Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Dallas Mavericks-2011 NBA Champions
I am quite sure I was not the only basketball fan in North America who sat stunned in front of the television set while the seconds counted down Sunday night. The Mavs defeated the Miami Heat in six games to win the crown.
The end result was completely unexpected. Most NBA fans hoped the Heat would lose. They just did not expect it would happen. The Heat had enjoyed a very successful season, perhaps not as spectacular as they would have liked. They had pinned their hopes on the “Big Three” at the beginning of the season: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. James had arrived ceremoniously from Cleveland, Bosh from Toronto. Wade was the sparkplug. When the season began, most observers felt that the Heat had the key components to win it all.
Naturally, the injury factor had to be considered. If either of the three experienced a serious injury, the expected result could change. Most injuries are now well concealed by major sports franchises. Once the games are finished, players step up to the microphone and announce, “I didn't play as well as I could because I have a torn Achilles tendon, a shattered patella, a torn rotator cuff, and a serious concussion.” Reporters drop their inquiring heads and mumble, “Ah, now I understand why you played so poorly”.
Such was not the case with the Miami Heat. They were healthy, they were hungry, and yes, they were cocky. They just did not get the job done. They struggled greatly in the fourth quarter of all six final games. Here are a few observations in that regard: Lebron made only one three point shot in all six games in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki, the one superstar in the Mavs lineup, outscored James 62-18 during the same period. The main reason for the difference is experience.
Given another opportunity, James will be there, and he will get the job done. He played poorly, and he realizes that fact. He also knows that, even though he has been under the media spotlight the entire season, things are different in the playoffs in basketball, especially in the finals. He tries to be accessible and obliging to his fans and to the media. He Tweets and Twitters. He now realizes that every word that he puts out in the public will be misconstrued, analyzed, and misinterpreted to make him look bad. He should keep his Balckberry in his gym bag.
James was overwhelmed down the stretch. In his confusion, he failed to play the game he knows best: an aggressive, passionate game. He stood still. He was easy to guard. He failed to make perimeter shots under pressure.
Kudos must go to the Mavs coach, Rick Carlisle, for his work. He orchestrated great defence, and prepared his team to play one of the best lineups in NBA history. They moved well, they spaced themselves well, they ran intriguing picks and rolls and hedges to find good opportunities to score.
Both teams suffered cases of nerves near the end of the game. There were bad passes, poor shot choices, hurried attempts at the buzzer. Even Dwyane Wade dribbled the ball off his foot. He stared at it as it rolled out of bounds, as if to say, “Did I do that?”
Nowtizki ran to the locker room as the game ended. A few of the other players milled about on the court. Basketball needs to take a page from hockey in this regard. Players should remain on the court, line up, and shake hands at the end of the game. The court should be clear of all of the non-playing personnel that are involved in the game.
Fans should not be allowed on the court. In fact fans should not be allowed to sit as close to the court as they do. There should be no seating closer than twenty feet from the court. Too often people in those seats have an effect on the game. Jason Kidd had to clear fans out of his way to throw the ball into the court at the end of the game.
Kidd will relish this championship. He has been around the league a long time, not always as a fan favourite. But in these finals he played hard, and let his play on the court speak for itself.
Nowitzki also earned the MVP title for his play in the finals, and rightly so. He adjusted his game by playing more aggressively. He showed strength getting to the rim. He fought off all of the defensive strategies the Heat threw at him. He emerged victorious.
Job well done. In this case the Mavs did indeed take the Heat!
June 13, 2011