A Quiet Confidence

Tonight the Dallas Mavericks have a chance to win their first NBA Championship in franchise history. The only other opportunity to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy was in 2006 when the Mavericks lost to the Miami Heat. Dallas was up 2 games to 0 and had a big 4th quarter leader on the Heat in game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 lead, but Dwyane Wade and the Heat had different plans, and went on to take games 3, 4, 5, and 6 and win the Larry O'Brien Trophy on Dallas' home floor at the American Airlines Center. Dallas' all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki was quoted in saying that the Mavericks gave the game and the series away. Dwyane Wade countered in his post-game press conference by saying that the Mavericks losing the series was all on Nowitzki's shoulders, because of his inability to hit clutch shots and inability to lead his team. Ever since 2006, the Dallas Mavericks have been plagued with having to remember the 2006. Slowly but surely throughout this year, though, they have rid themselves of labels some thought would stick to the Mavericks forever. Dirk Nowitzki has become much more respected by all of those who have watched these playoffs. No longer can anyone call him soft, in fact, some would say he is one of the toughest players in this series. If the fame is on the line in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, Dirk Nowitzki is getting the ball and fans will live with whatever consequence comes from that, although, usually, the big German delivers in the clutch. Statistically in these finals, Nowitzki is the most clutch player on either team. He has more points in the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter when the game is within 5 points than any other player in this series. A little ironic since he is playing a team that is supposed to have two of the best closers in the NBA. Just to compare Dirk to LeBron James real fast with the stat I just mentioned, Nowitzki has 26 points with less than 5 minutes left in the game with the score within 5 points, James has 0.

It is more than obvious in watching the Finals that the leader of this Heat team is Dwyane Wade. The only problem is that Wade is never the one taking the shot at the end of the game. The only time the Heat have had a realistic chance at game-winning bucket was in game three where Wade couldn't shake his defender, passed to a double-teamed LeBron James, who then passed to a wide open Chris Bosh who hit the eventual game winner on a baseline mid-range jump-shot. Bosh was having a horrible shooting night up to that point and had only managed to 6 of 17 from the field until draining that shot. Bosh has been criticized this whole year for not being the superstar people thought he would be. A lot of people around the world now just say the Heat have two and a half superstars or just two superstars and one star. The fact of the matter is that Bosh is quietly having a very good series against the Dallas Mavericks. Much of the focus of the Dallas Mavericks defense is on stopping Dwyane Wade and LeBron James; this leaves room for someone like Bosh to step up and make plays. Ultimately though, Bosh is a role player on this Heat team along with Mario Chalmers. Chalmers has now hit two half-court prayer shots against the Dallas Mavericks to end the first quarter. Next to Bosh, Chalmers is the next important role player the Heat have in this series. Without Chalmers' accuracy from beyond the arc, there is a good chance the Heat would have lost game 5 by double digits. Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged the play of Chalmers in saying that the Mavericks need to pay closer attention to him as the series goes into Miami. Or at least someone should probably guard him at the end of the first quarter...

Miami seems to be feeling the heat from the media in this series. (Clever how I worded that right?) If one were to sit around all day and watch Sports Center like myself, one would realize the Mavericks are handling themselves much better than the Miami Heat when a microphone is put in front of their face, or a camera for that matter. The Mavericks have a quiet confidence about them when they are speaking, and it is very obvious that they are determined to win this series, and take the Larry O'Brien trophy. The Heat, on the other hand, come off arrogant as if to think the trophy should have been given to them in July. The Dallas Mavericks are a team that did something no other team has been able to do this post-season. They were able to take Miami's best punch, and counter with a fury of punches of their own. Dallas was not scared of this Miami team, in fact they were confident in their ability to go out and beat a team most of the national media picked to beat them in 4 or 5 games. The Heat seem aggravated of Dallas and the media. Recently there was a video of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James walking into the American Airlines Center before game 5 coughing and seemingly mocking Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki who played with a 102 degree fever in game 4. They then went on to mock the Dallas weather seemingly saying that it was too hot. A few things are funny about this. Nowitzki, with a fever, outplayed LeBron James who only had 8 points in game 4, and Nowitzki had the game winner against the Heat in game 4. The Heat had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Wade dropped the in-bounds pass and all of a sudden the series was tied at 2. It's funny that Wade, of all people, would mock Nowitzki's illness. Now, yesterday Wade insisted that it was a real cough and that he knew the media would blow it up, so that is why he did it. Well, this is coming from the guy who once left the court on a wheel chair...because he hurt his shoulder. When Mavericks forward Caron Butler was injured, his kneecap was completely out of place. Being in front of friends and family, Butler didn't want to be seen as weak so he pooped his kneecap back into place and walked off the court on his own power. Also, in game 5, Wade went on to suffer a hip injury and was limited in the game because of it. When asked about the video Nowitzki said he thought it was, "a little arrogant, a little childish" but went on to say that the video was not important and added that if anyone needed any extra motivation that there was something wrong with them. Also, in press conferences, one can tell that the Mavericks are a confident bunch, not cocky, but confident. Before game 4, Jason Terry was asked how he thought he could handle being guarded by LeBron James so much. Terry admitted that James had gotten the best of him in games 1 and 3, but that he had gotten past James in game 2. Terry added that he would be interested in seeing if James could guard him throughout a 7 game series. Also, before game 5, Terry said that he knew his shot was going to come and knew how beneficial it would be to the team when it did. Well, it came in game 5. Terry played a spectacular offensive game and hit the dagger three-pointer over LeBron James to secure a Mavericks victory. Terry knew his shot would come back, kept being confident, and it proved very beneficial to his team. James' shot can't be found right now and he knows it. He is not shooting his normal shot and seems to throw the ball up and hope it goes in.

The age of the Dallas Mavericks seems to be playing a very positive factor this series. With age comes maturity and the Mavericks are much more mature than the Heat at this point in time. Dallas knows how to handle itself in press conferences, and continues to live in the moment. They are well aware of the situation they are in, and don't have to go into reading all of the stories people like me or people in the media put out. (Although, I would be just ecstatic if they did read my stories, because, frankly, I think they would thoroughly enjoy them) J.J. Barea, along with Jason Terry, knew Dallas was due for a big shooting night at some point in the series and they had their night in game 5. They waited patiently and confidently for the time to come, because they knew it was inevitable. The Heat are showing their immaturity in both the press conferences and on the court. They may be saying some of the right things, but it just doesn't come off the right way. I guess this could trickle down from head coach Erik Spoelstra, but that I'm not quite sure of yet. Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle seems to have quiet confidence about himself. He showed up to his daily interviews yesterday looking like he just got back from the beach. He was wearing a Mavericks t-shit and Mavs hat and looked like he had yet to shave that day to answer questions on the day before possibly the biggest day of his coaching career. Pat Riley was in this situation before to win a series on the road, and is most famously quoted in only bringing one suit, one tie, etc, because of his confidence his team would get it done in one game. When the question was posed to Carlisle he simply smiled and responded with, "I've got a lot of respect for all of you. I feel like I've gotten to know you well. But I don't believe at this point I'm ready to share the number of pairs of underwear I packed. I just don’t know if that's the way to go." Carlisle has been very loose this series. Earlier, when Haywood was out with his hip pointer, he was asked who would be dressed in his place. Carlisle responded by saying the Butler was active that night, there was a collective gasp from everyone in the room, and the Carlisle followed with just kidding, Beaubois will be dressed. He has been loose, but above all has a quiet confidence about him, a confidence that has been copied by the rest of his team. If anyone were to put these playoffs into perspective though, it would Dirk Nowitzki. The man who has never watched tape from the 2006 Finals because it would make him sick to his stomach. With all the swirling controversy about LeBron James floating around in the media Nowitzki was asked what he thought of everything. Nowitzki responded with, "If you win, it's great for you, and everybody looks at you. And if you lose, you're going to get hammered. It's just part of the business. I think we understand that. We've been around long enough. I got hammered the last 13 years, basically. So hopefully this year I can make the hammering go away for a year." A great quote from someone Wade said wasn't a very good leader in 2006. Nowitzki has been the biggest leader for this Mavericks team, and has hit big shot after big shot. If he hits a few more big shots in about 12 hours, perhaps Wade will be the one being questioned about big shot making and leadership ability, Nowitzki sure won't.

-Colby

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