Dirk Nowitzki Shines in Fourth to Grab Series Lead

Heat fans must be asking themselves what happened. With just over four minutes to go, Miami took a 4 point lead. LeBron James wasn’t scoring, but he kept drawing the double team and finding an open man for the layup, assist after assist. Dwyane Wade, taken out in the first half due to a hip injury but still managed to clock 34 minutes, put the Heat up with a big three. It seemed that things were going Miami’s way.

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Dallas went on a 17-4 for run from that moment, as Jason Terry made two huge three pointers and Jason Kidd added one of his own and kept it cool from the line. From the get go it was a Mavs kind of pace, with the highest scoring game of this series by far (112-103) and the Mavs connecting for 13-19 from outside the arc (68.4%).

LeBron James & Big Three – That combo didn’t work. LeBron and the Heat actually were at their best when Wade was out, even more so when Bosh and Wade were out. The sense of responsibility at those moments filled up LeBron James. He made his few jump shots at those moments and just made good decisions. Unlike the fourth quarter – 2 points and another bad shooting display while on the other hand, Dirk Nowitzki had another, well, Dirk kind of night, fever-free.

Nowitzki finished with 29 points, 10 from the line. He gave Dallas their final hold of the lead with that dunk after Chris Bosh failed to cover him, again. Miami had some big defensive plays in the end, some great blocks by Haslem and James, but this time didn’t move around like crazy while the Mavs spread the floor, looking for an open man. After they got hot, hands in faces didn’t stop Terry, Barea and even Jason Kidd.

These two turned the series around
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Tyson Chandler had another big night with 13 points, 7 rebounds and a whole lot of defense and energy. Barea scored 17 points and that move by Carlisle, giving the very difficult to guard player the starting role might be THE move of the series. Chalmers can’t stop him, and all he gets, despite his hot hand last night (15 points, 4-6 from three) are scolding looks from LeBron James on every blown assignment.

Some numbers on LeBron’s futility, carrying on to the “biggest game of his career” – He’s averaging 2.2 points in the fourth quarters in this series. In the Chicago series it was more like 8.8. He shined in the final moments. Dirk Nowitzki has scored at least 8 points in each fourth quarter during the Conference Finals and the NBA Finals.

What Now?
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I’m not saying that the big three shouldn’t be playing together. That’s absurd, you need your best guys on the floor when it’s all on the line. However, something gets stuck in the Heat’s offense time and time again. Dallas aren’t that good of a defensive team. Tyson Chandler is great. Shawn Marion can stop LeBron James to a certain point. But if LeBron James gets to the line only once during an entire night, something’s very very wrong. Again, he and Wade settled for long shots, with people in their face, instead of taking them inside. Bosh finished 19, James with 17, Wade with 23 (10 from the line).

James even had a triple double, the fifth player in the last 25 years to post a TD in the finals and lose the game. Only Larry Bird did that and won the series. Yeah, we’re heading back to Miami, but the Heat just don’t look like a team that can win games. Everything stops, nothing moves, nothing works in the final 4 minutes. It’s up to LeBron James to get out of this funk (I feel like I’m repeating myself everyday), but we’re getting more and more examples that he’s not up to it in this series.

The Mavericks have found a lineup they’re very happy with, with 5 guys who can score if the pace is right. Miami need to find an answer to that, but above all, someone has to jolt start this offense in crunch time. The Mavs, with Nowitzki and Jason Terry have the right mindset when it matters the most. Can the Heat find it before it’s too late?