Dirk Nowitzki looked as though he might make a run at a triple-double, but instead it was LeBron James' night, as both he and the Heat ran past Dallas in the final period to take the game, 117-106.
James appeared to have marked this night down on his calendar. Dallas has given up their share of monster games this season, but none quite as personal-seeming as this one, as LeBron threw in 42 points with a few angry dunks and some "why not?" three-point bombs. You get the idea James still feels like he has something to prove when facing a Dallas team that barely resembles the one that embarrassed him a few seasons ago.
Dirk did his best to keep pace with the multi-time MVP, and was +7 on the night despite the final margin. He finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
Unfortunately, Dirk was powerless to halt a 14-0 Heat run in the fourth quarter that turned a competitive matchup into some more revenge for that 2011 Finals meeting.
The night began inauspiciously enough. The Heat held a two point lead after the first quarter, but a 14-4 run in the second quarter put Dallas back ahead. With seven minutes left until halftime Dirk had already collected 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and was really taking advantage of all the defensive attention Miami gave him. With so many undersized power-forwards like Shane Battier and Michael Beasley, the Heat had no real shot at guarding Dirk one on one.
Of course, that LeBron James guy is pretty good too, and he helped the Heat shoot a scorching hot 58% from the floor in the first half(they would finish at 57%). Dallas by comparison was at just 44%, but was still within six points at the break thanks to 16 free throws and a 23-14 rebound margin.
The Mavs had their best run in the third quarter, and when the Heat suddenly went cold, making just two field goals in the first seven minutes coming out of the break, Dallas built a lead as high as six.
Unfortunately, NBA games aren't 31 minutes long.
LeBron would score nine points in the those final five minutes of the third quarter, and he was far from done. After re-entering the game following a Vince Carter four-point play that put Dallas up by three with under eight minutes left in the game, LeBron immediately scored eight unanswered points to make the score 100-95.
Dallas went nearly five and a half minutes without a point, and worst yet, committed several awful turnovers that led to easy conversions for the visiting team(usually culminating in one of the most annoying plays in basketball: the Chris Anderson dunk and cabaret celebration).
Any hope of a comeback was quickly stamped out when Chris Bosh made a three whilst Jose Calderon tackled aforementioned Anderson, and so an enjoyable, competitive game turned into a comfortable victory for the defending champions.
- It feels cheap and lazy to make some sort of analysis like "Dirk was great and everyone else sucked", but tonight it seems appropriate. Dirk was his usual super-efficient self, and had several terrific passes that would have made any Larry Bird comparison about more than just a sweet jumpshot. You could see the frustration in Dirk's body language when the Mavs continued to miss rotations on defense.
- Brandan Wright had some nice finishes, but shockingly he made just five of 13 attempts. Miami did a great job of bodying him up at the rim whenver they had a chance to. Unless Wright was completely alone under the basket, he wasn't going to make the shot.
- I don't want to completely overreact, but this is the sort of game that makes you think Shawn Marion is nearing the wall. This was one of the worst games I've ever seen him play. He was abused on defense(which is at least somewhat understandable), but he was even worse at the offensive end, committing four turnovers, most of the "blind yourself with a wet stick" variety. Maybe the Heat are just that good athletically, but Marion looked old tonight.
- Vince Carter finished second on the team with 15 points, but that was almost entirely thanks to 11 free throw attempts, and at least a few of those were bailout calls on drives to the basket that just looked painful. Really, that's a pretty good description for watching Vince Carter drive to the basket at this point in his career: painful. He and Monta Ellis combined to go 6-22 from the field.
- The second best Maverick tonight was Devin Harris, who had 9 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes. I'm hoping the low minute total was just Carlisle taking a cautious approach with Harris, who missed the last few games with an ankle injury. If healthy, there's no reason Harris should be playing under 20 minutes while Monta Ellis plays 37.
- It was an impressive win for Miami, but if I had a suggestion for Pat Riley, it would be to get some rebounders at the deadline. When the Dallas Mavericks(25th out of 30 in rebounding differential) outboard you 50-29, it's a serious problem, even if the Heat did shoot the ball well.