Did think briefly this morning about recapping the results of my swim team's meet last night; turns out we lost too, but at least the kids tried, which is more than I can say for the Dallas Mavericks as they dropped, then stepped on and crushed into a million little pieces, Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Gotta say, I missed most of the game, but it looks like the Mavs did too; worst quarter in NBA Finals history, waytago! Uh, does two-of-14 Dirk still play for this team, or did he get traded to the CBA while I was out? Notice I'm stalling; can't seem to bring myself to do the cut-and-paste for this morning's Finals wrap-up. If there's one good thing to come of this, of course, it's that this best-of-three series will likely go the distance now (you gotta hope, because no way the Mavs take two straight at this point), which means more Shaq about town next week when the series comes back to Dallas. The only person not happy about it is probably Jerry Stackhouse, who tagged the gentle giant last night and got a thanks from the big guy in his post-game press conference. Guess it takes a lot to phase 330 pounds of sexy. No, wait, it does. I should know.
So, let's get down to it and stop avoiding the inevitable. Got The Miami Herald right here. Greg Cote writes here that this series is all Dwyane Wade now; no doubt, no doubt. Says he's a magician. Says he's gonna take the team all the way to the promised land. Says he can smell it.
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"It was Pat Riley who envisioned a championship parade along Biscayne Boulevard upon arriving in Miami 11 seasons ago. It was Shaquille O'Neal who all but guaranteed the same when he joined the Heat two summers ago.
Thursday night, in the merry bedlam of the downtown bayside arena, for the first time in these NBA Finals, it began to seem like a possible dream. And it was a magician whose skills seem thoroughly impossible even as we see them, a kid named Dwyane Wade, who was making it real."
But making it real awful are the Mavs, says The Los Angeles Times (and everyone you know right now), who can handle the Shaq but can't remember there are four other guys in Heat uniforms on the floor with Kazaam. ESPN'er Marc Stein, old friend of the Mavs, says he was right about one thing and wrong about one thing when he said the other day Dwyane Wade and the Mavs would both be OK during the first two Miami games; guess which one he whiffed on. Or don't. CBS is actually taking credit for the win: Tony Mejia manages to work in a Late Show with David Letterman plug, insisting Mark Cuban's Wednesday night appearance on the talk show fired up Heat coach Pat Riley. I think the old man, if he did see the show, was more likely to be inspired by musical guest Neko Case than anything Cubes has to offer, but what do I know. PBS is taking credit for the Heat win too; Dirk played just like Mr. Noodle.
Everything you're gonna read this morning is Wade, Wade, Wade. What else do you need to know; guess that injury was fake after all, which surprises no one except maybe all those folks insisting yesterday he was hurt and hobbling. I believe the word is "suckers." Hard to believe last week everyone figured Dirk for the series MVP. Now all anyone wants to know is: Where the hell did the dude go? That's the question Amy Shipley's asking this a.m. in The Washington Post, but not before making him out to sound like Charlie Chaplin: "Dallas Maverick forward Dirk Nowitzki began the game hitting his outlet man in the back of the head with the basketball. Remarkably, things did not get any better." Also, Shipley's a woman after my own heart; she's more into alliterative writing than I am: "It's been a sobering series for the sweet-shooting seven-footer." Which this semi-colon, I thee wed. USA Today opens its piece on the Mavs' lack of toughness by focusing on Mark Cuban, who ended Game 4 by "staring blankly into an NBA Finals series that looked over 4� quarters ago." C'mon, that's how he usually looks; he's thinking.
But let's go back to Miami to end this thing--heh, same thing Avery Johnson probably told his team Monday. Cote's colleague at The Miami Herald, Dan LeBatard--and, really, why the need for two guys writing the same thing about the same thing in the same paper?--puts it thusly: "The breathtaking view from the mountaintop is two steps away now." For both teams, holmes, for both teams. But, yeah, for one more than the other. To end this column, I now hand it over to every sports section headline writer in America: "The Heat is on Dallas now." Hand me that gun, willya? --Robert Wilonsky