By: Shawn Davis
It felt really good to see the Mavericks defeat the Heat because I picked them to – yup I really did – and I’m a big fan of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. As a team I went with the Mavs because they have a deeper set of characters to hurt you on the court, whereas the Heat always need two of their three stars to have a great game to have a chance at winning. That’s a huge burden to have on your shoulders but it’s why the checks are so big, right?
Watching them carry Nowitzki (as his shot wouldn’t fall in the first half) embodied how delicate and difficult it is to construct a team. There are so many intangibles involved in shaping a franchise, specifically the on-court product. You need to have the right mix of talent and experience, players willing to accept coaching and take the lessons given to them to improve their game, those same players need to buy into their role on the team – and accept whatever that happens to be, etc. There also needs to be a balance achieved between the stars and the other guys who will fill up the roster slots.
Jason Terry took over the offense and his teammates made it their priority to keep feeding him the ball. They say you go with the hot hand, right? They did! As much as Nowitzki can hurt you with his own arsenal, he’s just as adept at getting the ball to his teammates so they can help in the offensive onslaught. He made the adjustments over the years to expand his game and he’s now a really good passer when – a few years ago – he was just an average one. I’m sure he was coached to improve his passing and he took the time, dedicating himself to that end.
Over the years, we’ve seen Kidd morph from a one-man fast break into a deadly three-point shooter as his physical tools declined. The two times he got to the Finals he was steamrolled by the Lakers and Spurs so this would be his greatest shot to be a part of the last team standing. His numbers don’t stand out nor do they make your eyes open wide; his line: 9 pts, 8 asts, 4 rebs, 1 blk and 2 turnovers. You say “well he only scored 9 so what was his impact?” and you would be wrong. Why? Here’s why: basketball is more than the box score because you cannot measure the impact of those 9 points and where they came in the course of the contest.
The box score is antiquated and it can give a narrow perspective of what really happened, a lot of the time. Now the final score was 105-95, the game never really got too far out of reach for either team and it looked like Miami would have another offensive burst in them. Kidd’s impact was felt – in the 3rdquarter – as he downed two HUGE 3’s as the outcome was still to be decided; shots that had the crowd silent and the opponent searching for a solution. It’s not always about how much you score because there are moments when the time you get the basket is far more crucial. It’s just something to consider.
J.J. Barea blossomed in the series after struggling in the first couple of games to hit free agency at the right time for him, personally. Once he decided that he was going to push the ball and pressure the defense, he dictated the game for Dallas and consistently hurt Miami. They had no answer as he got to the rim, no matter who defended him on the perimeter, and he made timely plays for his squad.
What else can be said for Jason Terry? The guy carried the scoring load as they clinched the title and was absolutely on fire as he took (and made) the biggest shots in his career. There was no hesitation or contemplation on how to attack the defense; he just went out and took a knife to Miami. He led the team in scoring – with 27 pts – and did it in the flow of the offense without stopping the ball because he was the offense for long stretches of the game.
Can we now bury the soft label that has followed Nowitzki? He eviscerated that label, several others and the championship dreams of the Miami Heat for this year. Early in his career, the way to solve him was to use a smaller, quicker guy to disturb his rhythm – because 4’s can’t cover him – and take him out of the game by matching his footwork and getting into his head. Once you do that now he either goes right into the post, drives into the double team to make a play for an open perimeter shooter or just shoots that devastating off-balance, one foot fadeaway/fallaway hybrid over the defender(s). Try to break him mentally? That’s over because he has complete confidence in himself and he relishes having the ball in the closing minutes. You have to love the sneer he’s broken out the last few years after he hits a big shot and looks at the hapless defense…it is classic. As you watch him sneer you can almost imagine a thought bubble over his head, “That guy thought he could cover me? Yeah…right!”
Rick Carlisle proved why he’s one of the best coaches doing it with all the chess moves he made throughout the year but primarily in the Finals. Starting Barea at times, Stevenson at others, knowing how to incorporate Cardinal while sitting Peja Stojakovic and moving Kidd off-ball were all crucial moves. He seemed to be a few steps ahead of his counterpart and it showed.
The Mavericks were shorthanded in the series and they still won the title in six games. Imagine how they would have played against Miami with their second-best player, Caron Butler. He’s a do-it-all small forward who can make things difficult for LeBron James, offensively, while also having a diverse skill-set, to attack James as well. He can shoot, post, pass and won’t be afraid of the spotlight. With a healthy Butler, maybe this series is over in five.
Miami has been covered ad nauseam ever since The Decision so I won’t add to it, but people must relax about trading Bosh or James. That’s dumb! They lost in the Finals to a better team and all they need to do is add better pieces around their core three. Even though I rooted for the Mavs, it was strange that LeBron played the way he did. His scoring dropped from 25 ppg to 17 ppg in the Finals; I mean that just doesn’t happen. I’m a fan of his and I’d like to see him come back stronger next year while being humble enough to know that he cannot say the asinine things that seem to be habitual.
Dwyane Wade played great in these Finals but it’s terrible he gets no merit because of James’ struggles. There were times he looked like he was going to tie the series just on will alone. Let’s end the debate on whether this is his team or not because it clearly is.
What’s great is that we get to do this again next season. Congratulations to the state of Texas and the Dallas Mavericks, they earned it.