It is becoming increasingly clear that the 2011 Finals will be decided by runs. Over the past three games, both the Heat and the Mavericks have scored in bunches, or not scored at all. It’s a series of runs. Last night, the Miami Heat barely survived Dallas’s final run of the game – by getting a couple of unexpected baseline buckets from Chris Bosh and Udonis (DNA) Haslem. The Heat had just enough to hold off another late fourth quarter scoring spree by Dirk Nowitski – mere centimeters keeping them from dealing with an overtime in unfriendly territory. With the win, the Miami Heat have ensured that if they do not finish the series in Dallas, they will have the opportunity to do so in Miami. Dallas, on the other hand, will try to defend their home court and go up three games to two, knowing that they can win in Miami.
Aside from the dueling runs by both teams, there was interesting story lines that played out last night. First off, there was LeBron James who promised to be in attack mode, and took only 14 shots (his first one of the game a full six minutes in). James did attack the rim though, only five of his shots came from the perimeter. The rest were right at the rim, including some thunderous dunks.
Then, there was Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitski battling it out like it was 2006. Both took 21 shots – Wade hit 12 and Nowtiski 11. Both players grabbed 11 rebounds. Watching the two players dominate the game transported me firmly into 2006. Dirk was burying ridiculous fading jumpers, and Wade was attacking the rim like it had talked dirty about his momma. Five years later, both players are still playing near their max ability. Truly impressive.
Finally, and perhaps least consequentially, there was the officiating. The awful, terrible, no good officiating. Last night’s crew swallowed their whistles on shots around the rim, but called ticky-tack fouls on positioning battles, rebounding battles, and off the ball movement. A bizarre decision by the crew. And if the ref’s game plan wasn’t weird enough, there were the flops by Wade and Nowitski – who both, simply by leaping in the air on their own, drew fouls. And of course, the missed calls. The refs did not catch that Mario Chalmers went over and back before getting off his buzzer beater. The refs also called a double-dribble on LeBron James – an impossibility after failing to call an up and down (the lack of the call meant the ball had been deflected from James’s hands and thus could dribble again). Some of the worst officiating I saw in a Finals game.
But as great players do, they played through the officiating. They adjusted to it and turned in another gem of a game. Despite the low scoring, the tidal viewing nature of a run-heavy game, both teams played as hard as they could. Everyone left it all on the floor. That’s what we like to see. Game four is Tuesday night, and promises to be another instant classic.