Complete and utter frustration. That's the only way I could describe what it was like watching the first 41 minutes of Thursday night's Game 2 of the NBA Finals. While I sat in despair as the Mavs' potential title chances fell by the wayside, I couldn't help but think, "I've seen this before." Once again, the moment was too big for Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. No matter how badly the announcers wanted me to believe it was the Miami Heat's suffocating defense and unmatchable star power, I couldn't shake the feeling that the Mavs were somewhat...intimidated. Committing elementary turnovers (Kidd and Dirk with 5 apiece) and bricking shot after shot that they had lived on through the entirety of these NBA Playoffs, the Mavs, led by The Dirkster, were once again coming up short on the sport's biggest stage. And then something interesting happened...
Dirk and the Mavs hit rock bottom.
Dwyane Wade had just sunk a 3 and slowly meandered through the Dallas Mavericks huddle, who had just called a timeout, in a move that was as bitchy as D-Wade gets when he drives to the basket. After 7 1/2 miserable quarters of basketball, the Mavs found themselves down 15 points, with 7 minutes to play in the game, in their season, and in some ways, Dirk's career. The Heat were well on their way to a title, without a worthy challenger in sight. Meanwhile, I sat with both hands covering my face, watching the game in between my fingers.
And then it happened.
Hitting rock bottom can work magic sometimes. You know how in movies, it usually takes the character in conflict to get as low as possible before they realize what's important and turn themselves around once and for all? It sounds silly, but this serves as a valid comparison to Dirk and the Mavs. Once the game seemed out of reach, the pressure was lifted off of the Mavs. Suddenly, they weren't playing to win the NBA Finals anymore, they were just playing basketball. In fact, it was the first time all series that they were actually playing Dallas Maverick basketball - Finally, some Mavsketball! It was all very reminiscent of the Indianapolis Colts finally getting over the hump in the NFL. Much like the Mavs, the moment always proved to be too big for the Colts. While they dominated the regular season year in and year out, they always came up short in the Playoffs. It wasn't until a 21-3 deficit in the AFC Championship against their arch nemesis, the New England Patriots, that the Colts were finally able to seize the moment, and reach their full potential of winning a Championship. They came back to win 38-34.
These following moments could be what Mavs fans always look back upon when discussing what became of this season. For these types of moments, I think it's always cool to go back and try to recapture what you were thinking at the time, so I'm gonna kick it into personal narrative mode...
Jason Terry hits a shot (making him 1-18 on the night by my count). Then, he hits a layup (I'm excited that he might get a rhythm going for Game 3). Then Lebron gets stuffed by the rim (the first sure sign that the Heat had completely removed their foot from the gas). Then a cheap foul leads to 2 Terry free throws (I love how the NBA sends a trailing team to the line so easily). Then Chris Bosh misses a shot like a Bosh. Then Shawn Marion (best Mav of this series) hits a fancy banker. The bleeding temporarily stops with 2 'Bron free throws on an iffy foul call. 90-81. Then Kidd hits a big-time, wide open 3 (the first moment I truly believed). 'Bron misses again, and Terry hits again (a sentence that seemed impossible to write at one point and time). Then Bosh dribbles the ball off his leg and out of bounds (#LikeATerry).
Dirk time. He hits a long jumper after getting wide open somehow (what happened to that swarming defense?). Haslem and Dirk trade misses (the Mavs' only missed shot of the final 6:30). The Heat finally get a stop and can now regain control with one made shot (crucial moment), but all they can muster are two inconceivable, off balanced, fadeaway 3's from 'Bron (loves to shoot deep shots with the game on the line). The team that could do no wrong down the stretch of Playoff games now find themselves relying on unanswered prayers. Dirk hits a layup in transition that plays out in slow motion because of its inevitability from midcourt. After the Heat clank another desperation 3, it's time for Dirk to work his magic. Time stops as he launches an open 3 (jersey untucked). I have 8 or 9 complete thoughts while the ball was in the air. This is it. This is his shot. This is his time. Splash down. Bang-a-rang. Squish.
Only I forgot the Heat have somebody clutch on their team as well. Somebody that I've seen hit a big shot before (you may be asking 'to beat USC right?' - but what I actually mean is the National Championship Game). I feel unfazed. I don't even react. I knew it was in the moment Chalmers shot it (Apparently, Dirk cussed out Terry in the huddle following this play). It was time for Dirk to go to work once again. Heat coach Eric Spoelstra elects to put Chris Bosh on Dirk (despite Haslem's overwhelming career success against him). Dirk gets the ball with 10 seconds on the clock and attacks with 8 (earlier than usual because the Heat have a foul to give). He dribbles right, spins left, hesitates, and then blows by Bosh (#LikeABosh) finishing with his left hand that domesticates his injured finger ('Bron elects not to help off of Terry). He has just made the biggest shot of his career and his casual strut shows it. I can't believe he drove the ball. I'm sure I'm not the only one. The Heat get a decent look to win the game but it clangs off the rim. While Wade looks at the ref for a foul (#LikeABitch), Dirk displays a look of shock on his face. I know the feeling. It's a feeling of emotional numbness, amidst all the chaos and hysteria, when you know you're the man, and you look at your fellow comrades to make sure they all know that you're the man too. There's nothing else left to accomplish (for now).
Ball. Game. Unbelievable. Incredible. Miraculous. It was the kind of game that makes me happy I'm just a blogger, and not a professional writer, so I could justifiably celebrate what had just happened. I was so overcome with emotions that there was nothing else left to do but get wasted. Chocolatey wasted. And that, my friends, is why you're reading my reaction to the most unbelievable comeback I've ever seen today instead of yesterday.
Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to find out what you're really made of.