For so long now, the NBA Championship has seemed to be the Big Three and the Miami Heat’s destiny.
Some might even argue the title is their right.
Yet, the Dallas Mavericks stand one game away from snatching the title from Miami, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade after another thrilling fourth quarter resulted in a 112-103 win for Dallas during Thursday night’s NBA Finals Game 5. The Mavericks own a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series as both teams get set to return to Miami for at least one game on Sunday.
“I mean, that was a big win for us, obviously,” said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was especially aggressive down the stretch as he scored 29 points to lead his team. “We didn't want to go to Miami and give them basically two shots to close us out. So kept plugging there in the fourth. Definitely a big win for us. And now we have to go down there and basically approach Sunday's game as Game 7. You don't want to give this great team any hope or anything. So we got to play more of the same and keep attacking and we'll see what happens Sunday.”
Chances are they will finish off the highly favored Heat on Sunday, without needing the decisive Game 7. But obviously it won’t be that easy against a team as talented as Miami.
Sure, Dwayne Wade may still be bothered by the hip injury that forced him to miss some minutes Thursday night, but you have expect nothing will slow him with the Heat on the brink of elimination. And James bounced back from a pitiful eight-point performance in Game 4 to deliver a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Thursday night’s losing effort. You have to figure he has an even better performance still left in him.
Game 6 is obviously critical for the Heat, as losing Sunday would represent a huge failure in the mission when James and Chris Bosh joined forces with Wade last summer. A win for the Heat on Sunday would put them back in control with the decisive Game 7 also being played in their home arena next week.
"We fought hard all season for home-court advantage. We're down 3-2," Bosh said to reporters Thursday night in Dallas. "We protect home court, we win the series, so we just have to keep that in mind."
But what the Heat have to keep in mind is they can’t continue to falter in the fourth quarter. The Mavs, led by Jason Terry and Nowitzki, were again money in the final period Thursday night as they rallied from a deficit.
Terry knocked down big shots on the perimeter, while Nowitzki provided the exclamation point with a go-ahead dunk with 2:45 remaining.
James, who has been fading in the fourth quarter during this series, has to find a way to give his team some offense and energy down the stretch in order for Miami to survive Sunday.
(Photo: AP Photo/LM Otero)