[Note: The contrast in AFC East stars' wives might not favor Mami. Tom Brady's wife chased by paparazzi. Brandon Marshall's wife chased by police. Join at Twitter.com/gregcote. Free parking].
G6: DALLAS 105, HEAT 95. MIAMI DENIED CHAMPIONSHIP IN YEAR 1 OF THE BIG 3 (Mavericks win series 4-2): Click on Mission Failed for my column off the game. Mavs owner Mark Cuban said afterward that Dallas fans "punked the s--- out of Heat fans" in this series. That's dumb. This wasn't about the fans. This wasn't about LeBron failing. This was about Dallas being a better team in this series. Miami did not deserve to win this Game 6, and therefore this series. Too many turnovers last night, too many missed free throws, too much clutch shooting by Jason Terry and the Mavs. Credit to Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki. Original post: I'm on record thinking Miami will win two straight games at home and take the NBA title. Also I think Dallas' realistic best shot is tonight. This has beeen safe haven all season for the Heat, so hated everywhere else but finding healing here. Now that need has never been greater as Miami faces its first elimination game. Aside to the Big 3: Be big, or start the offseason.
COUGHGATE! Dwyane Wade appears to mock Dirk Nowitzki's recent coughing/101 fever and LeBron James plays along and the video goes (appropriately enough) viral. Click here to watch. Dirk takes umbrage, calls Wade "childish." So I guess this passes as controversy. Two things. 1) It was childish to needle Nowitzki's condition like that but so what? They not making fun of a rival's injury. 2) Relax, Dirk. You had a head-cold.
G5: DALLAS 112, HEAT 103: MIAMI SQUANDERS ANOTHER LATE LEAD AS 13 MAVS' 3'S BURY HEAT: (Mavericks lead series 3-2) Don't blame LeBron. Not after his 17-10-10 triple-double. Don't blame Dwyane Wade's hip injury that kept him out for a couple of shifts. He was fine late. Miami lost because Dallas shot lights-out, 56 percent overall including 13 3's. Discouraging for Miami is the loss despite a 36-26 lead in rebounds and a huge 40 points from the bench. Encouraging is the enormous lift of the final two games being back in Miami. If I'm a betting man I'm liking Heat taking two straight at home, and the championship. Give Dallas credit, though. This has turned out to be one heck of a Finals. Somebody is going to damn well earn this title. And I have a feeling we won't know who until the last franctic seconds of Game 7. Original post: A theory to which I subscribe is that the Heat plays better when under pressure, when doubted, when adversity is in the room. That is why I'd expect a Miami victory in Game 5 tonight, coming off a loss in which the Heat blew another fourth-quarter lead and LeBron James wilted with an 8-point performance. Miami has not lost consecutive games since early March; why start now? Then again more pressure is on Dallas I think, because Miami even with a loss would have two home games to capture the championship. The national storyline going in will be LeBron. Will he bounce back and silence his critics? I would expect so.
DIRK'S FINALS DICTIONARY: Throughout the NBA Finals, a daily German-to-English translation from Wurzburg's own Dirk Nowitzki:
Day 13 / Sun June 12: "Nun Dirk nimmt sein talente zu South Beach." ("Now Ditrk is taking his talents to South Beach").
Day 12 / Sat June 11: "Ich bin der konig von Wurzburg und auch der prinz von Cleveland." ("I am the king of Wurzburg and also and the prince of Cleveland.")
Day 11 / Fri June 10: "Ja, das ist es. Ein weiterer sieg und die weltherrschaft wird mein sein!" ("Yes, that is it. One more win and world domination will be mine!"
Day 10 / Thu June 9: "Ich fühle mich besser. Die Frage ist nun, wird LeBron besser fühlen?" ("I feel better. The question now is, will LeBron feel better?"
Day 9 / Wed June 8: "Ich hatte Fieber von 101 Jahren. Nun sind alle von Miami ist übel." ("I had a fever of 101. Now all of Miami feels sick.")
Day 8 / Tue June7: "Schrumpfende? LeBron ist nicht schrumpft. Meine teamkollegensind schrumpfen!" ("Shrinking? LeBron is not shrinking. My teammates are shrinking!")
Day 7 / Mon June 6: "Eine kleine hilfe, bitte? Ich bin der grobte, was aus Deutschland seit bratwurst, aber ich kann es nicht alleine schaffen!" ("A little help, please? I am the greatest thing from Germany since bratwurst, but I cannot do it alone!"
Day 6 / Sun June 5: "Deutschen bekommen einen schlechten ruf. Wir lieben anderen menschen der welt. Außer Miamians." ("Germans get a bad rap. We love other people of the world. Except Miamians.")
Day 5 / Sat June 4: "Es weht immer noch meine meinung dass ein haufen cowboys in stiefeln und frauen mit grossen blonden haare sind für eine Deutsch jubeln. ("It still blows my mind that a bunch of cowboys in boots and women with big blond hair are cheering for a German.")
Day 4 / Fri June 3: "Gut: Mit einer großen drei. Besser: Mit einem großen Dirk." ("Good: Having a Big 3. Better: Having a big Dirk.")
Day 3 / Thu June 2: "Müssen wir gewinnen heute abend oder Dallas Meisterschaft hofftgeringer sein wird als das Lager ineinem Betrunkenen Stein links." ("We must win tonight or Dallas championship hopes will be less than the lager left in a drunkard's stein.")
Day 2 / Wed June 1 -- "Oh nein mein finger fuhlt schmerz heute." ("Oh no my finger feels pain today.")
Day 1 / Tue May 31 -- "Lassen sie uns anfangen!" ("Let us begin!")
Bonus: Click here for a video of Dirk being German and dancing badly. Update: Dallas Morning News reports a marketing poll indicates only one-third of Americans know who Dirk is, vs. 80 percent who are aware of LeBron James. Es ist ein schande!
LEBRON FEEDING-FRENZY GOING FULL-BORE: Dallas' DeShawn Stevenson charged today/Wednesday that LeBron James "checked out" late in Game 4 Tuesday night during a career-playoff-low 8-point performance. That's code for pretty much gave up. Them's fightin' words. No shortage of those. The media piranha are out, doing what we do, which is pile on. Now Bill Simmons christens his new Grantland website with the latest evisceration. LeBron's "shrinking" is all the rage now. It's too much, of course. Exaggerated. Over the top. Dallas is preening. Cleveland is howling. Miami is nervous. Only one way to stop all of this, LeBron. Time to be the King again. That doesn't mean the Heat should divert from Dwyane Wade's hot hand. Just means Miami needs an aggressive, back-to-himself LBJ on the offensive end starting Thursday night in Game 5 in Dallas. Time for LBJ to shut everybody up with one big, redemptive performance. One superstar's reputation might depend on it. So might a Heat championship.
G4: DALLAS 86, HEAT 83: WADE AND BOSH COMBINE FOR 56 BUT IT ISN'T ENOUGH (Series tied 2-2): Not for the first time this series, Miami squandered a big lead, this time 9 points in the fourth quarter -- a disturbing trend to say the least. Fourth-quarter turnovers dismally let the Heat down. Dwyane Wade (32) and Chris Bosh (24) did their part offensively, but LeBron James did not, with a mere 8 points. "Point blank, he struggled," said Bosh of James. After the previous game James had been accused of "shrinking" late in games this series. I thought that unfair. But Tuesday, at least, the criticism seemed valid. Click on Calling LeBron for my column from Dallas off last night's game. Heat Game 4 Player of the Game: Wade. Again. Wade is doing the heavy lifting in these Finals. James' all-round game has been fine, but he must do more on the offensive end. Original post: Miami winning here Sunday night shoved all of the Game 4 pressure onto the Mavericks, to a degree the Heat can play free and loose. Erik Spoelstra will talk about treating this like a must-win, like a Game 7, but can they mentally? That frame of mind will come more naturally to Dallas tonight. It will be interesting to see what the Mavs do to try to limit Dwyane Wade, perhaps portending a breakout, critics-quieting Finals game for LeBron James. Click on Defending LeBron for my latest column on why James has been so valuable this series despite his lack of fourth-quarter scoring, and why the critricism of him has been utterly inane.
SHRINKING? WHAT'S SHRINKING ISN'T LEBRON. IT IS CBSSPORTS.COM's CREDIBILITY: A writer for that website posted a piece headlined, "The incredible shrinking superstar," a gratuitous, baseless and laughably inane gutting of LeBron James. I can't even bring myself to include a link. Bulletin to said writer: LeBron is on pace to join Michael Jordan (1993) and Shaquille O'Neal ('95) as only players in past 20 years to average 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and 50 percent shooting in a Finals. LeBron also has been Miami's best defender in this series. Clicking on Defending LeBron for my new column on this, online now and shipping to Tuesday's pulp edition.
G3: HEAT 88, DALLAS 86: WADE'S 29 SPARKS RESILIENT ROAD VICTORY: (Miami leads series, 2-1): Yeah, Miami almost blew another big lead. Yeah, LeBron had a mostly quiet night offensively. Yeah, Dallas was missing a key role player out injured. But this is not a game for finding fault. A huge, huge win on the road by the Heat assures the series will return to Miami with a chance to win the championship on the home floor. That makes Sunday an enormous night. Doesn't matter if the win was lucky or "barely." It matters that it was a win. Click on Wade's World for my column from Dallas on how Dwyane Wade is looking like vintage 2006 so far in these Finals. Heat Game 3 Player of the Game: Wade, with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Original post: This was the 12th time an NBA Finals has been 1-1 heading into Game 3 since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985, and the Game 3 winner has gone on to win the title 11 times. Um, that's every time. Small sample? Sure. Prove anything? Nah. Interesting, though. Figures as a mental weight on tonight's losing team, which inherits the burden of pressure. Feels like Dallas should be favored on the wing of what should be a maniacal homecoming crowd, but I also see much resolve out of Miami after its embarrassing fourth-quarter meltdown in Game 2. Expect more aggressiveness and a bigger game offensively from LeBron James. Also need a wakeup call for Chris Bosh, who is 9-for-34 shooting in first two games.
YOU TELL 'EM, U: You know how the Mavs' Jason Terry led the ridiculous whining over the supposed excessive celebration of Dwyane Wade after that 3-pointer that gave Miami its ill-fated 15-point lead in Game 2? Heat's Udonis Haslem had the perfect reply in Dallas this/Saturday morning. Said U: "This is coming from a guy who scores a layup and acts like a 747." Boo-ya! Haslem is pictured right addressing the Finals media today. I have a feeling Game 3 Sunday night could be a bit chippy/physical. I'm headed out there tomorrow morning. Should be fun.
G2: DALLAS 95, HEAT 93: MONUMENTAL LATE COLLAPSE WASTES 36-POINT NIGHT BY WADE (Series tied, 1-1): I'm not sure how I managed to crank out a column on this game because it nearly left me speechless. But here it is; click on Stunned for the column. Are you kidding? Miami led 88-73 with 6 minutes left and somehow lost. Got 36 points from Dwyane Wade and somehow lost. Now the Second-Guess Police will be out in force. And there is fodder for that. Heat had a foul to give in last half-minute but didn't use it. Should have. Heat switched Chris Bosh onto a hot Dirk Nowitzki after Udonis Haslem had marked him most of the night. Why? Heat failed to double-team Nowitzki late. Why? Also, Wade, the best player all night, didn't see much of the ball late. Why? None of these are even issues of course if Miami wins. But a defeat such as this begs the questions. Heat Game 2 Player of the Game: Wade, by a lot. But now, what should be a 2-0 Finals lead heading to Dallas instead is 1-1 facing three straight road games. I still think Miami will win this series and this championship. But Thursday night made the notion a hell of a lot more precarious. Oh my. Original post: No but this really is the most important game, isn't it? It would feel like Miami up 2-0 was in total command -- yes, despite the lessons of 2006. But Dallas at 1-1 heading into three straight home games would feel just as much in control. The Finals pivot here, tonight. Miami must continue as the only unbeaten home team in the playoffs and hope Dwyane Wade's second half in Game 1 was a precursor. Adjustments by Dallas also will be interesting to watch. Offensively the Mavericks must figure a way to decipher the best defense they have seen by far in these playoffs. (Out West, they think defense is the rest time before having the ball back). At the other end, Dallas might want to rethink its devotion to so much zone defense, which seems to open the floor and enable Miami's early dominance on the boards. Coach Rick Carlisle, earn that cash.
AH, WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, DALLAS...:We have unearthed a video from last summer exhorting LeBron James to sign with Dallas. Click on C'mon LeBron Put Your Mavericks Jersey On. It isn't bad. Sad song to Mavericks fans. Party music to Miami.
"CAVS FOR MAVS." (YAWN):Cleveland's steadfast LeBron haters have rallied to launch a "Cavs For Mavs" Facebook page (see understated logo). Meaning one guy did. Gawd. Do you people have any idea how boring you are? Cleveland LeBron haters are like a modern-day Flat Earth Society. Or people still sold on Sarah Palin. The other 95 percent of us are looking at you like you're nuts, thinking, "Jesus, let it go already." You know how, outside the arena sometimes there are religious crackpots with a mic alerting arriving fans they are going straight to hell for having fun? Those are Clevelanders.
PAT RILEY READS TO KIDS:Heat president appeared Wednesday as the NBA and Heat opened a Learn & Play Center at a local elementary school, and Pat read a book to the kids. The book was entitled, "How I Got All The Best Players." Naw I'm kidding. It was called "Where The Wild Things Are." (Click on photo for larger version).
G1: HEAT 92, DALLAS 84. BIG 3 COME UP BIG FOR MIAMI:(Miami leads series, 1-0): LeBron's 24 points, D-Wade's 22 and a steady 19 by Chris Bosh and those three's combined 28 rebounds were enough to carry Miami in the Finals opener. Mostly it was tough defense that limited the high-scoring Mavs to 38 percent shooting. Dirk Nowitzki got his (27 points) but as expected Dallas had no scary second scorer to threaten Miami. Heat in early control now heading into Game 2 Thursday night here. Heat Game 1 Player of the Game: I'm going to say Wade, whose big second half sparked the Heat when a spark was most needed. Also a welcome second-half from him, an indication that Wade is back after a tepid series vs. Chicago. Click on Bandwagon Gains Steam for my column off Game 1. People accuse Miami of having bandwagon fans, but folks nationwide will be joining the 'wagon when Heat victories lead to championships. Just watch. Original post: I offer the headline "America's (Best) Team vs. Germany's (Favorite) Team" with a slight apology for the jingoism, perhaps, but with none whatsoever for the accuracy. The Heat is America's Team even if America doesn't know it yet. "Best," for now (it says here), with "most popular" to follow if the championships do. Dallas? Most are rooting against the love-to-hate Heat and vilified LeBron James more than for Dallas, except of course Mavericks fans and Germans swooning over native son Dirk Nowitzki. They're partying in Wurzburg! Click on It Isn't Quite Hate for a series preview column by me -- for the real reasons so many fans feel the way they do about the Heat. This rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals finds its biggest storyline, to me, in which superstar -- James or Nowitzki -- finally will enjoy his elusive first title. Dirk's Mavs choked in '06, blowing a 2-0 series lead and what should have been 3-0 and losing to Miami in six games. Haunting. Dirk says he has not looked at tapes of those games even once since. LeBron reached the Finals in '07 (with Cleveland) and got swept. Nourishing. LeBron says he frequently has watched tapes of those games, gaining inspiration. On a personal note, this blog was born in September 2005 and it was those '06 Heat-Mavs NBA Finals that really launched us in a big way. Five years later, Dirk and the Mavs are an aging team without a second scorer who scares you. Miami is ascending, and with a second (and third) scorer who scares you. Heat also play better defense. Dirk will get his points. What concerns most is Miami's attention to perimeter defense, because the Mavs can kill you with 3's, as the Lakers found out. Prediction: History repeats. Heat, 4-2.
THE LIST: SOUTH FLORIDA CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHTS: This marks the 10th time (we're 5-4) a local big-four-sports professional team has played for an overall championship. Occasions chronologically when Miami pro teams have played for their sport's season title:
Season Team Result
1971 Dolphins/Super Bowl Lost 24-3 to Dallas
1972 Dolphins/Super Bowl Won 14-7 over Washington
1973 Dolphins/Super Bowl Won 24-7 over Minnesota
1982 Dolphins/Super Bowl Lost 27-17 to Washington
1984 Dolphins/Super Bowl Lost 38-16 to San Francisco
1995-96 Panthers/Stanley Cup Finals Lost 4-0 to Colorado
1997 Marlins/World Series Won 4-3 over Cleveland
2003 Marlins/World Series Won 4-2 over New York
2005-06 Heat/NBA Finals Won 4-2 over Dallas
2010-11 Heat/NBA Finals Dallas leads series 3-2