Okay, so is everyone ready for the basketball clichés? The, “the time is now” slogan? The “win at all costs” mantra? You should be, because as we head into Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals, the time, as Dallas’ slogan alludes to, is now. Leading into Game 5, the Finals had been a tough-it-out, slow-tempo defensive struggle. Or, as Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra likes to call it, a “grind”. In Game 5, the Dallas Mavericks finally broke their shackles and scored freely like they did against the Lakers and the Thunder. They were lights-out from three-point territory, hitting both open and contested jumpers with ease. [caption id="attachment_1093" align="alignleft" width="156" caption="Jason Terry was phenomenal in Dallas' Game 5 victory, shooting 8-12 from the field, including a hat-trick of three-point jumpers."][/caption] For Dallas, their playoff mantra could not be more fitting. For them, they must close this series out in Game 6 and not give the Miami Heat another life in a winner-takes-all Game 7 on their home court. They can’t let the Heat regain confidence in themselves with a morale-boosting Game 6 win. In Game 6, the Mavericks will again try to open the game up and score heavily because, although we all know the Heat have three extremely athletic players in their starting five, their default game is a slow-tempo defensive slugfest. For all the athleticism they possess, the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade aren’t great jump shooters. Their jumpers only start to fall after forcing defenses to sag off them to protect the rim. For the Heat to tie this series up, they can’t afford to get into a jump shooting contest with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. That’s a contest they lose. So far in the playoffs, Miami has shown that they don’t like to play in shootouts. They’ve only scored in triple digits in four of their twenty contests in the 2011 postseason, preferring to choke the life out of games with smothering defense. Unfortunately for the team down at South Beach, the Dallas Mavericks, through inserting JJ Barea into the starting line-up and utilising DeShawn Stevenson and Shawn Marion in a perfect one-two combination, have finally figured out the Heat defense that shut down the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. After a slow start, Barea is showing the same aggressive offense that has been so successful this postseason, and Dirk Nowitzki has shaken the perception that he is a soft European big man by getting into the paint however and whenever he likes. By now, it’s probably obvious to all the readers that I am less than fond of the Miami Heat and the sickening bromance that has unfolded all season long between two of the NBA’s worst floppers. But, I will try to look at Game 6 objectively. There has been enough venom spat at both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade without me buying into it again. For the Miami Heat, winning Game 6 and forcing a do-or-die Game 7 is by no means a mission impossible. Although one of [caption id="attachment_1095" align="alignright" width="200" caption="The fate of the Heat rests on the very capable shoulders of Dwyane Wade (left) and LeBron James."][/caption] them hasn’t played like it this series, the Heat possess two of (arguably) the best three players in the NBA. To force Game 7, the Heat need both James and Wade to have monster games. James needs to drive to the basket, not skulk on the perimeter and defer the play because he can’t figure out Rick Carlisle’s zone defense that has kept him away from both the rim and the free throw line. As for Wade, we know he isn’t 100% healthy after injuring his hip in Game 5, but as both James and Nowitzki have both stated that Nowitzki’s injury will have no effect on the outcome of this series, the same manner must be applied to Wade’s injury. If LeBron’s Finals form stays true, Wade has to shake his hip injury and take over this game and score at least 35 points to win. An interesting statistic for the Playoffs so far have been the unbelievable amount of minutes James has played. He’s averaging over 44 minutes per contest. With Dallas employing a three-man defensive rotation on James to keep defenders fresh, the ‘King’ has faltered and looked both tired and unwilling to penetrate the perimeter defense. Another statistic that I find interesting, about the entire postseason is that many fans and commentators are saying (before the Finals) that LeBron was having an unbelievable campaign. Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, he of the green eyes, had the audacity to claim that LBJ may be better than MJ. [caption id="attachment_1097" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="LeBron James (left, with ball) must become more aggressive when getting to the rim in Game 6."][/caption] Interesting, then, that James is averaging his lowest assists per game mark since his first postseason trip in 2006. Granted, he was the best player in the Heat-Bulls series and a workhorse against the Celtics, but he hasn’t fully shaken off the playoff-choker tag that has been give to him. As well as his somewhat-low assist totals, James is averaging a career-worst 23.8 points per game in the postseason. Now, I know that he has to share the ball with volume scorer Dwyane Wade and, to a lesser degree, Chris Bosh, but for a man to call himself the “Chosen One” and fully embrace the moniker of royalty, he needs to score much, much more than his average of nearly 24 points in Game 6 to force a winner takes all battle in Game 7. As I stated before, winning Game 6 is not an impossibility for the Heat. They are 9-1 in the postseason and are an excellent defensive team. Their biggest downfall at the moment is that they are playing a veteran-laden Mavericks team that are a). Making LeBron James look like Ving Rhames in any role other than Pulp Fiction’s Marcellus Wallace; out of his depth, b). Seems to have figured out the defense that kept them in check in Games 1-4, and c). Closing out series’ with lethal shooting, late game defense and executing their late-game sets with the cold-bloodedness that all great championship teams possess. It isn’t mission impossible, but the Heat had better get a move on in what is fast becoming a Finals series for the ages.