Finally, after five days of being at conference for work, I am back. And so are the Mavs chances of winning their first NBA championship. After winning games 4 and 5, the Dallas Mavericks hold the series lead at 3 games to 2. They will have to go into Miami and win one of two games. With Dwyane Wade hurting with an injured hip, the Mavs have to like their chances.
Some observations from the last two games:
First, Dirk Nowitzki is a man. Period. He is playing with a bum finger on his left hand, a hand that he frequently uses to drive to the basket, and now he came up huge with a fever. Let no one ever question again the greatness of Nowitzki. Stop comparing him to Larry Bird, or any other superstar. Dirk is his own man. He has carried this franchise for over a decade. He has had no real help, no real superstar in his prime. And when the game is on the line, no one is better in the clutch. Dirk has scored almost as many points in the clutch than the rest of the players combined. Dirk is Da man!
Second, LeBron is not. Lebron, while an extremely gifted and talented player, does not want the ball in the clutch. He seems to be uptight, if not a bit scared. I will be upfront, I like LeBron. I think he has been villified unfairly. But I would not want him to have the ball when it is crunch time. And the reason for this is because he does not seem to want the ball in crunch time. LeBron needs to go to the Wizard and get some courage; but not until after the Finals.
Third, I love Dwyane Wade. He has guts. He is going to have be physically removed from the game. I love his grit and determination. Unfortunately for him, this injury may be insurmountable for the Heat.
Fourth, I love the way that the rest of the Mavericks have responded since Game 3. Jason Terry has started talking trash and he has backed it up. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd each scored 13 points in Game 5. J.J. Barea, starting for the second straight game, scored 17 points to go along with 5 assists. Even DeShawn Stevenson was willing to come off the bench for the good of the team and it has worked.
Fifth, Rick Carlisle is a great coach. Since adjusting his lineup, the Mavs are 2-0. Carlisle is willing to make changes, to bench guys when they are not producing, and to continue to emphasize defense, not an easy task when the Mavs have never been too concerned about that. He has changed the culture. This team is unselfish, committed, tough, and they continue to show persistence and resolve no matter the score. Carlisle is largely responsible for this new attitude and mindset.
Sixth, this team refuses to be denied. They are focused upon winning the championship and nothing else. They do not care what other people say or do. They are not worried about legacy or the perceptions of others. They simply want that ring. Period. And they are now only one win away from making that a reality. And they are going to do it. I know I originally predicted they would in seven games, but I think they finish off the Heat tomorrow night.