost always spectacular dunks.
QUOTEBOARD: "It was difficult playing from behind all the time tonight.'' -- Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.
FUN WITH LeBRON: What's fun about LeBron is even when he doesn't have a good game (a pedestrian-for-him 17 points), he still was very, very impactful. And if you don't understand that, well, just ask him ...
THE FINAL WORD: "I think the big thing is we have had spots of turning the ball over and giving them opportunities," Kidd said. "So, we have to take care of the ball. But the big thing is we have to have somebody else step up. Just Dirk, he's doing his part, but everyone else has to pitch in."
In the first three series, everyone had done their part. For this series to end as Dallas hopes, they must do so again.