DALLAS — My knuckles have turned white after the last two games of the 2011 NBA Finals. Thank goodness it’s not a permanent condition — talk about drama? The pattern of the first three games: Miami gets a big lead, and Dallas rallies because the Heat keep hoisting up jump shots. Game three, Miami leads 29-22 after one quarter and 88-86 down the stretch with 30 seconds left.
Dirk Nowitzki, hero of the Dallas comeback win in game two, scored 12 straight for Dallas in game three to tie the game and 15 total in the final quarter, rallying Dallas again and leading all scorers with a game-high 34 points and 11 rebounds. The Heat survive, however, and take game three 88-86 after Nowitzki had a critical turnover in the final seconds and missed a game-tying 18-foot shot as time expired.
Since 1985 when the NBA went to the current 2-3-2 home-away format for the Finals, when the series has been tied 1-1 the game-three winner has gone on to win the NBA title 11 times. After the great comeback in game two and the Nowitzki miss in game three, “This group does not surprise me,” said the Mavericks’ Jason Terry. “In game one, we were down 10 but we thought in our minds we could come back. It did not happen. We don’t want to get in those situations, but when it presents itself we’re a veteran team and we pride ourselves on being calm and on an even keel…if there’s time on that clock, there’s still time for us.”
Miami regains the home-court advantage in winning the pivotal game three Sunday with Dwyane Wade leading the way with 29 points and 11 rebounds. He was terrific, as was LeBron James who scored 17 points, played a game-high 45 minutes, and had a game-high nine assists. His pass to teammate Chris Bosh, who nailed a 15-foot jumper with 39 seconds left, was the game winner.
Bosh scored 18; the big three of Wade, James and Bosh combined for 63 points. Dallas is down 2-1 in the NBA Finals because they have committed 43 turnovers in three games, allowing Miami to score an average of 20 points each game off turnovers and fueling their lethal transition game.
Miami has committed only 32 turnovers. Reserve guard Mario Chalmers is killing Jose Barea in the reserve point guard match-up; he has out scored him in all three games: in game one, Chalmers 10 points, Barea 2; game two, Chalmers 9, Barea 5; game three, Chalmers 12, Barea 6.
Sports Illustrated in February 2009 did a cover story on LeBron James called, “The Power of LeBron” His now-famous decision to go to Miami made him the enemy of many NBA fans but has lifted the NBA up. And his all-around ability on both ends of the court is why he has been called the King.
Miami’s defense has been stifling, led by James, Wade and Bosh. All three are great athletic team defenders. Peja Stojakovic of Dallas has disappeared; he has been a complete bust in the Finals in three games, scoring just two points. In 26 minutes, he has attempted only five shots and has two turnovers. Jason Terry twice has been shut out in the fourth quarter. He is Dallas’s second-leading scorer, but James has shut him down in the fourth quarter when given the defensive assignment.
For Dallas to win this series, they need to help Nowitzki out; he has been sensational and he’s playing with a torn tendon in his left middle finger. He has scored 24, 27 and 34 points in the first three games. Miami’s big three of James, Wade, and Bosh have combined to score 68, 65 and 63 points. The team that has taken the most shots and shoots the highest percentage has won all of the first three games.
Fitz Notes & Quotes
With the Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn hanging Coach Kurt Rambis in the wind (Rambis is rumored to be fired soon), that means three NBA head coaching jobs will be open: Toronto, Detroit and Minnesota. Don’t be surprised if former Toronto Raptors head coach Butch Carter, older brother of former Vikings great and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter, gets hired for one of them.
LeBron James is 25 years old and already a two-time NBA MVP, and this is his second trip to the NBA Finals. Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls says James could be better than Michael Jordan. Forget about that short-sighted comment from Pippen, who was a great team player himself, because James would have to be better than Magic Johnson, Pippen and Kobe Bryant first.
Talented Apple Valley guard Tyus Jones has the potential to be great. Eden Prairie track star Rumeal Harris is going to North Dakota University on a scholarship.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.