Dallas Mavericks 98, Miami Heat 96

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 2, 2009 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Photo by AP Photo/Tim Sharp.

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It’s truly spectacular, no other words.
-Stephen Robinson

You want vindication, Mavs fans?  There’s your vindication.  We can talk Warriors and catharsis all day long, but what brings more emotional closure than beating Dwyane Wade at his own game?  The Mavs and the Heat traded big shot for big shot for what seemed like days, but this time around, Dallas got the edge of a beneficial whistle and a nice shiny dagger.  Trophy-less revenge never seemed so sweet.

I’d be lying to you if I said that I just knew it would end up that way.  Even with the Mavs clutching a small lead, the big Wade shot seemed inevitable.  But a strange thing happened, and I’d like to think that this is at least one area improvement since the original letdown of ’06: it never game.  Jason Kidd denied, denied, denied, and when Wade did get the ball, the double-team came immediately and Kidd went into an all-out frenzy to swipe the ball away.  The result?  Dwyane Wade’s last real shot attempt (excluding his last second heave from the three-point line) went up with 5:03 left in the fourth quarter, and his last actual points with nearly 6.  Somehow the Mavs denied one of the best players in basketball from getting a shot up for five straight minutes, and in the process yanked the crutch out from under Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, and Udonis Haslem.  Instead, the late game heroics came from Wade’s 2003 draftmate Josh Howard, and his Olympic teammate Jason Kidd.  Wade has only gotten better since 2006, but on this one night in April you never would have guessed it.

It’s only fair that we start with Josh Howard (20 points on 6-12 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks).  Josh’s first quarter explosion is par for the course, but seemingly from the opening tip you could tell that he was playing with a different energy.  It was an extension of his play against Minnesota; a cornucopia of runners, post-ups, and floaters, with his favorite step-back jumper sprinkled in with discretion.  If two games qualifies as a legit trend, then Josh has done what I previously thought impossible: he’s reinvented his game, and reverted back to what earned him a special place in the hearts of Mavs fans all those years ago.  This isn’t new era Josh, the weapon that had forgotten how he carved out a place among the elite for the Mavs and doomed them to failure.  This was throwback Josh, but with all the perks (better jumper, craftier around the basket) of the new model.  His trademark first quarter was dynamite, but his second half performance was equally stunning.  He didn’t mimic his point-per-minute pace, but he gathered huge rebounds, made huge defensive plays on the weakside, and spaced the floor for the offense to open up.  It was equal parts delicious and nutricious, and 29 minutes of effort and excellence were exemplified by Howard’s drawn charge on Mario Chalmers with two seconds left and the Mavs up just one.

How great was Jason Kidd in this game?  His denial defense over the last half quarter was superb, but he played solid D on Wade throughout.  Antoine Wright shared the defensive billing at times, but the reason Wade was held to a pedestrian 23 points (9-20 FG), 6 assists, 4 turnovers, and just 6 free throw attempts was because Kidd barely gave him room to breathe.  And somewhere in there, he managed to rack up 11 assists and hit one of the biggest shots in the game, a three pointer that pulled the Mavs within one with just five and a half minutes to go.  Howard may have prevented Chalmers from getting an honest look at a game-winner, but Kidd got a hand on the ball before Wade could throw up a prayer in the corner at endgame.

Brandon Bass was the center of the night (10 points on 4-6 shooting,  8 rebounds, and 1 block in 22 minutes), and he was absolutely superb.  There are nights where Bass gets look after look from the elbow, and that I don’t mind.  He makes that shot at a great clip.  But you know what I love even more?  When every time he touches the ball within eight feet of the basket, he takes a ridiculous leap and tries to throw it down with the ferocity of a pack of tiger-eating sharks, or shark-eating tigers.  The rim was never the same again.  Bass had 8 points and 4 rebounds on perfect shooting in the second half, and led his counterpart, Udonis Haslem, scoreless in the fourth.  He was an unstoppable force inside during crucial stretches of the third and fourth quarters, and the energy he provided on both ends was tremendous.

It’s pretty sick that Dirk had 30 (9-17 FG, 2-5 3FG, 10-10 FT), and he still gets fourth billing.  It was Dirk’s 22nd 30-point game this season, and his explosion was as quiet and likely underappreciated in the game as it is in this recap.  I like to think that I give Dirk more love than most, if for no other reason than non-Mavs fans typically don’t fully understand his game outside of stereotypes and generalizations.  That said, I’m still guilty of discounting his Herculean feats of jumpshooting strength from time to time, and for that I apologize.  Josh was greThe Two Man Game › Edit Post — WordPressat, Kidd was great, and Bass was great, but Dirk was Dirk, and that’s on a different level entirely.

Props to the team as a whole for not letting this game get away from them.  The Heat hung around in the first half with some hot shooting from the perimeter (4-5 on threes in the first frame), and looked to be running away with it when their lead hit double-digits in the second half.  The Mavs’ shots weren’t falling, the turnovers were piling up, and the whistles started turning against them.  It would have been a perfect time to cave and give in to defeat.  Instead, the defensive intensity went up another notch, and the Mavs got out on the break.  The Mavs did plenty of things that I wouldn’t mind seeing on a more regular basis, but that kind of resiliency has to be at the top of that list.

Random thoughts:

  • Erick Dampier looked like he was going to be a factor early, and he was causing Jermaine O’Neal some real trouble.  The Heat brought in O’Neal to clear up the logjam at forward and improve their interior defense, but I have to ask: if O’Neal has trouble guarding Damp, who doesn’t exactly have a premier back-to-the-basket game, how could you possibly expect him to guard the centers that can really cause problems?
  • Chris Quinn is a great match-up for J.J. Barea.  Typically, playing Barea concedes something either at point guard or otherwise, simply because J.J. doesn’t have the size to contend with a lot of players.  But not only can J.J. guard Quinn, but Quinn doesn’t have much of a chance against Barea’s speed.  Happy happy, joy joy.
  • Just in case you were curious how we’ve gone this far without a JET mention, Jason Terry did play basketball on Wednesday night.  He even scored 13 points.  But he shot 5-13, and didn’t quite seem himself.  Just one of those days.
  • Jamaal Magloire had one more dunk in this game than I think he ever did in a Maverick uniform last season.
  • How good would James Singleton be if he could just hit that spot-up three from the corner?
  • A cool stat shared by the Mavs’ broadcast team: the Mavs are tied for the most wins in the league when trailing at the half.  Not bad, comeback kids.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes to Josh Howard, for the second straight night.  Nothing more need be said.