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NBA Finals: Dallas tops Miami in Game 2 with an incredible fourth quarter comeback

Jun 3, 2011, 2:53 AM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Two Getty Images

From where we sit now, it’s so easy to look back at the dissipation of Miami’s 15-point fourth-quarter lead and point incredulously at what went wrong. The answers for what ails the Heat are always so obvious; their flaws are so glaring and fixable that armchair coaches across the country typically resolve them before Mark Jackson even finishes his outro heading into the commercial break.

Give it to LeBron. Give it to Wade. Run the pick-and-roll. Pass it to the open man. The answers are always right there in front of James, Wade, Erik Spoelstra, and the whole damn basketball-loving world, treated in retrospect as if an unbelievable Maverick comeback were some kind of inevitability. Treated as if all along, this one had been destined to end in a 95-93 Dallas victory.

As good as the Mavs have been while playing from behind in these playoffs, a 15-point lead is still a 15-point lead. The Mavs had plenty of time to erase each of those 15 points, but the idea that such an incredible run should be expected is flat-out delusional. There was no question that Dallas was going to execute to the best of their collective ability, but considering how disruptive the Heat defense had been throughout Game 2, this was a wholly unpredictable result.

“We’re up 15,” LeBron James said. “If they go on a 12-0 run for the rest of the game, if we don’t score another basket, we still win by three. Defensively we just have to be more in tune and not allow a great team — a great offensive team — to get as many great looks as they did down the stretch.”

But-but-but —

Why didn’t the Heat double Dirk Nowitzki on the game-winning possession, as they had for much of the game?

“At that time, they had carved us up enough on that,” Erick Spoelstra said. “We left open some shooters, and they made us pay. We tried to do it with our normal defense. He made a heck of a drive. We cut him off one time, he spun, our help defense came, and he made a high-arcing lay-up — I believe with his left hand.”

Spoelstra’s decision makes sense, given the circumstances. Jason Kidd had just drained a three thanks to the opening granted him by a double on Nowitzki. Jason Terry had nailed a wide open baseline jumper just minutes prior because of another pass out of a double by Dirk. The Mavs had come back because the pressure on Nowitzki was perhaps too strong, too overt.

But why not use that oft ballyhooed ‘foul to give,’ that would undoubtedly have saved the game?

“It’s easy to say it right now,” Spoelstra said. “You know, we’re aware of it.”

“We talked about it. We’ve been in that situation before. We didn’t use the foul. Obviously, it looks like right now you could second-guess that, but we didn’t take it.”

With Nowitzki’s awareness, Spoelstra’s position is entirely defensible. Even if the Heat had attempted to take their foul to give, it’s possible that Dirk could have risen up above off-balance coverage to sink a jumper, or somehow turned a foul on the floor into a two-shot affair. Nowitzki shooting free throws would have been a miserable outcome of that defensive possession, even considering the look that the Heat eventually surrendered.

Basketball fans everywhere will have to be content with the fact that the Heat played well in Game 2, but simply not well enough. The defense was strong for so long, Dwyane Wade played some truly phenomenal basketball, and the Heat point guards even showed up in a big way — Mike Bibby connected on 4-of-7 three-point attempts, and Mario Chalmers hit a game-tying three in the final minute that very nearly sent the game to overtime. Then the Heat broke down, or imploded, or whatever term of self-destruction you prefer, but didn’t do so in any way that could be construed as simple or logically absurd. The only simplicity in Miami’s loss was the fact that guarding a fully functional offense is damn difficult, and that scoring on a Maverick team locked in and ready to attack the pick-and-roll is a serious challenge.

Maybe no elements of this game of this will carry over into the next, or maybe what transpired over the final seven minutes of this amazing comeback will generate an entirely different dynamic for the series going forward. All we know is that we don’t know, but once these Finals are said and done, fans across the country will argue that they always knew the Mavs’ Game 2 victory would change everything or nothing, with the wisdom that only hindsight provides.

  1. edweird0 - Jun 3, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    Mavs played great those last 4 minutes of the game and they deserved the win. Anyone who doubted them because of all the blind bandwagon admiration for the heat are just fools. This is going to be an epic series, can’t wait for that Heat win in game 7!

  2. Chris Ross - Jun 3, 2011 at 3:24 AM

    That was just an unbelievable comeback to say the least. I mean, if you thought the Heat comeback against the Bulls was something, then I don’t know what to say about this one. Dirk Nowitzki finally, truly, showed up in the Finals and did what he had been doing all playoffs. This was a huge win for them because I think the series would have been over had they gone down 2-0. We’re in for a treat for the next few games because it’s going to be a battle. First OKC comeback now the Heat. It’s something special we are seeing for sure.

    • hystoracle - Jun 3, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      Just another example of how you can never quit on any game. Dallas didn’t quit and Miami relaxed losing the momentum. Doesn’t take long to erase a 15 point lead in basketball. Miami expected Dallas to just mail it in the NBA way in the final quarter. But Dallas kept playing and trying to win and it paid off.

      I’m sure the TV execs are jumping for joy now they can have a 7 games series.

  3. 1historian - Jun 3, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    So we’re down the best of 5 with 3 games in Dallas. Excellent – I’ll take it.

    Go Mavs

  4. redbear18 - Jun 3, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Not a big fan of either team, but these games are shaping up to be an entertaining series. I want Dallas to win though, since the city and players dont have a title, and their window of opportunity is closing. Miami’s big three have plenty of time to win a title. Also, the Mavericks played horribly, not defending and having turnovers, for most of the game, and Miami brought everything they had. I like the Mavericks winning in front of the home crowd, that would be huge. Dallas in 5.

  5. delius1967 - Jun 3, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    I’m already rolling my eyes at the parallels people will be drawing between this game and Game 3 of the 2006 Finals. There’s no comparison. Miami shot eight free throws in the last two minutes of that game in what could only charitably be called “help” from the referees. But this game? Dallas earned virtually every point — Terry’s two free throws with five and a half minutes to go were the only ones they shot the entire quarter (Miami had six).

  6. ynotq - Jun 3, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Yeah, the refs were not helping the Mavs out. Maybe they did in the first quarter, but I missed that. Later on, I was a bit annoyed at the lack of technicals for Wade. He deserved one for the whining after the call early in the game, when he elbowed Dirk in the chest blatantly, and then when he flung the ball at Terry after a foul.

  7. chargerdillon - Jun 3, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    The Mavs won because Miami wants to finish this at home for the celebration.

    The heat did not get beat last night, they turned off the engines altogether.

    This series will be over in 5, no doubt about it. Mark my words, its over in 5

  8. edweird0 - Jun 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    @chargerdillon Your just a big a of fool as all those fake Heat fans saying we were gunna sweep them. These are the two best teams in the NBA, they’re in the finals for a reason. This is going to be a series of epic proportions, hopefully with the Heat winning game seven at home!

    • chargerdillon - Jun 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM

      Make no mistake about it, im a Lebron fan, but im first and foremost a Lakers fan. I am rooting for the Heat as equally as I’m rooting for the Mav’s because i love Dirk too. Whoever wins I’m happy for them because it’s not the Lakers they’re playing against.

      I love the Mav’s continual fight, i absolutely LOVE IT!

      The only way this series goes longer than 5 is if the Mavs get some serious home court love from the refs. I would love to see a 7 game series but guys who were dominant against the lakers like Barea and Chandler are looking very average against the Heat defense.

  9. coltsfanindc - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    hope you’re right chargerdillon. but i seriously think it’ll be a six game series. Go Heat!!!

  10. diablito0402 - Jun 3, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Noooo the mavs won because THEY want to finish in dallas.

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