Mavs still in good shape despite back-to-back losses
Posted: Saturday June 17, 2006 10:34PM; Updated: Saturday June 17, 2006 10:34PM
Dirk Nowitzki can't play much worse than he did in Game 4, when the All-Star forward shot 2-of-14 from the field.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Most NBA observers had the Dallas Mavericks winning their first NBA Finals appearance in six games, and though Miami's surprising return to form in Games 3 and 4 remains our freshest memory of the series thus far, it bears repeating that this is exactly how many saw this thing ending. What remains is a three-game series, and the Mavs have two to play at home. On paper, everything appears to be going according to plan.
Most of these Finals follow a similar pattern: an ugly Game 1, a blowout for the home team in Game 2, an inspired comeback for the home team in Game 3, followed by a close road win in Game 4 and a backs-against-the-wall survival conquest for the home team in Game 5. And, usually, most of these Finals end in Game 6. Since the home-court format was changed to 2-3-2 for the 1985 Finals, 10 of the 21 championships have ended in six games, with five Finals finishing in five, three sweeps, and three seven-gamers.
Though the Dallas-Miami series hasn't followed the typical pattern, it is reminiscent of Chicago's six-game win over Utah in 1997. The Bulls took the first two at home, and though they needed a Michael Jordan game-winner in the first game, their 12-point win in Game 2 wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. With momentum clouding the thought process, writers and television hacks alike saw the Bulls as primed for a sweep. Instead, Utah won the next two games handily, reminding everyone that -- oh, yeah -- the Jazz were a championship-worthy team and probably couldn't be beaten by anyone (even MJ's Bulls) four straight times. Chicago then won a close won in Game 5 (it was just as hard to beat those Bulls three straight times) before closing it out at home.
(It should also be noted that in 1998, the Jazz could only muster nine points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the Finals against the Bulls, and then gathered themselves long enough to take Game 5 in Chicago some five days later. The Jazz were the most efficient scoring team in the NBA that year, and you can't keep a good offense down.)
So, though some are predicting gloom and doom for the Mavs in these Finals, assuming they're going to have to deal with a third straight loss in Miami on Sunday before having to win two straight in Texas to pull out the series, things actually appear to be right on course. Just as no one should have expected a team as good as the Heat to be beaten four straight times (even by a team as good as the Mavs), nobody should expect a team as good as the Mavs to be taken down three straight times (even by a team as good as the Heat). There's a reason that only one home team in 21 Finals (the 2004 Pistons, playing against a crippled and self-loathing group of Lakers) has taken the three middle games in the 2-3-2 format, and though the Mavs have their work cut out for them, history is on their side.