The Dallas Mavericks entered the American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL in their usual attire for a closeout game – all black. It was time to close the book on this incredible playoff run, and do it at the expense of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. You can’t really write a better story than this one right? The Mavericks were up 2-0 on the Heat back in the 2006 NBA Finals, and lost the next four games. NBA analysts called Dirk Nowitzki soft and year after year, the Mavericks would exit the playoffs. Now, after dispatching of the Blazers, Lakers, and Thunder, they found themselves 48 minutes away from rewriting the ending many had already predicted.
“Everyone wears all black. That’s our ritual in closeout games. Gotta get it done.” – Tyson Chandler
After taking plenty of ridicule throughout the series, LeBron James seemed hell bent on coming out of the gates on a mission. He hit his first four shots, and had the Heat up 20-13 early on. The Mavericks, like they did throughout the playoffs, had a response of their own. Jason Terry was huge early and throughout the game, as was DeShawn Stevenson, who hit back-to-back three pointers, putting the Mavericks up 40-28 in the 2nd quarter. That lead would vanish quickly, and after an Eddie House long ball, a 14-0 run had the Heat back on top 42-40, and then tempers flared between Stevenson, Udonis Haslem, and Mario Chalmers. The Mavericks would weather the storm, behind 14 points in 14 quick minutes off the bench for Terry, and head into the break up 53-51, and just 24 minutes away from their first NBA Championship.
The Mavericks would get some scoring from their franchise superstar, Dirk Nowitzki. Add an all-around team effort in the 3rd quarter, and the Mavericks took a 81-72 lead into the final quarter of Game 6.
On a side note, as an avid sports fan, this was the most excruciating 12 minutes I’ve ever gone through. I knew not to think that this game was over by any means, and that anything can happen when you have those three guys in the Heat jerseys. I’ve seen the video of the USA victory over Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and I imagine that it was a very similar feeling. We were the underdog. We weren’t supposed to be in this position, but yet, as each second ticked off the clock, the dream was becoming more of a reality.
The Heat would throw a flurry of attempts in the Mavericks direction, only to have Dallas continue to strike back and keep their lead at a distance. Then, the for sure Hall of Famer decided to do what he had done so many times – put the opponent down for good.
I remember my wife saying to me that night that she was surprised I was so calm and not going crazy once the game was over. Give me a break BABE! I’m just trying to catch my breath, and gain some type of composure. I was in shock. This wasn’t just a game to me. I’ve been watching Dirk Nowitzki do everything he can to get his team over the hump. He has never been given the type of attention the other greats get (LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo), and yet night in, he gives it everything he has.
“It feels amazing now to know that nobody can ever take this way away from us again, and for one year we’re the best team that was out there. That feels amazing.” – Dirk Nowitzki
Look at his reaction. It was just like mine. A long journey had come to an end. He didn’t know how to react either. He just needed a minute to gather himself. He wanted it for himself. He wanted it for this franchise. He wanted it for the city of Dallas, and MFFL’s everywhere.
And on this day, June 12, 2011, he gave it to them. We are forever grateful big man!
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