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Miami Twice

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Assorted notes, quotes and anecdotes from a Thursday night at American Airlines Center that ended in a Mavs blowout win over the Miami Heat, an effortless season sweep and this sobering thought: How the hell did we lose to that team in The Finals?

Playing against a marquee opponent in a nationally televised game on TNT, the Mavs' marketing think tank pounced on the opportunity to launch its "Dirk for MVP" campaign. Don't get me wrong, I think Nowitzki is the best player on the best team and a no-brainer to win the award, but it's a little embarrassing. You think Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky or Peyton Manning or Scarlett Johansson needed "campaigns" that featured giveaway T-shirts and MySpace pages? I mean, if you're the best, people will notice. Privately, Dirk, who responded with 31 points and 11 rebounds, hates the manufactured enthusiasm. Publicly, he's doing the right thing: sheepishly shrug it off.

That said, the T-shirts are pretty sweet. Except, isn't dark grey a curious choice? I can think of about 37 other options on the color wheels that would've made more of a stark statement for TV viewers, no?

Not a huge celebrity turnout. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sat in the first row along the baseline, without wearing his Dirk for MVP shirt or a famous blonde on his arm. Hmm. Maybe he just couldn't choose between the groupies he's sure to have generated from this gig.

Honestly, the game was a letdown. Without Dwyane Wade, screaming P.A. man Billy Hayes and the 20k fans had nowhere to deposit their venom. (In this week's Sports Illustrated, even Heat coach Pat Riley admits to Wade's fraudulence, saying, "He gets in the habit of falling down when doesn't have to...")

The Mavs led by 23 at halftime and 32 early in the fourth quarter before garbage time prompted bettors across the Metroplex to ram their head through sheetrock. Favored by 13, Dallas wound up winning by only 12. Back. Doored.

Two girls in separate corners held homemade signs announcing their 16th birthdays, proclaiming their love for Dirk and desiring a kiss/autograph. Cute, but kinda creepy. For a moment I thought NBC's To Catch a Predator had moved their trap south from Murphy.

If Miami was in the same division, it would trail Dallas by 19 games. Nineteen. Though we'd love nothing more, a Finals rematch seems about as likely as Anna Nicole Smith resting in peace. Suggested Miami rallying cry.

The Heat without Wade is like the Rolling Stones without, um...

Speaking of Mick Jagger, funniest moment of the night was a second-quarter video bit in which Dirk actually tried to mimic the funky chicken moves of the legendary front man. It was awkward. It was hilarious. It was human. Despite all his success, Nowitzki somehow still isn't too big for his britches or too arrogant to poke fun at himself.

He also has never stopped being a gym rat. At 7:15 p.m. Dirk was on the team's practice court shooting jumpers with long-time personal coach Holger Geschwindner.

Before the game the Mavs traded Anthony Johnson to Atlanta for a second-round pick. I didn't understand or approve acquiring him last summer, and I still think at some point Dallas is going to miss Darrell Armstrong. If not on the court, in the locker room.

We got the Mavs Dancers in their tiny tops. We got the Mavs ManiAACs (which, last night, included KTCK-AM's afternoon-show co-host Dan McDowell) in their fat bellies. And, at halftime, we got a performance that would make even John Amaechi squirm. The Alexis Brothers are strong and all. But, dudes, come on...there's something terribly disturbing about strapping on a onesy and bench-pressing your buddy.

Finally, while Wade was in Miami either pondering amputation of his arm or, more likely, mapping out his return for a national TV game, something amazing happened. Josh Howard fell awkwardly in the third quarter after making a three-pointer, sprained his ankle and — gasp! — made it to the bench without use of a wheelchair. --Richie Whitt

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