Premature celebrations, posing after every other play, and paying more attention to crowd reactions can sum up the final quarter of Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals. What looked to be a Miami Heat comeback that would put them ahead 2-0 in the series, and that much closer to winning the first of its 8 promised rings, took a turn for the worse.
Maybe it was fatigue. Maybe it was a change in momentum. Hell, maybe it was Lebron repetitively punching Wade in the chest with 5 minutes left. Whichever the Miami excuse, NBA fans cannot deny that this is one of the greatest NBA Finals playoff comebacks in recent memory. Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, and Dirk combined to shoot 7-8 during the last 5 minutes and 45 seconds of the game. Miami shot 1-10 during this same stretch, including going 1-5 beyond the arc during the last 1:31 of the game.
Why did Miami insist on shooting so many 3s within the final minutes of the game? Was it because its players wanted to put the final dagger in the bruised up bodies of the aging Mavs? Maybe. But I have more reason to believe it was because the only thing the Heat players cared about was how to celebrate after the game.
Lebron, the proclaimed King, only managed to score 2 points during the final quarter Thursday night. (It’s not too late for Scottie Pippen to take back what he said about Lebron having a chance to be a greater player than MJ, as he was most likely caught up in the moment. I don’t think Jordan would have had this kind of playoff performance, especially in front of a home crowd).
The Heat led by as many as 15 during the 4th quarter, but the Mavs roared back. Dirk, Kidd, Marion, and Peja all realize that this may indeed be their last chance to win a ring. If you have watched this team during the playoffs, it’s hard to root against them. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks are one of the most resilient teams we have seen in the playoffs during the past 15 years. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dirk is the main reason for this.
The Mavericks have proved the doubters wrong throughout the playoffs. One can argue that this team has been the underdog during each of the series it has played. It took Dallas 6 games to finish off the Blazers and many critics were discrediting the team’s series win (especially when it blew a 23 point lead in Game 6). But, Dallas shocked the world when it swept the defending 2 time champion Los Angeles Lakers. In that series, Dirk proved to have plenty of gas left in the tank, and Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic made 3 point shooting look easy (15-16 in Game 4), as the Lakers went home fishing.
The Thunder, who, behind the Lakers, many analysts were proclaiming the 2nd best team in the West for most of the season. Dirk and Company proved that the first 2 rounds of the playoffs were no fluke, and took the series in 5 games. Dirk made one ridiculous shot after the other in Game 5, and as he held that Conference Title Trophy above his head in front of the hyped Dallas crowd, we all were thinking the same thing. How good is this guy? Sure enough, the next week was full of debate, with each basketball analyst giving an opinion on Dirk. Some were calling him the most clutch player in the NBA, others were comparing him to Larry Bird. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle went as far as to proclaim him a top 10 player of all time.
The biggest question that I had was where Dirk was during this time. After hoisting the Western Conference trophy with little enthusiasm, the Mav players quickly exited off the floor. Reporters were looking all over for them in hopes of getting an interview. When later questioned about the lack of celebration, Dirk responded, “All that celebration stuff. This is not what I play for, bro.”
Maybe the Miami Heat can learn a thing or two from Dirk about sportsmanship. Lebron and Wade can prematurely celebrate all they want, and many might say they were caught up in the moment and were trying to hype the crowd. But, I’d take Dirk over either one of those guys, and the 2011 playoffs is more than enough justification for that decision. The Miami Heat fan base skyrocketed after “The Decision”, but I keep asking myself, how can you not root for the Mavs?
Special thanks to John Roman for his first contributed article to MikesPickz
Photo Credit (both images via ESPN.com):
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