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8 Jun 2011

NBA Finals Special: Dallas and Miami level at 2-2

Dirk Nowitzki, with a sky-high temperature thanks to a raging fever, turned to face the basket with 18 seconds to play, the game tied. He drove to the right, flipped the ball up right-handed and watched it roll in off the backboard. 14.4 seconds later, the Dallas Mavericks had come from 9 points behind late in the 4th quarter to pull level in their NBA Finals showdown with the Miami Heat.

Where did he go? Lebron James' disappointing
performance costs Miami vital win.
While Nowitzki's heroics and the Mavericks second comeback in 3 games will grab many headlines, the real story behind the Mavs' win (and the Heat's loss) is the disappearance of Lebron James.

8 points. In 89 Playoff games, Lebron has not scored as few points as he did in last night's game. It's been 434 matches since he had such a poor performance. In games that Lebron scores 15 or less, his teams have gone 0-8. He had just 4 points in the first half and attempted 1 shot in the 4th quarter, previously known as Lebron James' personal scoring time. It's harsh to pin this loss on James, Miami had 7 fourth-quarter turnovers after having 0 in the third. Wade committed a cardinal sin in fumbling the inbounds pass on the final possession of the game. What James did wrong, however, was allowed his poor offense to affect his normally stellar defense. He appeared lazy and dare I say it, uninterested. Effectively reducing the Heat to a beatable team.

What can be said for certain is that Lebron will come back big time in Game 5 on Thursday night. He's too good a player to let a game like this go unanswered. What makes the difference in this case is that Dallas have game-planned for James, their defense has played him as good as any in the league this year, allowing him just 9 points in the three 4th quarters before Tuesday night. It comes down to his will. We've seen him simply drag the Heat to wins, most recently in the Chicago series where Wade took the back seat. The flip side of James is seen in his games for the Cavaliers against Boston, the famous LeQuit game which turned out to be his final game for Cleveland.

At 2-2, the schedule favors the Heat with 2 of the next 3 in Miami. However, the momentum lies 100% in the hands of the Mavericks. Their offense was in-sync, their defense rivaled Miami's and their bench finally showed up and it was evident. The Heat did not play exceptionally bad through 3 quarters. Very few turnovers, average shooting and very good offensive rebounds. They were even leading by 4 going into the 4th quarter. It was those 7 turnovers and 14 points that killed their chances of taking a commanding lead.

Now, they must return to Dallas again on Thursday night, battle the momentum and pray that the leagues-best-player version of Lebron James shows face on the court.


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