A few weeks ago there were two teams in contention to play the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks. At the time I asked some other Heat fans which of two scenarios would they prefer, play the Thunder, a franchise with no history, and rout them in a sweep or be down against the Mavericks 3 games to 0, in a best of seven series, and be down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, but through a series of boneheaded mistakes by the Mavericks, some heroic shooting by the Heat, and some ludicrously poor officiating have the Miami Heat come back to not only win the game, but also the series. Everyone chose the latter scenario, myself included, but I don’t know if I can handle the ride down even if the Heat get back up.
Five years ago the Miami Heat played these Mavericks in the NBA Finals. The Mavericks were up 2 games to 0, up by 13 points with six minutes to go when Miami Heat coach, Pat Riley called a time out. He did not shout, nor did he scream. He wrote one word on a marker board, “Season”. If they did not fight their way back all the work they put into the interminable NBA season would be for naught. The Heat then went on to play incredible defense and hit a series of clutch shots by every key member of the team capped by a Gary Payton jumper in an exhibition so inspiring I would watch a VHS copy of the game whenever life had me down.
The Heat went on to win the championship while the Dallas Mavericks imploded. Their star player, Dirk Nowitzki, kicked defenseless exercise machines as he walked from the court after another humiliating loss, coach Avery Johnson made panicky changes, while owner Mark Cuban (pictured above giving Nowitzki a free ride) was a famously sore loser blaming the referees when his coach’s strategy of purposely fouling Heat center Shaquille O’Neal was what led to other Heat players taking so many free throws. During the Mavericks discombobulation, the Heat were supremely cool. With two chances to secure a championship in Dallas, Pat Riley told his team he only brought one change of clothes on the road trip. He was confident the Heat would close out the mentally weak team their first opportunity and they did.
After Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban’s endless whining I thought it would be sweet payback to have the Heat make him go through such miseries again. Instead his team is inflicting the pain on the Miami Heat. The Mavericks are up 3-2 with two more games to be played in Miami. Now it is the Heat who are surrendering large fourth quarter leads and the Dallas Mavericks have two chances to close out a championship in enemy territory. Instead of Nowitzki missing free throws, it is Heat star LeBron James mysteriously disappearing in big games. One major difference is that no one on the Heat is crying about the officiating even though the referees call the games as though Mark Cuban gives them horsey rides. This lack of blaming external factors gives me hope the Heat have the confidence to surmount the long odds against them.
We have Dallas where we wanted them, but right now my upset stomach and tortured soul would have preferred the sweep.