By John Schuhmann

DALLAS, June 20 -- After Game 3 concluded, we all knew that Dallas had let one get away when they blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead. It was just one game though, and the predominant sentiment was that they were still the better team. We thought that Avery Johnson would light a fire under his team and that they would recover quickly. They might still close out the series in five, we thought. Maybe six.

We were dead wrong.

The six and a half minute mark in the fourth quarter was not only a turning point in the game, it was the turning point of the series. It took the trophy out of Mark Cuban's hands and put it in those of Micky Arison. It gave Alonzo Mourning the opportunity to have his first drink in six years while Mavs fans cried as they left the building.

In the end, the setting really didn't matter.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images/NBAE
It didn't matter who had home court in any particular game. Sure the home team won the first five games for the first time in 30 years, but that was just a coincidence. The Mavs were the better team before that moment and the Heat were the better team after it. It's that simple.

"That Game 3 was big," Dirk Nowitzki said. "If we win that, the series is probably pretty much over, and we just maybe were starting to celebrate too early ... We didn't execute and we didn't finish the game."

After that, they had chances to win Game 5. They were right there in Game 6. They had a few stretches, like the nine minutes tonight, where they played well. But, they could never keep it going. They could never get all eight players in their rotation clicking at once. They couldn't even get their three best players playing well at the same time.

Jason Terry was big in Games 1 and 5. Dirk Nowitzki was at his best in Games 2 and 6. Josh Howard had a strong Game 5, until his last-minute meltdown. If you're going to win the NBA Finals, you need your best players to show up every night. That didn't happen.

Even in Game 6, the Mavs' stars were hit-or-miss, mostly miss. Howard scored eight points in the fourth quarter, but was a non-factor until then. Nowitzki was strong through the first 36 minutes, but scored just two points and shot 0-for-4 from the floor in the final period.

Jason Terry, probably the Mavs' series MVP through the first five games, was probably the biggest disappointment on Tuesday.

He started out hot, hitting of his four field goal attempts in the first quarter, scoring nine points. After that, he made just three of his 21 shots, scoring only seven points in the final 36 minutes. He missed his final 11 attempts from the field, including the one that could have tied it in the final seconds. He took more shots than anyone else in the game.

"We had our chances," Terry said. "Same as just about every game in this series, and we didn't capitalize."

The Last Word from Cuban

In the Dallas locker room after Game 6, a throng of reporters surrounded Josh Howard as he got dressed. Before Howard could address the group, Mark Cuban walked in and volunteered to answer questions while the group waited for Howard.

A proud Cuban.
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Cuban was in fairly good spirits considering the circumstances. He was obviously disappointed, but he was able to reflect on the series and on the strides that the Mavs made this season.

"We never put our head down," Cuban said. "We never gave up. We kept on fighting, fighting, fighting. So all you can do is be incredibly proud of this team, the organization and all that we've done. I think we've exceeded everybody's expectations."

While he gave credit to the Heat, Cuban believes that there was not much of a difference between the two teams.

"A break here and a break there, and we're having a completely different conversation."

Priority No. 1 this offseason will be bringing Jason Terry back and Cuban expects to have a very similar roster next year.

"I don't expect to make a lot of changes at all, at least from what Avery said and Donnie [Nelson] have said so far."

After all, they were two games short of a championship and their core is very young.

"Dirk just turned 28 and he was our oldest starter," Cuban said. "That's not a bad spot to be in."

In the end, Cuban remains positive.

"It could be a whole lot worse," he said. "I think we're going in the right direction. I'm proud of our guys. I'm proud of the organization."