G4 Mavs Donuts: 'The Basketball Gods' Speak
DONUT 1: I wrote it last night in "First Impressions,'' immediately after the outcome was no longer hanging in the air (taking up space along with The Big German's Big Germs):
The 101-degree fever was part of a 180-degree turn.
Trying to instantly judge history is the job of "ESPN Classic'' (isn't every close game "an all-time great?). But what Dirk Nowitzki did in dragging himself through the Mavericks' heart-pumping 86-83 win in Game 4 of the NBA Finals will end up taking up space on the DFW library shelf, for sure.
"I've got a little sinus infection," Nowitzki said afterward in a press conference that was painful to watch as The UberMan was all bundled up in temperature-controlling gear and unable to utter a sentence without hacking all over the microphone ... which the NBA might want to either shuffle off to the Hall of Fame in Springfield or ship to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Michael Jordan's 38-point Flu Game vs. Utah in the 1997 NBA Finals? A one-legged Willis Reed in '70? Or Jack Youngblood on one leg or Kirk Gibson's on one leg or Emmitt Smith at the Giants with a broken wing?
It's in there somewhere ... all that was missing was Dirk, after scoring the game-sealer and a game-high 21 (with 11 rebounds), shedding the towels and the waterbottles and jumping into the arms of Holger Geschwindner.
You know. Like Dirk is Strug and Holger is Karolyi.
But no. The UberMan saves his drama for the actual sporting stage. So his big postgame plans were to "take some meds'' and try to get some sleep.
"What he did out there tonight,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, again not hesitating to talk Dirk-as-Bird, "was pretty special."
Instant classic. Find room on the shelf. Remember to tell the grandkids about it.
DONUT 2: Paraphrasing Rick: The Mavs roster isn't overflowing with guys who "look tough.''
But whether Dallas wins this series or not, understand this: People like Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler -- nice fellas by day -- are basketball warriors. (Not to mention Dirk, of course, termed "a soldier'' by the one guy on the team who does "look tough,'' D-Steve.)
'Trix and TY -- acquired at the collective cost of two expiring contracts of players who are now retired (Stack) and semi-retired (Damp) -- provide the Mavs with the defensive backbone, with the emotional backbone, with the basketball intellect, to overcome the fact that they don't make as many magazine covers as some NBA "stars.''
Consider Marion's work in these playoffs: Go cover the Blazers' best threats, then go cover the Lakers' best threats, then put a lid on Durant and now please keep LeBron in single-digits, please ... oh, and when we decide we want to go with a different lineup down the stretch, go sit down and try to not take it personally.
'Trix is only taking it a little bit personally.
Chandler? Your 13 points and 16 rebounds are needed, obviously. But without a healthy Haywood in Game 4, TY, we're going to ask you to ...
"You have to get me back out there,'' Tyson told Rick Carlisle during a brief rest period last night. "I will play 48 if I need to.'"
Before he can be asked to sacrifice, he is offering. Insisting.
This sort of "grit-and-guts'' (Rick's pregame speech touchstone) guarantees nothing. But fake toughness guarantees less.
The Mavs aren't in this 2-2 position because they "look tough.'' They are in this position because people like 'Trix and TY ARE tough.
DONUT 3: One of the ways we've celebrated the greatness of Dirk Nowitzki: We WEAR Dirk Nowitzki.
"The UberMan'' is the standard, the original. A DB.com Mavs legend. And since the middle of this year, when Dirk took to the microphone and coined the phrase "Take That Wit Chew!'', this is what all the kids are wearing ...
We've even arranged to have it available in the Mavs Fan Shops! But you can get it here, answering the question Dirk asked me when he first saw the design:
"Fish, where can I get one of those?''
Dirk got two. Get however many you need right now in the Mavs DB.com Store!
DONUT 4: For the third time all year, JJB started. Did it work?
JJ Barea once again missed makeable shots, including a pair of airballish layup tries. But he scored eight. Dallas didn't fall behind early. He can handle Bibby (who contributed literally zero in 16 minutes). And the trickle-down meant Stevenson as a backup (forward!) to help when 'Trix needed a blow.
But it wasn't a "promotion'' or a "reward'' for JJB, anymore than it was a demotion for Stevenson. In fact, D-Steve scored his playoff-high in points (11) and got 26 minutes of burn.
Nor, by the way, was it a sign of "desperation.'' Ask yourself this: You've watched Rick Carlisle for three years now. Is there ANYTHING you've EVER seen from him -- in his presentation, his style, his demeanor -- that smacks of "desperation''?
It wasn't desperation. (Want me to bring up 2007 playoff "center'' Devean George here?) It was a chess move that came with no guarantees -- and comes with no Game 5 guarantees, either -- but was made for rational reasons.
DONUT 5: Quote of the Night, from Jason Kidd, when asked, "Any thought of not going to Dirk on the last play?''
Kidd answer: "Nope.''
DONUT 6: I am pleased and impressed that Dwayne Wade recognized "The Basketball Gods'' -- and maybe they recognize that this isn't his turn.
Wade missed a FT to tie with 30 seconds left and then couldn't cleanly received the inbounds pass on Miami's final possession, two goofs that marred his otherwise brilliant night.
"It wasn't because I wasn't ready for the moment or haven't been in that moment," Wade said. "The Basketball Gods just had other plans."
We all know on what side of the gym The Basketball Gods sat in 2006, when the whistles went Wade's way.
The Mavs have to do their part, of course. But with Dirk doing this while working through a torn-up finger and a 101-degree fever (not to mention the injury issues with Caron, Roddy B and now Big Wood) ... it'd be nice to have Fate wearing Mavs warmups.
DONUT 7: Have we had enough of the live TV cameras in the press conferences that ratchet up the temptation of reporters to seize their look-at-me moments?
It's happened twice this week in the basement of the AAC, first when a CBS reporter tried to joust with LeBron by accusingly using the word "shrinking'' ...
And it happened again last night when my FoxSports colleague, the always provocative Jason Whitlock, pushed Rick Carlisle on an angle everyone knows Rick won't be pushed on (that is, the brilliance of Rick Carlisle):
What's being achieved here? If it's camera time for non-TV media people who are stick of being hidden behind their laptops and want some face time, well, that's being achieved. And if it's providing the rest of us with YouTube Donuts, yes, we all appreciate that.
But to answer Rick's paraphrased question: These guys are us. But please don't hold it against us, OK?
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DONUT 9: Does Miami now harbor self-doubt? Is their collective soap-operatic nature ready to bubble up? If you spend a season, a career, a life, viewing yourself as "Kings'' ... and suddenly some old soft white guy from Germany, escorted by yapping dogs like Jet and D-Steve, has the temerity to tear at your gilded robes ...
Do you become concerned about what might be exposed?
DONUT 10: Yes, you can get into the game! Ryan at MavCowTickets is prepared to do for you what he's done for so many DB.com Mavs fans over the years: Personal service from a guy who knows and loves the Mavs like you do! Check him out, and also please click on our partners like ThreeSheets, McKinneyDentist.com, The Old American and Esparza's!
We can't do what we do without them ... and without you! Thank you, DB.com Mavs fans!
DONUT 11: We often poke fun at the notion of "must-win'' and "biggest game of the series'' and such, and here I go again:
Going into Game 4, there were volumes of numbers that established the "what-ifs'' of winning and losing, right? And those numbers all meant one thing:
Game 4 was the most important game EVER.
And now that it's over?
Going into Tuesday, the Finals had been tied 2-2 a total of 26 times. So far, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 19 times.
So Game 5 is the most important, right? Yes. And then after that, Game 6 will be the most important, and ...
This we can say with certainty: Mavs 86, Miami 83 is The Most Important Game in Dallas Mavericks History.
DONUT 12: Back to "shrinkage,'' and how it was applied prematurely after Game 3 (when LeBron didn't play exceptionally well, but was at least a facilitator and a Jet-stopper in a win).
"Prematurely,'' because in Game 4, there was "shrinkage.'' Lack of focus. A too-cool-for-school approach from LeBron (ironic in that it could be argued that he did indeed skip educational opportunities). And evidence that Jason Terry's seemingly foolish bravado might've crawled inside LeBron's headband.
James scored eight points, his lowest playoff production ever. Oh, he had nine rebounds and seven assists, too? (Compated to Terry's 17 points, three assists and three steals in 35 minutes?) Which means, what, The "King'' posted a triple-single?
LeBron as Jordan? At this moment -- pending more moments, of course -- laughable. Right now, LeBron isn't Wade. Nor is he Dirk.
Allow me to introduce "King James'' to the Prince of Comedic Shrinkage, George Costanza:
Is that the problem? LeBron took his talents to South Beach but has spent too much time in the pool?
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