NBA Finals: How Dirk, Terry, Mavs Beat LeBron, Wade, Heat in Game 6

| by Hoops Karma

Although Dirk didn't have the best Game Six, his overall numbers for the series earned him the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy.Running commentary from Jonathan Gault during Dallas' Game Six victory that clinched their first NBA Championship.

1st Quarter

LeBron’s looked good early. Four minutes in, and he’s already scored three different ways: a stationary three-pointer, a drive to the rim, and a step-back 16-footer. He starts 4-for-4 from the field, but no one will care unless James shows up in the fourth quarter.

It’s not just LeBron; the whole Big Three has come out firing, as they combine to go 8-for-10 from the field. After LeBron makes a great pass out of the double-team to Chris Bosh, Bosh hits the ensuing jumper to cap a 12-1 run and make it 20-11 Miami with 6:18 to go.

Dirk Nowitzki goes to the bench with two fouls at 5:11 and Dallas trailing, 22-15. Yet a pair of threes from Jason Terry and Dirk’s replacement, Brian Cardinal, along with a jumper by Terry, puts the Mavs on an 8-0 run, giving them their first lead of the night.

A poor pass from LeBron James leads to a Miami turnover and a DeShawn Stevenson three to put the Mavs up eight with 24 seconds to go. Eddie House responds with a three of his own on the other end, and the first quarter ends with Dallas leading 32-27. The teams’ hot shooting from Game 5 has carried over, but, just like Thursday night’s game, the Mavs are shooting better than the Heat. Dallas hits 13-of-21 shots (65%) in the first to 11-of-22 (50%) for the Heat. Miami’s looked very good, but Dallas has proved impossible to beat when their shooters are on in these playoffs.

2nd Quarter

DeShawn Stevenson is raining threes! He hits his first two shots of the second to push Dallas’ lead to 40-28 with 9:42 to go. Miami can’t really do much unless they start hitting threes themselves—threes are always going to be worth more than twos.

Miami responds with a 14-0 run of its own to make it 40-39 with 6:51 to go, forcing Dallas to call two timeouts—one when the run’s at 7-0, and one at 14-0. It’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen tonight. The same was true midway through the first five games, but the early going of Game 6 has been especially volatile, with the teams alternating short stretches of dominance.

Everyone’s talked about how Tyson Chandler staying out of foul trouble has been crucial to the Mavs’ success in this series—yet the refs give him his third at 4:17 after he taps Dwyane Wade with his left arm as Wade is headed to the basket. It’s a soft foul, the exact kind you’d expect a ref to call if the home team needs to win to force Game 7. Chandler heads to the bench, and Miami immediately gets to the rim on the next two possessions to put the Heat up 49-46 with 3:25 remaining.

If I told you prior to Game 6 that Dirk Nowitzki would shoot 1-for-12 in the first half and the Mavs would still be leading, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But that’s exactly what happened, as Dallas leads Miami 53-51 after two. Jason Terry has stepped up huge in one of the biggest games of his career, hitting eight of ten shots in the first half for 19 points.

I like to look at plus/minus to get a sense for who’s performing well, but as I’ve written in this space before, it’s not always the best indicator of success. For instance, Brian Cardinal leads all players at the half with a +15; LeBron James ranks last at -12, even though he’s playing fine. But Dirk Nowitzki’s -10 is entirely indicative of his performance so far—he doesn’t play amazing defense, so if he can’t be a valuable contributor on offense, he doesn’t offer much for the Mavs. Clearly, a 1-for-12 performance is incredibly rare for Dirk, but he’s still the main reason why Dallas has yet to break this game open.

3rd Quarter

LeBron’s still looking tentative in the second—he’s sitting on the perimeter, looking to pass first and drive last. On one possession early in the third, LeBron receives the ball on the right side of the three-point arc, but dishes the ball to Wade about .0001 seconds after receiving it. Later in the possession, he gathers the ball and starts to drive to the hoop, but about halfway through, he turns away from the basket, shoveling the ball away to a teammate. LeBron has never been exclusively a scorer, but he needs to get going—or get Wade going—for the Heat to win this game. This is a championship moment; they need one of their championship performers to step up.

Dwyane Wade gets called for a charge at 3:55 to go in the period with the Mavs up 71-65, and to make matters worse, he contests the call, drawing a technical which Dirk methodically drains. Kudos go to Brian Cardinal for drawing the foul, though. He’s been a rich-man’s Brian Scalabrine in this series, as he’s drawn a couple charges to go with bringing some much-needed physicality on the defensive end. He’s unafraid to foul hard, and when he does, it sends an important message to the Heat: I may not be the best guy on the floor, but I’m definitely not afraid of you.

The other important issue to note from this sequence is that the refs tonight have been decidedly in favor of the Mavericks. I know that I brought up the ticky-tack foul by Chandler earlier tonight, but most of the calls so far tonight have served to favor Dallas. Miami might have a huge FT advantage, but that has been a product of the Heat attacking the basket way more than the Mavs rather than any bias in the officiating.

A sign things are going Dallas’ way: Ian Mahinmi, appearing in just his sixth game of the playoffs, hits a buzzer-beater to end the third with Dallas up 81-72. The Mavs are now just 12 minutes from their first NBA title.

4th Quarter

JJ Barea’s having another great game, and he’s at his best with 8:12 on the clock, darting into the paint and finishing with a finger-roll at the rim to put Dallas up 89-77, their largest lead of the night. So far, Barea has 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting with 5 assists and 2 steals. He’s picked a great time to have one of his best games of the playoffs. BTW, the Heat are -26 right now when LeBron’s on the floor—no other player is worse than -16.

Miami is giving it everything they’ve got down the stretch, but, as they have all series, the Mavs have played great defense in the fourth quarter, making points very difficult to come by for the Heat. In fact, the fourth quarter of Game 6 has served as a microcosm of the entire series: Dallas is contesting shots and forcing turnovers on defense and crashing the boards on offense. Add to that Dirk’s usual fourth quarter awakening (he had 10 points in the fourth quarter), and you have four of the five reasons why Dallas has won four games in a series in which every game has been close in the fourth. The fifth reason? The Heat’s best player, LeBron James, shrunk from the moment whereas the Mavs’ best player, Dirk Nowitzki, embraced it. In this series, Dirk has been the anti-LeBron: average in the first three quarters, otherworldly in the fourth.

Despite their best efforts, the Heat never manage to get it closer than four points, and Dallas pulls away to win its first NBA championship, with a final score of 105-95. Dirk Nowitzki heads straight for the locker room after the game, while a devastated Chris Bosh is shown crying on his way off the floor. Dirk Nowitzki is your MVP with Finals averages of 26 PPG, 10 RPG, 42% FG, 37% 3FG, and 98% FT.


First, congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks on winning the first championship in the franchise’s 31-year history. While many of the current Mavs have not been on the roster more than a couple years, none of them had won a championship, and several waited a very long time for this chance. For guys like Dirk and Jason Kidd, it’s the crowning achievement in careers chock full of chances.

One area where they really could have made up a lot of ground was at the charity stripe. Miami shot just 20-of-33 at the line, and a better performance there would have made for a much closer game at the end. And even though the Heat almost doubled the Mavs’ FT attempts (33 vs. 18), I don’t think it was a case of the refs favoring Miami—rather, it was a product of the Mavs’ decision to shoot more jumpshots and the Heat’s reluctance to be physical at the rim. If anything, the refs were slanted toward Dallas, as several calls went the road team’s way, including a couple technicals on the Heat.

Chris Bosh struggled in the first two-and-a-half games before hitting the gamewinner in Game 3, and ever since then, he’s been very productive for the Heat, averaging 21 PPG and 8 RPG on an efficient 55% FG%. When you look back at what went wrong the last three games for Miami, you can’t put much blame on Bosh, who’s been the third option all year and who provided more than enough support for the Heat’s top two.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 11 turnovers in Game 6. Not exactly what you want from your best players in the most important game of the season.

This is the second year in a row that the Finals MVP has suffered through a horrible shooting night in the deciding game. Dirk was 9-for-27 this year; Kobe Bryant was 6-for-24 in Game 7 a year ago.

A lot of credit has to go to Rick Carlisle for figuring out how to stop the Heat on both ends of the floor, particularly on offense at the end of games. The Heat were the best closers in the league over the first three rounds, but they blew three fourth-quarter leads to the Mavs and never looked dominant down the stretch as they did against the Celtics and Bulls. Carlisle saw that by forcing LeBron to the perimeter or daring him to post up a smaller defender (such as Jason Kidd), they could take him out of his comfort zone, which had a huge effect on the Heat’s late-game effectiveness. Carlisle also masterfully managed his rotation (he always seems to have Barea on the floor at the right time) and showed that he fully deserves to be mentioned among the league’s top coaches.

I can’t help but draw parallels between LeBron’s past two playoff exits: this year with the Heat, and last year with the Cavs. In both series, LeBron’s teams won Games 1 and 3 before losing three straight. In both series, LeBron played poorly in Game 4 and was never the same for the rest of the series. While it is too early to bestow the label of "choker" upon LeBron (’10 and ’11 are the only years you can really argue he choked, as the ’07 Cavs were never expected to beat the Spurs, and LeBron played phenomenal in the ’09 playoffs), the similarities between 2010 and 2011 are disturbing. I don’t know what’s going through LeBron’s head and won’t pretend to, but you’ve gotta think that, in each series, his failures in Game 4 were on his mind when he took the court for the next two games.

LeBron needs to learn how to post-up. This is by far the biggest issue with his game, and the Mavs really exploited it this series, as they knew he’d be willing to go down low and make plays with his back to the basket. It’s inexcusable for someone of LeBron’s size and strength to be lacking a low post game right now, so he REALLY needs to work on that this summer. Take a page out of Dwight Howard’s book and get Hakeem Olajuwon. Or go to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who’s desperate for respect. Forget three-pointers; if LeBron can score posting up and driving the lane, he’s gonna be unstoppable.

I wonder if this year’s Finals will make LeBron reconsider whether he really made the right Decision. He came to Miami because he wanted to win a title, yet didn’t want to shoulder the burden of being great every night. He thought that, with a stronger supporting cast, there wouldn’t be as much pressure on him to perform. Well, as the Finals showed, LeBron DID need to be great. Apart from Game 4, he had a good Finals, but good isn’t good enough. Good isn’t what we expect from LeBron James. He needed to be great multiple times in this series, and when he wasn’t, his team failed because of it. Through one season, LeBron’s situation in Miami isn’t very different from the situation he left in Cleveland.

I hope you enjoyed Game 6, because it could very well be the last NBA basketball game for quite some time. Like the NFL, I love the NBA but hate labor disputes—my opinion on them has always been along the lines of “wake me up when the games start again”—but I’ve been following this one closely enough to know that the players and the owners are miles apart right now, and that the NBA is a lot more likely to miss games than the NFL. It is my hope that the NBA will return to action by late October, but only time will tell if that is a realistic goal or simply a pipe dream.