Mavericks Are Within 1 Game Of NBA's Championship
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The Dallas Mavericks are one win away from their first NBA championship. Last night in Dallas the Mavs beat Miami to take a three games to two lead in the series. High scoring game, 112 to 103, first time both teams have gotten over 100 points. NPR's Tom Goldman was watching. Tom, are you worn out?
TOM GOLDMAN: I'm worn out, I need oxygen.
INSKEEP: So what caused them to score so many more points than they did in the first four games?
GOLDMAN: You know, we asked everyone, including Rick Carlisle, coach of the Mavericks. And here's his theory why, and it makes him sound like he's auditioning to be the new Zen master in the NBA with Phil Jackson gone. Here's what Carlisle said.
Mr. RICK CARLISLE (Head Coach, Mavericks): When you play as hard as we've been playing, you know, the basketball gods tend to be kinder to you.
GOLDMAN: OK, so the gods. I think it's a little more practical than that. Defense for both teams, especially the Miami Heat, took the night off and Dallas finally found its offensive rhythm. They've been searching all series long. The Mavs looked like the team that roared through the playoffs before the finals, they moved the ball beautifully, they were finally sinking their open shots at a high rate, including a whopping 13 long-range three-pointers. They had balanced scoring with Dirk Nowitzki, of course, leading the way; but then you had Jason Terry, Jason Kid, the little guy J.J. Barea was big with 17 points, total man's effort.
INSKEEP: Was Miami hurt by the fact that one of their best players, Dwyane Wade, maybe their best player of all, was playing hurt?
GOLDMAN: He was dealing with a hip injury for much of the game and, you know, athletes hate to say that an injury caused a problem, and he didn't. No one said it caused them to lose the game. But, you know, a healthy Dwyane Wade playing more than the 34 minutes he did, sure that would have made a difference. When he was in the game, he was limping at times, but he still did great things. He led The Heat in the scoring with 23 points, and he says it won't be an issue in the game Sunday, game six.
INSKEEP: Well, then there's LeBron James, who said, this is the most game five - most important game of my career. I had a bad one earlier in the week. This is the most important game in my career. How'd he do?
GOLDMAN: Good, not great. He had a triple double, 17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, that shows it was a good balanced game for him. But you know, Steve, we have such high expectations of greatness for this guy, and again, he didn't deliver the superman-like effort leading his team to victory. Here's what he had to say.
Mr. LEBRON JAMES (Miami Heat): I could have made a couple more plays for my team. But at the end of the day, all it is, is about a win or a loss. And a triple double means absolutely nothing, you know, in a loss.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, now he doesn't sound too excited, obviously. James was asked if he's struggling with the pressure of the finals, the pressure of the fourth quarters. He said no. You know, he did have some nice passes for assists when the game was tight, but he only scored two points in the fourth quarter. That gives him only 11 total points in the combined fourth quarters for this finals. That is puzzling. We keep saying he's the greatest player on the planet, maybe not, or at least not yet.
INSKEEP: Is Dallas doing something different in the fourth quarter to shut him down?
GOLDMAN: No, and Dallas isn't an overwhelmingly awesome defense. They have a very good defense, but you know, we're so used to seeing LeBron put his head down and just go to the hoop with a vengeance and, you know, Steve, I was watching him closely last night and just didn't see that, you know. They tied him up a lot. He got rid of the ball before he made moves. He still looks shaky on his jump shots. Something's wrong.
INSKEEP: So we go to game six. Dallas has the advantage three games to two, but Miami will have the home court.
GOLDMAN: Right, predictions have been very risky in this series, it's been so close. I have to say Dallas has the momentum right now. The Mav's are the first team to finally win two in a row. Their great offense is great again, I think they have to win in game six, though. If it goes seven, maybe The Heat.
INSKEEP: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks.
GOLDMAN: My pleasure.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
We just heard about the two best teams in the NBA. Now let's turn to the worst. The Cleveland Cavaliers, the team LeBron James spurned, were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with 19 wins and a whopping 63 losses. The Minnesota Timberwolves held that distinction in the Western Conference with just 17 wins and 65 losses. There is hope for the next season, though, the NBA draft is just two weeks away and of course this year Cleveland and Minnesota will pick first and second.
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