The 2011 NBA Finals are shaping up to be another seven-game series. As in the two previous contests, Game 4 came down to the last possession. As if going up against Miami’s swarming defense weren’t a big enough challenge for lead man Dirk Nowitzki, he had to conquer some of his own demons to help his team get back on track after dropping Game 3 at home.
Still recovering from a torn a tendon in his left, middle finger, Dirk took to the court with a 101-degree fever on Tuesday night. True to form, Dirk dug deep and spirited another spectacular comeback against Miami with ten points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter in route to an 86-83 victory.
Dirk got the help he needed from his fellow starters, as well as Jason Terry and DeShawn Stevenson off the bench. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle changed up the starting lineup, inserting J.J. Barea into the first string, which made Dallas a little bit faster in the backcourt. Bringing in DeShawn Stevenson off the bench gave Shawn Marion a bigger break and enabled him to be fresher when he came back into the game to guard LeBron James, who was limited to only 8 points total.
LBJ was uncharacteristically absent in Game 4 and has been put through the ringer for his so-called disappearing act. In his own words, Game 5 will be the biggest game of LeBron’s career. I expect him to bounce back with a more aggressive performance. Dwyane Wade was spectacular once again for Miami, putting up 32 points. He’s averaging just under 30 points per game in the Finals. And Chris Bosh also came out strong with 24 points.
It remains to be seen how Dallas will handle D-Wade in Game 5 and whether they will go to zone D tonight. Many people credit the Mavs’ matchup zone defense for playing such an important part in their team’s success in guarding the athletic Miami Heat, forcing them to be a jump shooting team rather than a driving, slashing team. Coach Erik Spoelstra was probably not too upset with Miami’s defensive effort in Game 4. Spoelstra’s bigger concern in Game 5 will be point productivity on the offensive end of the floor.
Tied at two games apiece, both the Mavericks and Heat must come out with passion and energy and treat this high-pressure Game 5 like it’s a one-and-done. The Mavs will try to keep momentum on their side and take a 3-2 lead when they host the Heat for the last time in this Finals series at 9:00 PM ET. Obviously, if Miami comes away with the win they’ll gain a decided advantage in this series before heading home for the last two games in their own building.