It wasn’t hard to see who the better team was on Sunday—even with Dirk Nowitzki’s dismal first-half performance, the Dallas Mavericks had control of the game.
But Dallas was able to match them with solid first-quarter play from Jason Terry, who had nine points in the opening 12 minutes.
Deshawn Stevenson hit his first three as the first quarter was coming to a close and drained two more at the start of the second. Terry continued his blitz, putting up 19 points in the half.
Still, at the end of the first half, Dallas had only a two-point cushion.The teams had exchanged leads and gone on runs, but the score didn’t tell the story.
The Heat looked overwhelmed.
Nowitzki had only three points, yet his team didn’t need him.
J.J. Barea penetrated through the Heat’s perimeter defense, he kicked the ball out to open shooters, and he aggressively scored. Marion played tough and put up eight. He ended the game with 12 points.
The Heat looked like they were struggling to keep up. Even though they were able to get to the basket and score some buckets, they were being outplayed.
The second half was more of the same, and the Mavericks began to pull away in the 3rd quarter.
Barea, Terry, and Jason Kidd all continued to hurt the Heat. Other players came in and hit big shots, even Ian Mahinmi. Nowitzki was still trying to find his rhythm, but his team kept itself afloat.
No matter what the Heat did, they couldn’t get ahead. The Mavericks were just playing too well.
Then, in the fourth, the Heat tried to make a run.
Although his stats didn’t show it, Dywane Wade began to play with fervor—he was not going to give the game away.
But it wasn’t enough. The Maverick's lead was too big, and after Dirk started hitting a few shots, the game was over.
The Mavericks had won the NBA Finals.
In the NBA the deeper team is usually the better one. The Mavericks had a group of players that could come off the bench and hurt their opponents in multiple ways. When one group of players wasn’t playing well, the other group was.
True, Corey Brewer and Peja Stojakovic stopped getting playing time, but the Mavericks didn’t need them. A deeper rotation doesn’t just mean using a bunch of players.
It means bringing in players who will affect the game.
For the Heat to win, they needed to stop Barea and Terry, but they couldn’t. I thought Erik Spoelstra should have used a deeper rotation.
He needed to give more minutes to Eddie House and any at all to James Jones. He gave some minutes to House—all of Mike Bibby’s minutes.
But it was too late—he needed to develop a rotation all series as Rick Carlisle did.
It was not that Spoelstra changed the lineup dramatically or that his coaching lost the Heat the series, but he had to see that the Maverick’s depth was hurting his team.
The writing was on the wall.
When Nowitzki wasn’t shouldering the load, his teammates were. That was not so for the Heat.
When the Big Three had a bad stretch, their offense dithered. The occasional three from Bibby, Mike Miller, or Mario Chalmers just wasn’t cutting it.
The Heat lost the series in part because the Big Three needed to play great in order to win. LeBron and Chris Bosh played well in Game 6 (Wade just played okay), but the Heat lost because they were outmatched.
The Mavericks were the better team.
The Mavericks won for a multitude of reasons—they had stronger play late in games, better coaching, and a much more cohesive squad.
The Heat will have more chances to go to the Finals, but Spoelstra might not be there. You can imagine how Pat Riley is somewhere seething. He is sitting in a dark den, thinking how he knows he could have done better (probably could have too because of his iron fist).
But if Spoelstra comes back, he will have to depend more on players outside the Big Three.
Having Udonis Haslem for the whole year, and building team chemistry for another season should help, but the Heat need a more rounded team.
They need a team that doesn’t depend solely on scoring from three players—it is not just about bad leadership or LeBron in the fourth quarter.
Whether the pieces the Heat already have can improve or if the team will need to make some offseason moves, we will just have to wait and see.