Earl K. Sneed recaps Game 5 of the NBA Finals, as the Dallas Mavericks moved one win away from their first title in franchise history after forward Dirk Nowitzki and sixth man Jason Terry led the team to a victory in its home finale to head back to Miami with a 3-2 lead in the championship series.
DALLAS — One journey came to an end, but still there was work left to be done for the Dallas Mavericks coming out of Thursday night’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Looking to take a 3-2 lead over the Miami Heat before the series shifts back to the Sunshine State, the Mavericks stepped onto the floor at the American Airlines Center one final time this season in front of their hometown fans. And with the Heat trying to spoil the fun in Dallas’ home finale, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle hoped that his team could remain focused on the task at hand, as the squad tried to build momentum following an 86-83 home victory in Game 4.
“Well, this is our last game at home. To get to this point is an accomplishment of sorts, but it’s not the accomplishment that we’ve aimed for. But it is special, and we obviously want to have the right result,” Carlisle said before the opening tipoff.
In search of their desired result, the Mavs and their fans reconvened together to welcome an opponent one final time in the 2010-11 campaign and to treat the Heat to some southern hospitality. And although it took every bit of 48 minutes, they did just that, delivering on their home court to move one win away from claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in the Mavericks’ 31-year history after a 112-103 win.
“The fans have been great. They’re the best in the business. We really take pride in our home-court advantage. We use it as an edge. And from the tip they were into it. … We want to win this thing for them as much as we do for ourselves,” Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry said with praise for the home crowd.
“First of all, this was the last home game in this building in front of our fans, who have been phenomenal all year and pushed us forward,” leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki added. “We obviously didn’t want to end this season here for them on a loss.”
But things appeared to be working against the Mavs before the night ever began, when Carlisle was forced to announce that backup big man Brendan Haywood would be inactive for the second time in the championship series due to a strained right hip flexor.
Despite the absence of the reserve 7-footer, the Mavericks came out of the gate strong, storming to a 13-6 lead from the get-go as forward Shawn Marion asserted himself while Dallas turned defensive stops into easy offense.
The Heat remained close, however, with 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade’s ability to get to the foul line, until the star guard headed to the locker room with a left hip contusion after a hard collision with backup big man Brian Cardinal. Still, even without Wade on the hardwood, the Heat closed the opening period on a 17-9 run, taking a 31-30 edge at the end of one after Mario Chalmers’ buzzer-beating heave from just inside of midcourt.
“It always seems somewhere at the end of a quarter or half … they make a half-court 3. So, to get that out of the way in the first was maybe a good sign,” Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd joked.
Chalmers and Terry found themselves in a shootout early in the second stanza with Wade still being attended to by Miami’s medical staff in the back. Meanwhile, Dallas native Chris Bosh picked up the scoring load for the Heat, until Wade made his return to the floor after previously being ruled questionable to see any action.
“When he came back in the game, he came back aggressive,” Terry said of Wade’s assertiveness while disregarding the injury.
But after the interior duo of Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler brought the Mavs back to tie the game at 52-all, a technical foul call on Marion after arguing a foul call on LeBron James was one more obstacle the team had to overcome, coupled with Chalmers’ outside shooting, before taking a 60-57 advantage into the halftime intermission.
Leading all scorers at the midway mark, Nowitzki poured in 16 points on 6-of-9 from the floor while shaking off the effects of his Game 4 sinus infection and triple-digit fever. Meanwhile, Chandler pitched in 11 points of his own, helping Nowitzki combat the trio of Bosh, Chalmers and Wade, who combined to tally 37 points, as the Mavs outshot the Heat through 24 minutes of play, 65.7 percent to 51.3 percent.
With the Heat charging hard while Wade started the second half back in the locker room, Nowitzki picked back up where he left off at in the first half, with he and guard J.J. Barea exchanging rainmaking 3-pointers to keep the visiting Miami squad at bay. Wade would in fact return with his team down 75-71 and 4:33 left in the period, just in time to see the Mavericks up the lead to as much as nine with superior 3-point shooting before entering the final quarter with an 84-79 edge, thanks to Cardinal’s hard-nosed defense on James in the third.
Barea came back on the attack to begin the final 12 minutes of play, driving to the hoop for an and-1 finish with his left hand to put the Mavericks ahead 88-81 with 11:17 remaining. The undersized guard stepped up big again after the Heat cut the lead to two, draining a 3 from the wing to keep his team at a safe distance.
The Mavericks then made their way into the penalty with 6:48 left in the period, but were unable to capitalize after James and Wade brought the Heat to within one midway through the quarter, before a Udonis Haslem dunk put Miami in front 96-95 leading to a timeout by Carlisle with 5:16 remaining.
“They keep coming at you,” Carlisle explained. “They’ve got guys that really attack. … They’re very tough to guard.”
A Wade 3-pointer a short time later completed a 16-5 Miami run, before Nowitzki connected a pair at the line to cut the Dallas deficit to three. Still, the Mavericks continued to battle, with Terry tying the game with a 3 from the top of the arc before Nowitzki’s two-handed slam gave the Mavs a two-point advantage.
The Dallas defense then stepped up to the plate, as Chandler took a charge from James dead in the chest. But it would be the veteran Kidd’s triple also from the top of the arc that gave the Mavericks a 105-100 advantage with only 1:26 left for the Heat to respond.
Again, the Mavericks turned to the defensive end of the floor, with Chandler and Terry leading the way while hounding Wade. And fittingly it would be Terry delivering the knockout punch, draining another long-range bomb from the 3-point line to put the Mavericks up 108-101 with 33.3 seconds left.
“It’s my job,” Terry said after operating as the team’s closer down the stretch. “All season long, ever since I’ve been a Maverick, I’ve been the guy in the fourth quarter they depend on to either make plays or make shots. So, I really relish that role. Regardless of what’s going on throughout three quarters of the game, in the fourth quarter I know I’m depended on to come through. Thank God I was able to do that again tonight.”
Kidd then swished home a pair of strokes at the final line after a James score, forcing the Heat to call its final timeout down 110-103 with 25.3 seconds on the clock. Terry then followed suit for the game’s final points, as the Mavericks wrapped up play on their home floor to head back to Miami one victory away from being crown champions.
“It’s not a best-of-five series, it’s a best-of-seven. So, the first team to four wins. So, we couldn’t celebrate tonight, even though it was a big win for us. The series is not over,” Nowitzki empathically explained.
Leading five players in double figures and showing no signs of weakness after battling his illness, Nowitzki tallied 29 points on 9-for-18 from the floor and a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line to go along with six rebounds. Off the bench, Terry pitched in 21 points with eight coming in the game’s final quarter, swishing in 8-of-12 on the night including three of his five strokes from long range and also shelling out six assists.
“That’s the JET [Terry] we need. We need him to attack and get in the lane. … We need JET, JET attacking,” Nowitzki explained.
“Look, [Terry] was sensational tonight, especially in the fourth,” Carlisle said of his No. 2 scoring option.
Barea’s 17 points on 6-of-11 from the floor and 4-for-5 from behind the arc was bolstered by Kidd in the backcourt, as the ageless lead guard registered 13 points while matching Terry’s 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line. And despite scoring just two points in the second half, Chandler’s 13 points and six rebounds made up for the loss of Haywood inside.
Playing through the injury, Wade finished with a team-high 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting while Bosh added 19. And coming off his career playoff-low of eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, James recorded a triple-double, scoring 17 points on 8-of-19 (0-of-4 from 3-point range), grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists.
Chalmers’ 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line led to his 15 points and Haslem added 10, as the Heat bench outscored Dallas’ reserves despite Terry’s big night, 40-32. Still, the Mavericks outshot the Heat by night’s end, 56.5 percent to 52.9 percent, while hitting 13-of-19 from behind the arc as a team compared to Miami’s 8-of-20 from long range at the other end.
“Our ability to make shots on the weak side is a big part of what we do. Tonight we talked about it, keep stepping into those shots when they’re there. … I thought we hit big, timely shots tonight,” Nowitzki simply said.
“We have had some tough luck shooting the ball,” Carlisle pointed out. “Tonight I thought the way we hung in and the wherewithal we showed and played with helped us over the hump a little bit.”
The success from the outside and 21 points scored off Miami’s 18 turnovers also allowed the Mavs to overcome a 46-34 disadvantage in points in the paint and 36-26 deficit in rebounding, surrendering 15 points themselves off 11 giveaways.
The Mavericks will now try to finish the job, heading into American Airlines Arena in search of the first title in franchise history with Game 6 coming on Sunday night.
“Now, we have to go down there and basically approach Sunday’s game as Game 7,” Nowitzki concluded. “You don’t want to give this great team hope or anything. So, we’ve gotta play more of the same and keep attacking, and we’ll see what happens Sunday.”
Note: Looking to wrap up the championship series, the Mavericks will head into the Heat’s American Airlines Arena on Sunday night in search of a Game 5 win, in a game that tip off at 7 p.m. CT and air nationally on ABC.