Jason Terry showed up huge for the Mavs, scoring 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting (3-5 from deep), grabbing 4 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists. Plus he buried the nail-in-the-coffin 3 with 33 seconds left and LeBron in his face.
Running notes from Jonathan Gault during Dallas' 112-103 Game Five victory that gives them a 3-2 series lead.
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The Dallas crowd is into it early. It’s the Mavs’ last home game of the season, win or lose, so the fans are giving it everything they’ve got. When Shawn Marion punctuates a 6-0 Dallas run at 7:20 with a pirouetting layup over LeBron James, the American Airlines Center crowd goes ballistic, causing Erik Spoelstra to call timeout.
Dallas commits a mental blunder that allows Mike Bibby a wide-open 18-footer that he knocks down to cut Dallas’ lead to 23-19 with 3:00 to play. Bibby drives to the left sideline, and no Dallas defender follows him, thinking that Bibby is heading towards the bench in anticipation of a timeout. But Bibby just keeps on going, making the Mavs look silly.
It’s always funny for me to watch Brian Cardinal in this series—I just can’t take him seriously. Cardinal plays five minutes in the first, and apparently his main assignment has been to draw fouls—or to try and draw fouls. He flops twice in quick succession, but both embarrassingly bad, so neither are called (though one of them succeeds in injuring Dwyane Wade). He final succeeds in drawing a foul boxing out Juwan Howard at 1:05.
For the second time in three games, Mario Chalmers hits a deep, deep three pointer to beat the first quarter buzzer. The half-court shot gives Miami a 31-30 lead after one, despite committing five turnovers and allowing the Mavs to shoot 61% from the field. But the Heat have also shot 55% and have performed admirably in the face of an intense Dallas crowd, especially with Dwyane Wade heading to the locker room for the final three minutes of the quarter due to an injury.
Chalmers hits his third three of the game with 7:47 on the clock—already the third time this series he’s hit at least three in a game. He’s one of the few guys on the Heat that the Mavs have to respect when he spots up beyond the arc. His shot makes it 45-41, an incredibly high-scoring game for a Finals where no team has tallied more than 95 in a game.
Dirk Nowitzki starts a Dallas fastbreak with 5:20 remaining, but Dallas’ failure to execute is a telling difference between the teams. Nowitzki hits a streaking Jason Terry, but Terry, fearing a block from a trailing LeBron James, dishes to Marion, who rushes his layup and misses. Tyson Chandler can’t haul in the offensive board, and the scoring opportunity disappears. That’s one area where Miami far exceeds Dallas—if they get a fastbreak, they’re converting it, because the speed and strength of James and Wade ensures that one of them is almost always ahead of the defense. From there, it’s two steps and a thunderous dunk. Fastbreak points aren’t always so certain for the Mavs.
Heading to the break, it’s 60-57 Dallas, but they’ll be upset with a three-point lead after shooting 66% (23-for-35!) from the field. The ringleader has been Dirk, who’s 6-for-9 with 16 points, the first great first half he’s played in this series. And again, it’s an edge on the boards that have allowed Miami to remain competitive as they hold an 18-12 advantage overall and a 5-0 advantage on the offensive glass.
LeBron’s had an impact so far (9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), but his shooting hasn’t been great (4-for-10) and he’s yet to leave his mark on this game as he has in so many others this postseason. With the expectations heaped on LeBron after his Game 4 meltdown, anything short of 20 points and the game-winner in the second half will be a disappointment
The Mavs have relied on the three-pointer to be successful in these playoffs, yet they were pretty pedestrian in the first four games of the Finals, shooting just 34% from deep. You knew it was just a matter of time until they caught fire in this series, and in Game 5 they’ve done just that, as JJ Barea’s make at 6:30 puts Dallas up 73-67 and raises Dallas’ shooting numbers to 8-for-12 from beyond the arc.
The Mavs lead 84-79 after three, which, in this series, doesn’t mean a whole lot. The fourth quarters have been so close and so competitive that a five-point lead can be gone in a matter of seconds. Once again, the winner of this game will be dependent on who executes—and who doesn’t—in the game’s closing minutes.
Heading into this series, I expected JJ Barea to have a big impact off the bench in at least one game. He’s been great in Game 5 so far, hitting a driving and-one layup at 11:17 to make it 88-81, Dallas. Barea’s shown how he can beat you multiple ways, both by knifing through the paint for a layup or by stepping out and hitting a three. He’s 5-for-9 from the field so far, and 3-for-4 from three.
LeBron misses his third three pointer of the night at 7:43 (he’s 0-for-3, and none of them are shots he should be taking). They haven’t been open looks, but rather shots where he’s settled for a three instead of driving or looking to pass. I know he’s hit some big threes in these playoffs, but he’s a career 33% shooter and has to accept that there has been an element of luck involved in some of his shots. Those sorts of things always even out in the long run.
Dwyane Wade finds a cutting Udonis Haslem, who streaks to the basket after breaking free from Dirk Nowitzki and Miami takes a 96-95 lead with 5:16 remaining. Thanks to some snappy passing and missed rotations by the Mavs, the Heat has gotten back into the game in the second half and now have their first lead since the second quarter.
Miami stalls again down the stretch, while the Mavs get some huge threes from a pair of Jasons—Kidd and Terry—to pull away, as Dallas wins 112-103 in a high-scoring affair. The dagger was Terry’s three-pointer over an extended LeBron James with 33 seconds to play and the Mavs’ up five. It wasn’t the highest-percentage shot, that’s for sure, but Terry clearly has some major balls by taking that shot in that situation—late in the shot clock, with a guy who’s owned you all series guarding you. He deserves credit for delivering a big shot in a big spot.
Dallas’ defense has been inconsistent this series, but they have gotten the stops they needed when it’s mattered the most. After surrendering a bunch of baskets early in the fourth where they were slow to rotate, Dallas ratcheted it up a notch in the last five minutes, limiting Miami to just seven points and two field goals in that span. The key stretch began with 3:38 to go, immediately after Chris Bosh missed one of two free throws. With the Heat up 100-97, Terry hit a three to tie it, followed by a miss by LeBron (who once again failed to show up when it mattered, as he suffered through a tough 1-4 final quarter). Dirk followed up with a dunk on Dallas’ next possession, while LeBron was then called for a charge once Miami gets the ball back. Then, on Miami’s next possession, James bricked a three-pointer, followed by Jason Kidd hitting a huge three to cap an series-shifting 8-0 run for Dallas.
Despite recording a triple-double in Game 5 (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), the Heat needed more from LeBron James, especially in the fourth quarter, but he just couldn’t give it to them. The first thing I thought of after watching LeBron struggle late was the Boston series last year—he was just never the same after a sub-par showing in Game 4 where Boston won by 10, and you could tell his confidence was broken. He followed up with a 3-for-14, 15-point effort in a 120-88 blowout in Game 5, at which point the series was all but over. While I’m not counting LeBron out, how he responds in these last couple games will be crucial to his legacy. I don’t know if he still cares about his legacy at this point, but I certainly do, and that’s why I think Game 6 (and 7?) will be fascinating theater.
And, on that note, can we please put to the rest the LeBron vs Jordan debate? Jordan would never have had a two-game stretch in the Finals like the one LeBron just endured, and he certainly wouldn’t lose his aggressiveness after one subpar performance. LeBron consistently settled for jumpers and rarely tried to beat his defender off the dribble. I know that media types need something to talk about to build storylines, but it’s disrespectful to Jordan to compare the greatest player of all-time to someone like LeBron in this stage of his career. To quote Jason Segel from the upcoming film Bad Teacher—you know, the one they show the trailer for at least once a game—“Call me when LeBron has six championships.”
Jason Terry had a huge game (21 points, six assists, 8-for-12, 3-for-5 3FG) and came up HUGE for Dallas in the fourth, displaying the form that made him such an effective late-game player in the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs. His eight fourth quarter points—including two massive threes—tied for the team-high in the period (with Dirk), and showed that Dallas can win in the clutch without solely relying on Dirk (who made just one field goal in the fourth and didn’t score in the final 2:45). Seems like Terry is Dallas’s barometer guy—when he’s on, they always seem to do well, and when he’s off, Dallas is a bit off too.
Despite being out-rebounded by 10, Dallas forced 18 turnovers to Miami’s 11, turning them into 21 points.
So far the answer to my question at the Game 4—which Miami team we’ll see over the final three games—isn’t looking too good for the Heat. While Miami didn’t blow up in the fourth as they did in Games 2 and 4, they still didn’t look comfortable, and I think that comes back to LeBron. As a major playmaker on their offense, he needs to be better with the ball in his hands at the end of games. We know he’s capable of it, as he consistently closed out the Celtics and Bulls, but he’s struggled to do the same against Dallas in this series.
On the other hand, Dallas’s fourth quarter offensive execution has been fantastic in the last four games, and if it weren’t for a few mistakes by Dirk at the end of Game 3, they’d be the champs right now. That, coupled with their defense’s ability to consistently step up their effort at the ends of games, is the reason why they’re ahead right now.
Dallas was overdue for good shooting game—the Mavs shot 40% FG or below in three of the first four games—so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that they finally got one in Game 5, going 57% from the field and 68% (13-for-19) from three.
While Dallas clearly has momentum now, closing a Finals out on the road is always tough—just ask the Celtics, who last season took a 3-2 lead to LA and lost both games. Look for Miami to come out strong in Game 6, unless something’s really wrong with LeBron.