Let’s set the scene - Game 2, fourth quarter, the Miami Heat had just gone on a 13-0 run, they had an 88-73 lead and there was just over 7 minutes remaining. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were posing, dancing, dreaming about sharing a championship. Ring the siren, this ones in the bank. About to bury the Mavs in an 0-2 hole, life was good for the Dynamic Duo and their impressionable sidekick, Chris Bosh. Well, so it seemed. Miami just needed to ride the home court advantage and let the ball find Dwyane Wade, who had been in red-hot shooting form with 36 points. The Dallas Mavericks just didn't look like getting back into the contest. Dirk Nowitzki was off his game, shooting at less than 40% and no other offensive threat for Dallas. How could this game possibly all be but over? Fast forward 7 minutes and Dirk has the ball in his hands drives to the left of Chris Bosh lays the ball up and the game is done. What just happened? Are we really heading back to the Dallas with a series tied at 1-1? Fact of the matter is, we are. After Dallas’ ridiculous 22-5 run over the second half of the fourth quarter, Dirk and Co. had stolen not only Game 2, but home-court advantage off the Heat. On top of that, Dallas destroyed the aura around Miami’s American Airlines Arena, beating them in Miami to record their first loss at home all postseason. Going into Game 3, Games 1 and 2 have told us that: Dirk has ice running through his veins. [caption id="attachment_1026" align="alignleft" width="235" caption="Dirk Nowitzki is proving doubters wrong about his 'lack' of killer instinct"][/caption] Dirk hit the last 9 points of the game for Dallas. If that isn’t clutch, I don’t know what is. He is the go-to man when it comes down to the wire, no doubt about it. Dirk was seemingly left open for a clutch 3 with 26.7 seconds to play as the Mavs hit the lead and then, with the Chris Bosh losing concentration and failing to give up the one foul the Heat had to give, let him score a left-handed layup with 3.6 seconds on the clock. Dallas had been in this position before in this postseason campaign, with a big comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers and another against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But never had the outcome had such meaning. At Miami’s home court, the crowd in a frenzy. Looking down and out, the Mavs pulled themselves off the canvas and made one of the great comebacks in Finals history. Not only did they silence the crowd they headed for the team bus with a sniff of victory knowing they have 3 home games to come at the American Airlines Centre. The Matrix is playing big. Shawn Marion has been extraordinary for the Mavericks so far this postseason. The man known across the NBA as the Matrix is averaging 18 points a game, shooting at just under 60% and providing a very solid presence on the boards. The Matrix continues to come up with big plays and has done the job defensively on LeBron. Sure, LeBron has provided a few highlight packages already this series, but Marion has had the size and quickness to trouble the self-titled King. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is bravely going head to head with Marion and LeBron; when LeBron rests, so too does Marion. This could well be the matchup that decides the series. LeBron was held to 0-4 in the final quarter. Will that happen again? Probably not, but the pressure Marion is providing could well be the difference going forward in this series. Heat can’t play Cleveland offense if they are to win. One of the ESPN commentators was heard to say that the Heat can’t fall into “Cleveland Offense” during the remainder of this series, referring to the Cleveland Cavaliers offense in LeBron’s final seasons as a Cavalier where they would put the ball in his hands and expect him hit the final shot from an on-the-fly isolation play. [caption id="attachment_1027" align="alignright" width="374" caption="Unsure of what had just occurred in Game 2, LeBron James checks the score for confirmation that his Miami Heat had choked away a 15-point fourth quarter lead."][/caption] To win this series, that can’t happen. Miami’s leads in Games 1 and 2 had been sustained from good offensive movement, hitting the open man and spreading the floor. Dwyane Wade had the hot hand all night in Game 2. For some reason, Miami’s coach Eric Spoeltra forgot. Not only did the offense become non-existent, the rest of their game plan fell apart dramatically. They played poor defense and rushed plays late in the game. At times down the stretch it was easy to see that, although Wade had been in this position before, it was still a rookie team in terms of Championship experience. The sensible basketball played by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry got Dallas the win in Game 2, and bodes well for them the rest of this series. Turnover kings Dallas had 18 turnovers to the Heat’s 12 and it appeared that the further the game went on, especially in the 3rd period, it was only going to get worse for the Mavs. Kidd and Dirk, both usually very effective ball handlers, both had 5 turnovers. Probably the two important things we can take out of this stat is, Kidd will not play like that again and at least they turned it around in the 4th period, looking a lot more composed and running their offense more efficiently. They were able to calm down in the last quarter, take care of the ball and not create transition opportunities for Miami on the fast break. If the Mavs can play like they did in the fourth quarter of Game 2, they will be tough to stop.
The beauty of the series being tied at 1-1 is that now, the series is well and truly alive. If Miami had been heading to Dallas 2-0 up they would have been all but impossible to stop. With momentum, the trio of James, Wade and Bosh, even though the latter has struggled to create his own shots so far in the Finals, can be harder to stop than a runaway train. Now the contest is back on Dallas’ terms, with 3 home games in a row and a huge home court advantage. No doubt with the talent the Heat have, they will make another run at some stage in the next few games and that will hopefully open up a return to Miami and a series that could go right down to the wire. Buckle up, folks. This series is just getting started! For more quality NBA musings, make sure to follow @jcuol on Twitter!