That’s right! Last night the Dallas Mavericks took Game 6 to close out the series by defeating the Miami Heat 105-95. The Mavericks finally were able to avenge their 2006 defeat to Miami and brought home their first championship. Dirk Nowitzki scored 10 of his 21 points to help seal the deal. Nowitzki was named MVP for his clutch performance throughout the series.
Nowitzki was 1-for-12 from the field in the first half, struggling to find his shot. But his teammates picked up the slack. Jason Terry had 19 points in the first half as he knocked down shot after shot. He would finish the game with 27 points to lead the Mavs. This game had to feel especially sweet for Terry and Nowitzki, the only two players who were on the team in 2006.
J.J. Barea also came up big, scoring 15 points while dishing out 5 assists. Shawn Marion also hit double-digits, netting 12 points while snagging 8 rebounds. The Heat never really felt like they were in this game after the very beginning of the game. LeBron James stormed out of the gate, scoring 9 quick points. He had 12 more the rest of the game.
The Mavs withstood the initial charge and then took control. With the exception of a Heat run in the second quarter, the Heat looked tentative, anxious, and tight the rest of the game. The Heat were, in many ways, the team that lacked grit and mental toughness. The Mavs never looked worried and their confidence was evident from start to finish. I think we learned some important things about the Mavs throughout this series.
First, we saw the truth that, without question, Dirk Nowitzki is an elite, all-time great player. Nowitzki came up large in clutch time, with a bad left hand, with a fever, every game. Dirk did it without an elite teammate. Jason Terry is an outstanding player but he is not in the same class as the greats of the game. The Mavs have a deep team, a balanced team, but only one elite player. And Nowitzki stood tall, took control of the game it mattered most, and welcomed the spotlight.
Second, Rick Carlisle outcoached Eric Spoelstra. Carlisle made adjustments, made changes to the lineup, was willing to use anyone on the bench at any time, and never panicked. Spoelstra was not able to find the buttons to get the most out of his team. He made adjustments, starting Chalmers while sitting Bibby, but did so too late. Carlisle was always one step ahead and the Heat were never able to react fast enough. Spoelstra is a good coach and will get better. Carlisle is a great coach and proved it. He instilled toughness and helped to create an atmosphere where defense mattered.
Third, Tyson Chandler is an important part of this team. While the Heat made the biggest splash, bringing in James and Chris Bosh, Chandler quietly made an equally important impact. The Mavs had a legit presence in the paint for the first time since James Donaldson. Chandler gives you points, rebounding, and defense every night. There can be little doubt that the Mavs will not let him get away as a free agent this off-season.
Fourth, Mark Cuban is a great owner. The Mavs have made the playoffs every year he has owned the team. While his passion rubs some people the wrong way, Cuban has done nothing but completely devote himself to building a champion in Dallas. Players actually want to play in Dallas. Cuban invests a lot of money in running a first-class, first-rate organization. He is loyal to his players. He is unafraid to take a chance and will do whatever he can to win. Fans of multiple baseball teams are begging Cuban to buy their beleaguered franchise. ‘Nuff said!
Finally, the money, time, and effort have paid off. The Mavericks are the champions of the basketball world! They did it by going through four outstanding teams. They did it despite all of the doubters, injuries, and lack of home-court advantage. They did it playing old-school basketball. Enjoy it. They earned it.
With the collective bargaining agreement running out at the end of the month, there is a good chance that the NBA will be different. New rules will be in effect as many teams are losing millions of dollars. While we do not know what the new rules will be, we can rest assured that Mark Cuban will be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep his team in contention. You just know that Cuban will try to make this team even better. Roddy Beaubois and J.J. Barea should be better. Caron Butler should be back and healthy, assuming the Mavs resign him.
Next year the Mavs will have to do something they have never done; defend their title! While it will be difficult, why can’t they do it again? I for one, cannot wait to see what happens!