The NBA Finals, a winning script
There are certain elements that a good movie needs to have to capture an audience’s attention, to keep an audience’s attention, and to inhabit a place in the audience’s heart. I know I’m not going to house good vibrations about something long after it’s done if I can’t find a way to connect to it. I love “The Shawshank Redemption” because it is easy to sympathise with Andy Dufresne, an everyman who was wrongfully imprisoned. I love “Into the Wild” because we’ve all felt like Christopher McCandless at one time or another, wanting to live outside a flawed societal structure and blaze our own trail. I love “Hot Rod” because the part when Rod tells Denise that she looks shitty cracks me up.
At the heart of every unforgettable movie, there is an accessible protagonist whose shoes the audience can step into and understand why they do what they do. Let’s use “The Truman Show” as our example, since Dallas coach Rick Carlisle starred in it.
The most underrated movie in Jim Carrey’s filmography tells the story of Truman Burbank, a man who was adopted by a TV station and had his life filmed and broadcasted to the entire world. Truman works at an insurance company and is a likable everyman who struggles through a bit of an identity crisis when he begins to catch on to the whole “my entire life has been filmed and has aired on national television” idea.
The NBA Finals have truly been a major Hollywood production for several reasons. Cut to Dirk Nowitzki, one of the top one least hatable superstars the NBA has ever seen. The only people who hate him also hate V-neck shirts and a Wendy’s Frosty, so they have no credibility. Prior to this postseason, the verdict on Dirk was that he couldn’t close out a game. He shattered this identity he had been labeled with by scoring a bunch of fourth quarter points in the Finals. Crisis = solved: the dude can finish.
Despite being a seven-foot German, America felt like they could relate to Dirk Nowitzki because he is a humble guy going up against a big evil force. Superstars have changed teams before, but none until LeBron have turned it into such a grand spectacle, broadcasting it live 24/7 and creating a “Trumania” (yes, the Heat are Christof here). None have assumed the crown before earning it like the Miami Heat did. None have carried themselves with as much smug asshole-ery as LeBron and Wade. None have looked as much like an ostrich or raptor or other animal of choice as Chris Bosh.
This all culminated to make them a team hated unlike any other before them. In the 2010-2011 NBA season movie, the Miami Heat are Voldemort, Master Shredder, Team Rocket, almost every role Will Arnett has ever played, and Lord Farquaad. The entire country became 76ers fans in the first round, Celtics fans in the second round (although that bandwagon was already kind of large to begin with), Bulls fans in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Mavs fans in the big show.
There’s always love for Scal.
I remember the exact moment when my disdain for the Heat went from a casual dislike because of LeBron jumping ship in Cleveland and because they were serious competition to my Celtics: in late January, Dwyane Wade said, “We’re not the Boston Celtics. We’re not these kinds of teams that need to play together.” Are you serious? You don’t need to play together? If all it took was a big time player to take over, score points and forget that there are others wearing jerseys similar to his, Allen Iverson would have nearly as many rings as fingers to put them on.
From day one, kids learning the game are taught that basketball is a team game. It’s not baseball, where a dominant pitcher can take over (even then, only sometimes), or tennis, where it’s just a foreign guy, his luxurious hair and his racket. One Dallas player admitted that the Heat were fielding three of the four best players on the court every night. A competitor deep in the Finals would never admit that their opponents were a better team, so what does that say about his stance on teamwork and how one guy can’t just take over? (By the way, I just forget who said the “three out of four players” thing, I don’t feel like checking.)
Dirk said himself that he needed help, and being one of those “teams that needs to play together,” other guys stepped up while he went through his fever and through his awful first half in Game 6. DeShawn Stevenson hit key threes. Terry picked up the some of the scoring burden. Chandler grabbed big rebounds that extended possessions. Jason Kidd continued being a triple-double threat. J.J. Barea stepped into the starting lineup and brought his spark from the bench with it.
It was obvious to anybody with a brain stem that the Mavs are Dirk’s team, but he was smart enough to not claim that he is the team. When the pressure was on, the pressure was on the whole squad, not just Dirk, who acknowledged and played like he was not the only one on the court capable of hitting the big shot or getting the big stop. LeBron put the pressure on his shoulders and crumbled beneath it (Wade had the pressure too, but he was clutch enough to handle it). Two people can’t take as much as 9 or so can. When weight is spread over a larger area, there is less surface pressure. It’s science, look it up.
Moviegoers love a happy ending, when the good guy overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to claim victory. Dirk and his crew of supposedly over-the-hill old-timers had the maturity to handle themselves with class and to rely on each other to defeat the flashy young guns who thought they already had it all figured out. America latched on to this team because Dallas were the good guys who had a big hill to climb.
Nice guys allegedly finish last, but it’s always the villain who says that, right before he doesn’t show up in the fourth quarter and reminds his haters that he is richer and better than them after he loses. The final twelve minutes are where games are won and lost, but in case we don’t see you there, LeBron, “good afternoon, good evening and good night.”
2011 NBA Finals ‘Online DVD’
The NBA will offer one of those cutesie thirty-or-whatever-dollar Mavericks championship DVDs, but the price is always a bit steep, especially for the casual fan who doesn’t pledge allegiance to the champion, but enjoyed the drama and intensity of a great NBA Finals.
This is why I have made a sort of “online championship DVD,” compiling relevant YouTube clips and stats into a quality summary of the Mavs’ and Heat’s seasons and the Finals. There are over 246 minutes, or about 4 hours, of great video content here.Presenting the NBAmmkay 2011 NBA Finals “Online DVD”
~~ NBA Mini Movies: The NBA produced a series of 6-7 minute YouTube videos for each game of the Finals that capture both the drama and the highlights of every night, which cumulate into a nice 40-minute feature when watched consecutively.
~~ Game summaries: Highlights from NBA.com (25 minutes)
~~ Dirk Nowitzki receiving the Finals MVP award (2 minutes)
~~ Box scores: Complete statistics from Basketball-Reference.com that cover the entire playoffs, stats leaders and much more.
~~ Miami Heat Championship: What seems to be the 2006 Championship DVD. (59 minutes)
~~ Final minute of 2006 Finals: It is possible to watch all of Game 6 by going to the user’s channel and watching all 11 parts of the video. (9 minutes) // Watch final minute- Bonus Features: The Mavericks
~~ NBA Stories: Dirk Nowitzki: a 25-minute special from 2008 that covers Dirk’s entire career, from his upbringing in Germany to his 50-point playoff game.
~~ Mavericks 2011 Top Plays: Different Top 10 videos about the season the Mavs have had. (12 minutes)
~~ The Decision: Somebody recorded this copy with a camera, but it’s the only complete version I could find. (37 minutes)
~~ Inside the HEAT: Dwyane Wade: A local TV special about Wade’s career. (23 minutes)
~~ Heat 2011 Top Plays: Different Top 10 videos about the season the Heat have had. (14 minutes)
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I have a funny feeling Dirk knew he would have a game-alteringly-bad fever of 100+ degrees before it hit him. When he called out Jason Terry yesterday for not being clutch, he was setting tinder and kindling under him and flicking a match, in slow motion like a movie villain would as his plan unfolds.
With Nowitzki putting on his No-win-ski mask for much of the first three quarters, shooting only 6 for 19 on the game, Terry had to assume more scoring responsibilities (17 points) as well as instigate some defensive action (3 steals). When it came down the the final twelve minutes, Terry was 3-7 and as effective as I imagine Dirk was hoping for.
The Burnin’ German (bad fever joke, sorry about that) was a wounded animal all game, or to use a more fun metaphor, Rocky Balboa in the fourth and greatest film in the franchise (don’t let anybody tell you otherwise about either of those labels). Dirk/Rocky caught the black plague/got abused all game/fight, but when it mattered in the end, overcame his illness/physical inferiority and scored ten points in the fourth quarter/defeated Ivan Drago. The only difference is that here, the giant foreigner with the fantastic haircut was the good guy.
Despite getting rejected like Smalls at the sandlot by Wade, Tyson Chandler may have been the most important Maverick in this game. He did drop 13 points, yes, but his 16 rebounds were the centerpiece of his stat line. A lot of those rebounds were crucial tips that extended possessions, allowed for additional scoring opportunities and burned big seconds off the clock.
As for the South Beach bums (not a play on their performance but on the phrase “beach bum”), LeBron James was virtually silent with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Those numbers actually look pretty good, but it was noticeable watching the game that King James was not himself. As NBAOffseason.com just-just put it, “Take it back, Scottie. RIGHT NOW.”
Bosh had a big first half with 16 points, but scored half that the second half. I forgot about his existence until I looked back over the game and remembered his first 24 minutes (and the ostrich face he makes when he screams). It’s a given at this point in the Finals, but Wade was huge as well, scoring 32 points on 13-20 shooting and coming up with two huge blocks in the final minutes.
Four non-Dirk Mavericks came up with at least 11 points to supplement the sickly Nowitzki, who knows he’ll probably have to play better if he expects to beat the Heat the next go around; 6 of 19 won’t cut the mustard. There seems to be no stats available for Dirk’s performance in games after reaching a body temperature of 102 degrees, so I have no idea what the future of this series holds… except for the customary 10 or so fourth quarter points, Larry Bird comparisons, knee-in-your-face fadeaways and one hell of a ride.
Game 1: Heat 92 - Dallas 84
This is just a quick post from my iPod before bed, but I’ll share one thought: aside from poor shooting and being dominated on both ends the second half, the Mavs’ downfall was actually in their bench, whose praises I sung in my series preview. Miami’s bench outscored Dallas’ 27-17, and Terry had a weak night, going 0-3 in the second half for approximately 0 points.
My tone may suggest Dallas should feel disheartened, but let’s not forget that Miami won a game at home, exactly what they are supposed to do. Winning either of the first two games would almost be a steal for the Mavericks.
Game 2 is Thursday at 9ET on ABC.
The “Dallas not being able to keep up with the young guns because their old bones just can’t handle it” story line has been discussed and dissected to death and it has clearly been wrong thus far.
If anything, the lengthy careers of Dallas’ ring-less core makes the team that much hungrier: the Mavs’ starting five have played for a combined 58 NBA seasons without a championship, and among active players, Jason Kidd has played the most playoffs games without a title.
The fine folks over at ESPN and every other sports news outlet have been hearkening back to the ‘06 Finals, which also pitted the Mavericks against the Heat. In my opinion, the 2006 Miami Heat have one of the worst rosters that ever won an NBA championship: The Blob Formerly Known as Antoine Walker was their fourth leading scorer! Their third leading scorer: Jason Williams, and not the awesome Sacramento White Chocolate version either (sweet old Jason Williams mix).
For Dirk, losing to that subpar Heat team after finishing the season with a 60-22 record must have felt like a slap in the face from the basketball gods, whether or not he’ll admit it. The big angry German inside him wants to crush those who called him “No-win-ski” and smoke a championship cigar in front of a roaring fire and a LeBron-skin rug. Oh, how sweet victory would be.
I assume that members of the Miami Heat would also enjoy winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy. LeBron wants to shut up the critics. I’m sure LeBron browses tumblr often enough and sees photoshopped pictures of him whining enough to know that people don’t particularly care for him. What better way to hush the angry masses than earning a ring that reads, “I am the best at what I do, as evidenced by this elegant piece of jewelry. Now quiet down so I can wash the champagne out of my hair”?
The only thing that feels better than winning your first title is winning your second, and Dwyane Wade knows this: Shaq probably told him or something, I don’t know. More importantly, the whole team has banded together and feels a sense of urgency to help Erick Dampier finally win that ring he deserves.
Mmkay, that was fun, let’s have a look at the positional match-ups in an attempt to quantify an advantage for either side:
PG: Jason Kidd > Mike Bibby
Jason Kidd is third all-time in regular season triple doubles (107) and second in playoffs triple-doubles (11). Jason Kidd has taken his teams to the post-season in each of the past 14 seasons. Jason Kidd is third all-time in made threes (interesting note: current teammate Peja Stojakovic is 4th. Bottoms up!). Jason Kidd is second all-time in career assists and third in career playoff assists. Jason Kidd is averaging about 10 points and 8 assists in these playoffs, close to his career averages.
Mike Bibby averages 3.6 points and 1.2 assists this postseason, and with that I conclude my unnecessarily-robust explanation about what we already know: advantage to the Mavs.
DeShawn Stevenson Jason Terry < Dwyane Wade
Yeah yeah, Stevenson is the “starter,” but we all know what’s up. It is very clear that Dwyane Wade is the superior player here, so I’m not even going to cite any numbers to prove myself.
I would like to use this time to say something: I just realized that the Mavs got Terry (and Alan Henderson and a 1st-round pick) in a 2004 trade for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. Fast-forward to today: Terry is a key component of a potential championship team. As for Antoine:
Walker is a key component of the Idaho Stampede… yes, the NBA Development League team.
Oh yes, by the way, Advantage to the Heat.
SF: Shawn Marion < LeBron James
According to the NBA.com StatsCube, not only does Shawn Marion’s presence fail to slow LeBron down, it makes him better. In the 34 minutes that Marion and LeBron were on the court together this season (I’m assuming with Marion guarding LeBron for many of those minutes), LeBron’s scoring jumps to almost 35 points per 36 minutes, compared to his regular average of 24.8. On the other hand, his field goal percentage also drops to 38%, compared to 51%.
Extrapolate from those numbers whatever analysis you may, but it’s still obviously clear that this matchup presents an Advantage to the Heat.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki > Chris Bosh
Basically, we have this:
…advantage to the Mavs.
C: Tyson Chandler > Joel Anthony
Tyson Chandler has almost twice as much playoff experience as Anthony (47 games to 26). Despite that, I’m gonna have to go with Joel Anthony here. He may be giving up four inches, four points and four rebounds per game… couldn’t keep myself composed, of course Chandler is superior. Both guys are probably the worst starters on their teams, but the disparity is not nearly as extreme. The difference between Dirk and Chandler compared to that between LeBron and Anthony? Sounds like a lot of… (image from fapitalism)
Advantage to the Mavs
BENCH: Mavericks > Heat
Counting Stevenson as part of the bench, the Mavs can practically field a second starting lineup that is more than capable of holding most teams off: J.J. Barea at point guard, Stevenson at the 2, Peja at the 3, Corey Brewer at the 4 (given, they don’t use him that much) and Haywood at center.
How much do the Heat rely on their bench? When it mattered, in the final game of the Bulls series, Miami went three players deep, giving minutes to Haslem, Miller and Chalmers. Four players received a DNP - Coach’s Decision.
Advantage to the Mavs.
The final tally we have reached puts Dallas ahead 4-2.
Miami lost both games against the Mavericks this season, but as my Celtics learned the hard way, LeBron and company are a different beast in the playoffs.
Regardless, I think the Mavs are capable of defending Miami, especially down low with Chandler’s ape arms hanging out near the rim, and Dallas also has a giant edge in long range shooting.
I guess it comes down to which versions of Wade and LeBron (and even Bosh) show up: the clutch ones that destroyed the Bulls’ hopes with a 10-2 run in just over a minute last series, or the whiney pretty boys who do photoshoots for Maxim.
The last time the Heat beat the Mavericks in any kind of game, Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin was still alive. That game took place on June 20, 2006: the deciding game of the NBA Finals. Goodness, that certainly makes things interesting, doesn’t it?
With all this up in the air, I predict the Mavericks will be our NBA champs after a grueling seven-game series, half because of my love for Dirk/disdain for LeBron and half because I think Nowitzki has a few goodies left in his bag of tricks.
The NBA Finals start on Tuesday night at 9ET on ABC.
I am going to be away for a few days, so I’ll have a few posts queued up, but I’ll start writing again on Thursday or Friday. Thanks for reading, and be sure to like NBAmmkay on Facebook.
PTI’s Michael Wilbon’s twitter has been a great source for factoids and interesting points during these NBA playoffs. Here are a few of his thoughts from last night’s Mavs/Thunder game:
JJ Barea increasingly does so many things like Steve Nash now, the way he keeps his dribble alive and arcs that shot over bigs…
Here’s what has to be addressed about lack of ball movement: 10 possessions in the 4th Qt. Westbrook was the only player to touch the ball
Final stat of the night: Dallas had 14 assists on 21 first-half baskets. OKC had 11 assists all night, on 27 baskets.
At halftime, I made a crazy post about random nothingness, and one thing I mentioned was how the last time Dirk had a 48+ point playoff game, he scored about half as much the next game. I thought I had uncovered a real Kirkgem until the fourth quarter rolled around, in which Dirk came up big (ending up with 29 total) and almost led Dallas to victory in a real hamster-cage-cleaner (some people bite nails, I deal with nerves differently).
Cheers to Scott Brooks for playing his bench-plus-Durant lineup for most of the fourth quarter. Ballsy move to bench Westbrook, who must have been fuming inside while also realizing that the arrangement was what was working at the time.
Thanks to KD’s 24 and James Harden’s (who from now on will be known as Black Galifianakis) 23 off the bench, the series is tied 1-1.
So Dirk had a solid night last game. With one game, he resparked the Larry Bird comparisons and legitimized Rick Carlisle’s claims of his top 10 talent. The thing after a game like that is, now what? Where do you go from there?
photo from punkwithtoms. This is a quality picture with great caption potential, so go ahead and leave your best ones in the comments.
With the energy of the Dallas crowd and the this-is-the-Mavericks’-night vibe of the fourth quarter, there was no way they were losing this game, even with OKC being within ten points for most of the quarter.
KD went for 40 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but Dirk was that guy at the party who always has a better story than yours. Dirk scored 48 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and got 4 assists. Here’s the kicker: he got all those points on only 15 shots. Dude went 24 of 24 from the foul line, breaking a playoff record for most free throws without a miss.
As far as efficiency, technically speaking, Dirk was not the tops. That would be JJ Barea, who scored 21 points in 16 minutes off the bench, which is about 1.3 points per minute.
…I don’t have anything to say about Oklahoma City…
As for my series prediction, boom, Dallas in 6.
Introducing the first post from an author who is not myself here on NBAmmkay.com. Bobby Long writes at muchadoaboutbasketball.tumblr.com. He previously played basketball for four years at Grinnell College and has been playing professionally in Germany for the past two years, where he averaged 27.4 points per game and led the league in 3-point shooting, connecting on 135 shots for the season, which amounts to 5.1 per game. Long will soon be moving to Houston to teach history at a private high school, as well as serve as Athletic Director, varsity basketball coach and track coach for the school. Mr. Long, the floor is yours.
Head-to-head this season: Dallas leads 2-1 (Dallas 111-103 on Nov. 24 @OKC; Dallas 103-93 on Dec. 27 @OKC; OKC 99-95 on Jan. 6 @DAL)
There are profound differences between the two teams in the Western Conference Finals:
1.) The youngest team in the league (Thunder) versus the oldest team (Mavericks).
2.) The youngest superstar (Kevin Durant) versus an aging star with some mileage (Dirk Nowitzki).
3.) A Thunder team coming off an intense seven-game series against a gritty Memphis team versus a Dallas team that dismantled any hopes of a Laker 3-peat in a four-game sweep.
Many look at this long layoff as a negative for the Mavs, with the belief that they will have to shake off some rust - a valid argument considering that Dallas is a team made up of players on the wrong side of 30. However, in the long run, the rest will only benefits the Mavs and their aging bodies.
Oklahoma City, while ecstatic to advance to their first Conference Finals since 1996, will be physically and mentally exhausted after a seven-game battle with Memphis. Dallas has had five more days of rest, but they have only played two less game in these playoffs than the Thunder (12 to 10).
While Chicago has been looked at all season for their defense, Oklahoma City has played the best overall defense in the playoffs, holding their opponents to the lowest shooting percentage. Look for the Thunder to use their young legs to counter the Mavericks’ efforts to stretch the floor and shoot threes.
As for the individual match-ups:
Point Guard: Jason Kidd (38 years old) vs. Russell Westbrook (22 years)
There hasn’t been a more backwards match-up in these playoffs as the “age-less” Jason Kidd will attempt to stay in front of Westbrook. Kidd, who did an excellent job guarding Kobe Bryant in the last series, will have his hands full again as Westbrook will drive to the basket at will. Kidd, a pass-first point guard, will use his experience to find open shooters. However, do not look for him to help in the scoring column as he is shooting just 36% from the floor this season for the Mavericks. If Westbrook can play like he did in game seven, where he facilitated the offense and picked his spots shooting, it will benefit OKC greatly. Edge: Thunder
Shooting Guard: Jason Terry (33) vs. James Harden (21)
Although Jason Terry is considered a sixth man, I put him here because he plays the majority of the minutes at the position (over 32 a game). Terry is having a magical post-season, averaging 18.3 ppg. Terry is known as a fourth-quarter sniper and is as experienced as they come. On the other hand, James Harden, the third-leading scorer for the Thunder, has struggled this post-season, shooting just 27.1% from three-point range. If he doesn’t step up, they may struggle. This one is closer than most think, but Edge: Mavericks
Small Forward: Shawn Marion (33) vs. Kevin Durant (22)
Fifth in the MVP voting this year, Kevin Durant has led his Thunder to the Western Conference Finals with a 39 point, 9 rebound performance in game seven. Playing over 40 minutes and averaging 28 points a game this postseason, the Thunder success hinges on his scrawny, shimmied shoulders. Marion, who has the lowest points-per-shot on the Mavericks, is known most for his defense and hustle. It will be up to him and DeShawn Stevenson to cover Durant, a scary thought for Mavs fans. Edge: Thunder
Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki (32) vs. Serge Ibaka (21)
Dirk has already led the Mavericks to an NBA Finals appearance in ’06 when Dwyane Wade defeated them almost single-handedly. Look for the pride of Germany to carry the Mavericks with his array of shot fakes and step-back moves. The athletic Ibaka has been a monster defender, grabbing over eight boards and blocking nearly four shots per game. He will benefit the Thunder if he is able to stay out of foul trouble, but he will still have trouble guarding Dirk when he’s on the floor. Edge: Mavericks
Center: Tyson Chandler (28) vs. Kendrick Perkins (26)
Here are two good centers with two very different body types who will battle the boards and do whatever it takes to help their teams win. Chandler is more athletic than Perkins, but Perkins’ will, desire and championship experience with the Celtics in ‘08 even the matchup. Edge: Even
Bench: The Mavericks bench this off-season has played well, but cannot always be relied on. Peja Stojakovic has proved to be extremely valuable against the Lakers, but can he keep it up? I have my doubts.
J.J. Barea had an excellent series, but had Derek Fisher and Steve Blake guarding him. I do not envision him being able to blow by Westbrook and Maynor like he did in the previous series. Also, for as much hype as the little guy gets, he is only shooting 40% from the floor. The Thunder have defensive asset Thabo Sefolosha, Nazr Mohammed’s six fouls and the decent three-point shooting of Cook and Maynor.
Then there is the under-credited Nick Collison. He is the catalyst for the Thunder’s bench defense, as he frustrated Randolph in the Memphis series, particularly in game seven. His play can and will make the difference in at least one game for the Thunder this series. Edge: Thunder
If the Thunder have enough legs and can swallow any Conference Finals jitters that may arise in their first trip, I see their advantage at point guard and small forward as too much for the Mavs to handle. Look for their bench to make the hustle plays necessary to steal a game in Dallas.
On the other hand, can the Mavericks utilize their many years of experience and few extra days of rest to dispatch the Thunder? If they play like they did against the Lakers, they have a great shot. Regardless, my bet is on the Thunder in 6.
The Western Conference Finals begin with Game 1 tonight at 9ET on ESPN. Bobby Long will likely contribute more posts to this site in the future, but in the meantime, follow Bobby and read his other stuff at his tumblr site, MuchAdoAboutBasketball.