In a move that simply came too late in the series, Chalmers replaced Mike Bibby in the starting lineup and provided the type of impact play for which the Heat have been desperate to find from their point guard. He took pressure off Dwyane Wade to create offense, made aggressive moves to the basket and got to the free-throw line nine times (more than any other player) and made three steals on defense. It's unfortunate Erik Spoelstra didn't make this move earlier.
Wade looked gassed by the end of this game, and was far from the same player who dominated stretches of this series. His stat line looked nice, but most of his numbers came early while he was able to aggressively attack the basket and capitalize on Dallas' double-teams to create shots for teammates, including two of Eddie House's huge second-quarter three-pointers. But Wade faded by the end. He had as many turnovers as shots made in the fourth quarter, even dribbling off his foot with the Heat trailing by 10 with 8:45 remaining, and took only two shot attempts in the final eight minutes with the series on the line. It was a stunning disappearance for a man who carried the Heat through so many critical moments in this series.
Anthony was more active Sunday night than in Game 5, when only the minutes played line on the box score could prove he was in the game. But despite pulling down two offensive boards in the first half he was relatively absent and was pulled for the season after only three minutes in the second half. His absence wasn't a critical loss for the Heat, but showing up could've provided a significant bonus.
James faces a sad summer, and while many will claim it's unfair to criticize him, anyone whose nickname claims lordship of the game should be capable of carrying his team in critical moments, which James failed to do in the last three games of the series. That said, Sunday was his best effort of that stretch. He scored seven points in the final period (though three came with the Heat already trailing by 12 with 1:51 remaining) and aggressively looked for his shot. The trouble: He had six turnovers in the game, and in the second half often didn't look like he knew what he wanted to do offensively. Just look at his turnover with five minutes remaining and the Heat still within reach of the lead. James drove into a pile of Mavericks, got the ball knocked loose, grabbed it, then stepped on the baseline. Those moments were too common for James in this series.
It was easy to criticize Bosh for his passive play earlier in the series, but he finished his season with his best performance against Dallas. Bosh played to his role as a spreading forward perfectly, penalizing the Mavericks' double-teams on Wade and LeBron James by aggressively looking for and knocking down shots off their kickouts. And by making moves to the rim early, Bosh not only got to the free-throw line consistently, but his effective use of shot-fakes was responsible for getting Dirk Nowitzki in early foul trouble.
Even with their most productive player promoted to the starting lineup, the Heat bench -- thin to begin with -- produced a couple key performances that kept Miami in the game for much of the night. Udonis Haslem had his best performance of the playoffs, narrowly missing a double-double. And Eddie House -- who leapfrogged demoted starter Bibby in the rotation after playing a total of 26 playoff minutes in six previous games -- buried three enormous three-pointers in 21 minutes, raising more questions for why Spoelstra didn't experiment with this rotation shift earlier.
Erik Spoelstra, Head Coach
Spoelstra finally made a move that looked necessary after Game 4, when starting point guard Bibby went scoreless and started getting exploited by J.J. Barea. In a move that spoke to the damage being done by Bibby's lack of production, Spoelstra moved the veteran point guard out of the rotation completely and put Chalmers into the starting spot, giving the Heat the type of production they needed at the point, and more size to contain Barea. But the move came too late, as Miami's troubles seemed to magnify by the second half. Miami faded as the game went on and looked worn out. Spoelstra tried giving James a rest early in the fourth quarter for only the second time in the series, but while James had a more productive final period than in the previous games, the Heat still looked lost offensively and couldn't match Dallas' scrappy play or solve its zone defense.
Barea's play deserves a hefty amount of credit for swinging the momentum in this series. His ability to penetrate from the perimeter helped the Mavs crack the Miami defense, which they weren't getting with DeShawn Stevenson in the starting lineup. Previously, the lack of activity on the perimeter allowed Miami to play Dallas straight up, but Barea's drives forced the Heat defense to help, which in turn opened shots on the perimeter for Dallas' shooters. The numbers weren't eye-popping, but the trickle-down effect was enormous.
In the biggest game of his career, which ended 17 years of work for a championship, Kidd was as poised as you might expect to see in a meaningless regular-season game. He didn't look to shoot often, but he ran the offense efficiently with few mistakes, and made many of his biggest plays when the game was tightest. Two of his assists were for shots that reclaimed the lead for Dallas, while three others expanded the Mavs' lead to a two-possession gap.
Chandler's foul trouble, at times for silly mistakes like giving guys a couple light shoves, took away a post presence that has seemed to affect some of the Heat's shot selections during the series. But remarkably, his absence didn't particularly harm Dallas on Sunday, and Chandler was still effective in his fewest minutes played of the series. He maintained his physical presence inside for almost the entire fourth quarter despite his touchy foul situation.
Marion didn't have a sharp shooting hand once again, but he was more aggressive than in Game 5 and it made a difference in little ways, such as his offensive rebound early in the third quarter -- one of three in the game -- in which he out-jumped Wade for the board and quickly went back with a layup over Chalmers as part of an 8-0 Dallas run to go ahead 63-56. Marion got into the lane on each of Dallas' first three possessions, and his aggressive play helped him consistently get to the free-throw line (which he didn't do a single time in Game 5). That type of activity made a big difference for Dallas throughout the series.
It's remarkable that Nowitzki's prolific shooting struggles in the first half hardly affected his overall impact by the end. He showed his veteran presence by getting involved in other areas despite his shooting slump, pulling down five first-half rebounds and making a steal during the first half before finding his stroke when it mattered. Nowitzki scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and buried 5-of-8 shots, with all of them coming in the final 7:22 to help Dallas maintain its lead.
So much credit to go around here. Start with Jason Terry, obviously, whose 27 points were the most he'd scored since the clinching Game 4 rout of Los Angeles in the west semifinals -- a performance that kept Nowitzki's struggles from sinking the Mavericks early. But then there was Brian Cardinal hitting a three-pointer and making some nice defensive plays with Chandler on the bench, Stevenson burying three three-pointers, and even Ian Mahinmi (who finished the series with more personal fouls than points) chipping in four points, a steal and three rebounds. After struggling early in the series, Dallas' bench made the difference in winning the championship.
Rick Carlisle, Head Coach
Throughout the series, Carlisle made adjustments that seemed odd at first, but looked masterful in the end. Just look at his decision to start Barea, a guy who looked overwhelmed against Miami's big backcourt but changed Dallas' offense after the move. Carlisle's moves on Sunday were similar. Even with Brendan Haywood active, he stuck with Cardinal and Mahinmi -- each of whom played playoff highs of 11 or more minutes -- and got key plays out of each. His use of the zone defense confused Miami in the first half and halted an early run, and he was able to get such an efficient run from his bench that Dallas actually outscored Miami 17-4 in the second quarter with Nowitzki on the bench in foul trouble.
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