The Dallas Mavericks: Well. The upper hand is on the other foot. Again.
One game after stealing homecourt advantage from the cHeat, the Mavericks gave it right back. Fortunately, Mark Cuban has more than enough money to repair all the holes he probably punched into his walls last night.
Game 3 was an awful lot like Game 2.
Miami built a 14-point advantage. Dallas came back.
The cHeat led 81-74 after Dwyane Wade hit a shot with 6:31 left and 84-78 after Wade drilled a three with 4:31 left.
LeBron "Attack Mode" James didn't play very Next Michael Jordan-y (17 points, 6-for-14, 9 assists, 4 turnovers) while Dirk Nowitzki looked pretty Next Larry Bird-y (game-high 34 points, 11-for-21, 9-for-9 from the line 11 rebounds). This was even more apparent down the stretch: LeBron scored only 2 points in the fourth quarter while Nowitzki had 15...including 12 straight to lead a Dallas rally.
Make that an almost rally.
Because King Crab had help in Pookie (7 of his team-high 29 in the fourth) and the Boshtrich (7 fourth quarter points including the go-ahead jumper with 39 seconds left). Meanwhile, Dirk found out that one really is the loneliest number.
How critical has Nowitzki been in the Finals? According to Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata: "In the 20 minutes that Dirk Nowitzki has been on the bench resting during the NBA Championships, the Dallas Mavericks have been outscored by 31 points. In the 124 minutes that he played, Dallas has outscored the Miami Heat by 23 points. As strong as Miami has looked earning a big riding time advantage through three games, they're WAY down when Dirk is on the floor."
Wow. Dirk has had to do almost everything. And he almost did.
Unfortunately for Mavs fans and cHeat haters, Nowitzki's personal 12-point run ended when he dished to Jason Terry for an open jumper with 58 seconds left. Terry missed and the score remained tied. Then, 19 seconds later, James dished to Bosh, and the RuPaul of Big Men hit to put Miami up a deuce.
On Dallas' next possession, Udonis Haslem's defense finally got to Dirk, and Nowitzki threw the ball out of bounds. James bricked a three with four seconds left and Dirk's forced jumper at the buzzer was off the mark.
The Dallas players who weren't seven feet and blond went 17-for-49 from the field (36 percent). Shawn Marion (10 points, 4-for-12) was the only starter other than Dirk to reach double figures. Tyson Chandler shot 1-for-4 and finished with 5 points in 40 minutes. Jason Kidd had 9 points on 3-for-8 shooting. DeShawn Stevenson scored 3 points in 14 minutes.
Jason Terry chipped in 15 points off the bench, but he went scoreless (0-for-4) in the final 12 minutes. And J.J. Barea (6 points, 2-for-8, 1-for-5 on threes) was outplayed by Mario Chalmers (12 points, 4-for-6 on threes...including one that shouldn't have counted). This is a trend that may be killing he Mavericks.
Through their march to the Finals, the Mavericks have been able to create vast acres of space in their offense by covering the floor with shooters. Few NBA players know how to exploit open space better than Jose Juan Barea, a good shooter who loves nothing more than to juke his man on the perimeter, put the ball on the floor, and sail into the wide open spaces of the Dallas offense.
From there, he has an array of floaters, runners and jumpers that are more than enough to get the job done.
Barea has been pretty bad against Miami, however. That's because when the Miami defense is loaded up with athletes like Chalmers spaces don't last long. Somebody long and strong is always rushing to fill the gap.
Barea has taken 23 shots over the Finals first three games. 18 missed. It's big letdown for a player who had made 51 of 117 playoff shots in the first three rounds. Watching Chalmers fight over picks to stay with Barea it's easy to see why he's finding space at a premium.
Over the course of a season, or a career, Chalmers and Barea are not so different -- decent NBA players who can hit open shots but hurt their teams if they try to do too much. Both players have career production a tick or two below average, with the slightly older Barea generally the more efficient of the two.
But in these Finals, whether by luck or quality of opposing defense, Chalmers has been the much more efficient shot maker. Barea has scored 13 points on 23 shots, while Chalmers has taken one fewer shot, but has scored 20 more points, with 33 points on 22 shots over the first three games.
Chalmers and Barea are bit players in this drama, but bit players who happen to be performing very differently in the final playoff series of the year. In a series that is turning on a point or two here or there -- the Heat have outscored the Mavericks by a total of eight points over the three games -- these are little things that matter.
Getting back to the fourth quarter, it may be worth comparing relative contributions to the Dallas cause. Nowitzki scored 15 points while going 4-for-7 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line. His teammates scored 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
After the game, Kidd stated the obvious: "We have to have somebody step up besides Dirk. We have to figure out how to get up front and play up front. The big thing is we've got to be able to make plays late in the game. Game 2 we made the plays, Game 3 we just didn't."
Dallas won the rebounding battle (42-36) but got outscored 40-22 in the paint and gave up 19 points off 14 turnovers.
Miami's two-point win also benefitted from a triple that should not have been.
The Dallas Mavericks and their fans can point to quite a few reasons for the team's two-point, 88-86 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The team missed five free throws, shot 40 percent, turned the ball over 18 times [14 actually - Bawful], and clanged a series of solid three-point looks down the stretch. But Miami guard Mario Chalmers' buzzer-beating three to end the first quarter, one that should have been disallowed as Chalmers' foot was technically in the back court as he caught the ball, will sting the hardest.
The half court stripe is considered part of the back court, and the referees missed the fact that Chalmers had his heel on the line when he took the pass from Udonis Haslem in the front court. The rule is that you must be considered fully in the front court before you can receive a pass from the front court, and Chalmers' foot was still in the back court when he caught the ball. That's a lot of "courts" to consider, but all Mavs fans will look at is that two-point deficit on the scoreboard as the final buzzer sounded, while ruing the three-points that shouldn't have counted.
That bogus three-bomb capped a nightmare first quarter for the Mavericks. Basketbawful reader Factfinder said: "I bet Dallas wishes they could go back and contest all of those easy buckets they gave to Wade and Bron in the 1st quarter." Make that Wade, Bron and Bosh. Those three guys combined to convert seven dunks/layups in the first 12 minutes. Seven! In the first quarter of a Finals game!
Somewhere Bill Laimbeer is throwing up.
Chris Bosh denied: I'd be more gleeful about this if Dallas had won.
Jason Terry, quote machine: "A lot of my looks are contested, but hey, it’s the NBA Finals and they're going to contest every shot. And hey, we have to be more and more aggressive, and we'll see what happens."
J.J. Barea, quote machine: "I think had some open looks, especially [some] 3s, and they felt great and some were long and some were short. They just didn't go down for me. I'm going to keep shooting them. This team needs me to make shots, and everybody needs to make open shots, and we kinda struggled with that tonight."
Dwyane Wade, quote machine: "My teammates saw it. They can tell I wanted this game. ... I'm just trying to lead. My guys did a great job of following that lead."
Chris Bosh, quote machine, Part 1: "Open your eye like this. I'll poke you in it."
Chris Bosh, quote machine, Part 2: "I think [getting poked in the eye was] just symbolic of our season, everything. You just have to keep overcoming. If you lose Game 2 at home, blow a 15-point lead and you're out on the road and everything is against you, you have to get it done. I thought it was quite fitting that I got poked in the eye early."
Erik Spoelstra, quote machine: "There's so many storylines out there right now, the Game 3, all these trends and statistics. To simplify it for all of you, the game is not played in a statistical world. It is played between those four lines and 94 feet. Whoever plays the best and more consistent to their identity likely has the best chance to win."
LeBron James, quote machine: Total smackdown.
Chris' Finals Lacktion Ledger: Ian Mahinmi made two free throws in exactly eight minutes along with one board, only to foul five times for a 5:3 Voskuhl. Meanwhile, when your uber-short-stint-of-the-night is noted by the ABC commentating staff, it's clear lacktion has gone mainstream, in the case of Brian Cardinal -- whose 7 seconds of plugging in a DS to its charger at the end of the 2nd quarter garnered a Super Mario.