No Flash in the Pan: Dwyane Wade Leads Miami to the ChampionshipDwyane Wade (36 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots) led the Miami Heat to a 95-92 game six win over the Dallas Mavericks, clinching the franchise's first NBA championship. Wade averaged 34.7 ppg in the series and was an easy choice for Finals MVP. Shaquille O'Neal had a quiet game (nine points, 12 rebounds) but is surely delighted to win a championship just two years after his contentious departure from the L.A. Lakers. Udonis Haslem (17 points and 10 rebounds) and Antoine Walker (14 points, 11 rebounds) came up big for the Heat, as did Alonzo Mourning, who had eight points, six rebounds and five blocked shots in 14 minutes of playing time. Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots but most of his teammates had subpar games. Jason Terry (16 points) shot only 7-25 from the field, Josh Howard (14 points) grabbed 12 rebounds but shot just 5-16 and Jerry Stackhouse (12 points) shot 5-13.
Dallas led 26-12 with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. At that point, Nowitzki already had 11 points on 5-7 shooting and Wade had no points on 0-2 shooting. I mentioned in my post about game five that Dallas did a poor job closing out the third quarter and that problem happened again in the first quarter of game six: Wade scored seven points in the last two minutes and Miami slashed the lead to 30-23 by the end of the period. It takes a lot of energy and effort to build a lead over a 10 minute span and you cannot consistently squander such advantages and expect to win the game. Dallas gave away a sizeable portion of its game two lead but hung on to win. In retrospect, the series turned around in game three when Dallas blew a double digit lead late and lost; the Mavericks never figured out how to hold on to leads against the Heat. It is not so much that Dallas lost "momentum" after game three--the Mavericks played well for significant stretches in the subsequent games--but that the close of game three revealed a weakness that Dallas never corrected. The Mavericks had certain obvious advantages that they could exploit to get leads but, for whatever reason, Dallas could not maintain those leads. In the end, Miami must be given the credit for wearing down Dallas' will.
Dallas pushed the lead to 46-36 with 3:31 remaining in the second quarter but by halftime Miami led 49-48. Wade had 19 points on 6-10 shooting in the first half and Nowitzki had 17 points on 8-12 shooting. During most of the games in the series Dallas seemed fresher and livelier at the start of the third quarter and that happened again in game six: Dallas took a 53-52 lead less than two minutes into the quarter but after that Miami took charge and led by as much as nine before Dallas pulled to within 71-68 going into the fourth quarter. Walker had 10 points and eight rebounds in the third quarter.
Miami never led by more than five in the fourth quarter and Dallas pulled even at one point but in the end the Mavericks simply could neither make enough shots nor get enough stops. Wade had another strong fourth quarter with 11 points but he missed two free throws with 10 seconds remaining to give the Mavericks one last chance; Terry's three-pointer bounced harmlessly off of the rim, a fitting conclusion to a game in which Dallas shot 5-22 from beyond the arc.
There will be plenty of time to discuss the historical implications of this championship, both for the young (Wade) and the old (O'Neal, Mourning, Gary Payton), but for now it is sufficient to congratulate the Heat for winning their first NBA championship and the Mavericks for having the best season in franchise history.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:30 AM