Forget Game 4, the blowout you still can't erase from the memory banks, and we're just a few ticks of the clock away from the title that shoulda-woulda-coulda been the Dallas Mavericks'. Now we're one game away from penning the obituary of a Finals that was Dallas' till Dwyane Wade decided to play like a Hall of Fame superstar and Dirk Nowitzki opted to play like a Continental Basketball Association journeyman. Of course, on the positive side we're getting close to the end of having to get up early every a.m. to pore over the bad news and nyah-nyah-nyahs being imported fresh daily from the likes of The Miami Herald, which today makes the Heat out to be conquering comeback heroes and the Mavs and their owner look like rabid, bitter losers blaming the refs for a loss that should have been a Dallas win. (Also on the positive side, with the Finals almost final I can now fully devote my attention to The World Series of Pop Culture, which is set to pop July 10 on VH1...and how did I miss the March auditions in Dallas, anyway? Now we're talking; I can't drive it to the hoop, kinda like the Mavs in the second half, but I do know what "corbomite" is. High five. No?)
Jeez, do you smell the stalling? So let's get down to it--but where to begin, with Dwyane Wade's career-high 43 or the free throws that might have cost the Mavs a season or the resurrection of Gary Payton or Dallas' second half that was less offense and more offensive than the first? Doesn't look good for the home team...and the home team doesn't look good, as many of the morning stories focus on Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban's unhappiness with the refs. Think the stripes are out to get the guy and his team? Then this Associated Press story this morning will add fuel to your fire; in short, it wasn't the timeout that killed Dallas late, but the fact the refs didn't call the blatant foul Dwyane Wade committed on Jason Terry as he drove to the basket on the way to those damned free throws. Says your owner:
"'I care less about the timeout. The error in my mind occurred before then.' Asked if it was the collision that Terry jumped up from screaming about being shoved, Cuban said: 'You mean when he pushed him? I don't know. I guess that's not a call. I guess that's not a foul.'"
No posts to BlogMaverick this morning; not yet, anyway. (UPDATE: At 2:22 this afternoon, Cubes posted a lengthy item about his use of the word "fucking" when responding to a reporter's question.) (The Stackhouse jersey last night was a nice touch, though it did give Mark the look of a guy wearing an apron.) Of course, it was a hell of a way for Nowitzki to celebrate his 28th birthday, says Marc Stein on ESPN's Web site: You make the clutch jumper to stay alive, only to get prounouced dead a few seconds later when the guy on the other side of the floor proves himself just a little better, which is to say a legend only to happy to blow out your candles for you. But Wade's performance--and Alonzo Mourning's return after a kidney transplant, heralded this morning with a nice piece in The Boston Globe--was kinda overshadowed by that Josh Howard timeout embroglio, which will rank up there with the time Derek Harper dribbled out the clock against the Los Angeles Lakers. (Mavs-wrecks! Mav-wrecks! Mav-wrecks!) That timeout is the subject of this story from The Washington Post, which says that everything good Avery Johnson did for his team after that Game 4 shaming--moving the team to Ft. Lauderdale, getting 'em over the Stack suspension, firing 'em up in the first half--was wasted in the final ticks of Game 5, when the team got the ball back not at half court but under its own basket with no time left. Writes Amy Shipley:
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"Johnson later hinted that the blame should lie with the referees, for not understanding that the timeout was desired for after a second successful free throw. 'The signal was for the timeout to come after the second free throw,' Johnson said. 'We've been in this situation a million times, and it was assumed that we wanted it at that time.'"
Avery, Avery, Avery. Don't you know what happens when you assume something? You don't need to read The Los Angeles Times this morning to know Dallas is ready to get the hell out of Miami; hell, I feel that way there after a long weekend with the in-laws, much less a three-game ass-whippin' that turns the faves into underdogs and vice-freakin'-versa. I just hope before they go, the team woke up at the team motor hotel this morning to find The Miami Herald outside its hotel-room door, so they could read this lead from the paper's game story:
"Dwyane Wade and the Heat would call it a classic, a pivotal game filled with incredible performances and clutch basket after clutch basket resulting in a series-altering win.
Mark Cuban and the Mavericks would call it a classic failure, crucial moments in a mammoth game marred by mental mistakes and questionable whistles resulting in the most painful of defeats."
Two down, two to go. Still. On the plus side, I am getting in a lot more heavy drinking, which is nice. --Robert Wilonsky