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Order Restored in Sports: LeBron Fails in the Clutch, Federer/Nadal Rekindled

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts as Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on in Game Two of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The Mavericks won 95-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Alex SandersonCorrespondent IIIJune 4, 2011

The sports world has been mightily shaken up throughout 2011 throughout different professional sports, but has been heavily felt in the NBA and men's tennis. Events over the past 24 hours have finally given us a sense of what we experienced in the mid- to late-2000s.

The men's tennis world has been shaken up by the play of Novak Djokovic in 2011. He entered today's French Open semifinal match against Roger Federer 41-0 on the season and had won 43 matches in a row overall.

Djokovic was expected to defeat Federer for the fourth time this season, as he had looked to surpass Federer and maybe even Nadal. Instead, Federer played one of his best matches in quite some time to advance to his fifth French Open final in the last six years.

The most glaring statistic about Federer's incredible effort is that it means he will play against Nadal in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the Australian Open in 2009.

At one point it seemed like they were going to play for every single French Open and Wimbledon championship, but that hadn't happened the last two seasons. It's Federer's first slam final since last year in Australia as well.

The two all-time greats will play for the Roland Garros title for the fourth time. The matchup also assures that one of the two will have won the last seven championships in Paris.

The result also keeps the No. 1 ranking dominance by Federer and Nadal for the last six years or so in tact, at least for now. If Djokovic had defeated Federer today, he would have been ranked number one in next week's rankings, even if Nadal won the title.

Moving to basketball, these 2011 playoffs have seen things happen that have been the exact opposite of events over the last ten years or so. Just consider the fact that this year is the first year since 1998 that neither Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan are in the NBA finals, and you know it's been a weird year.

Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs lost in the first round as a No. 1 seed to the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies. Phil Jackson, looking for his fourth three-peat, and the Los Angeles Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks.

But what has been most alarming is the continuous clutch play of LeBron James, who had previously missed shot after shot late in close games throughout his career.

From the moment the Lakers were knocked out up until the closing minutes of last night's Game 2 of the NBA Finals, it's been pretty well-thought that James was finally going to get his first NBA title with the Miami Heat this season.

James has been very dominant in helping the Heat close out games throughout this postseason, even hitting his fair share of long jumpers, which is something we have almost never seen before. But last night, the Heat let a lead of 15 points with about six minutes left slip away, letting the Mavericks right back into the series.

The Heat only had five points in the Mavs comeback for the ages (two free throws by James on a questionable foul call and a three-pointer by Mario Chalmers). James and the rest of his teammates settled for long jumpers that just weren't falling, and it looked very much like the James of old.

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