Dirk Nowitzki carries Mavericks as LeBron James disappears
Forget Dwyane Wade for NBA Finals MVP.
Dirk Nowitzki? Silver medalist, baby.
Hand the award to the public-address announcer who begged the Dallas Mavericks for help a few minutes into the fourth quarter of Game 4.
“I just checked the game clock,” he intoned loudly into a courtside microphone. “It is officially time for some Big D.” (Exclamation points omitted to prevent annoying all readers.)
It was cheeky, it was scripted and who knows if any players actually heard it, but it made so much sense at the time.
The Mavericks couldn’t stop Wade or Chris Bosh and fell behind the Miami Heat by nine with 10 minutes left. All they did from there was hold the Heat to nine points.
Not even a point a minute. That works out to 43 points over 48 minutes.
The Mavericks won, 86-83, and evened the Finals at two games each.
Big D, indeed.
On a night where Nowitzki made only six of 19 shots, the Mavericks uncorked a defensive gem. Nolan Ryan provided the analogy by exhorting them on the scoreboard to win a championship on behalf of Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, and any other Texas city not named Houston or San Antonio.
But the party looked like it would be in South Beach on Tuesday after Udonis Haslem’s jumper gave the Heat a 74-65 lead. Then Miami missed 10 of its final 13 shots and committed five turnovers.
LeBron James took his poor fourth-quarter play to a new low this series, going scoreless on one shot in the quarter.
Nowitzki had a fever of 101 degrees, skipped the Tuesday morning shoot-around and coughed and wheezed throughout the game. He still outscored James by 13.
“It’s a little sinus infection,” Nowitzki said, providing the most understated illness assessment this season.
Said Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle: “Fighting through that was not easy.”
James has been battling quite a few things, including a verbal snipe a few days ago from a reporter who asked about James “shrinking” in the fourth quarter of the Finals.
James admonished the reporter at the time, telling him to come up with a better question, but there weren’t any better than that after James again disappeared in the final 12 minutes.
He finished with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He never scored so few points in 89 prior playoff games.
“I’ve got to do a better job of being more assertive offensively, not staying out of rhythm offensively the whole game,” James said.
How bad is it? James said he would consider extra shooting after practice Wednesday. He’s averaging 2.8 points in the fourth quarter this series.
If he opts for the solo shooting session, James might want to line up cardboard cutouts of the Dallas defenders who badgered the Heat with a zone defense.
“They’re really clogging it up, and he’s not having his usual free rein,” Bosh said.
Miami’s final possession was awful, and it didn’t even involve James.
Wade mishandled the inbounds pass, dived to catch up to it and flung the ball back to Mike Miller, who airballed a hurried three-point attempt with 0.9 seconds left.
It looked like something out of a JV game, and that’s being kind.
The Heat will surely be back for Game 5. So will a healthier Nowitzki, as well as the Mavericks’ courtside announcer.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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