You probably don’t want to read this.
After painful losses like this, fans tend to choose between two approaches when trying to wash out the rancid tastes in their mouths: isolation or inundation.
You can disconnect yourself completely from articles like this or bravely clutch your remote control, flick on Sportscenter, and force yourself to watch a toothy Dirk Nowitzki caress the Larry O’Brien trophy and Mark Cuban break his temporary, but oh so pleasant, vow of silence.
If you made it this far, you probably opted for the latter, you brave soul, you.
While it is true that this Heat team kept the sports world captivated for 11 months with weekly subplots and electrifying play, it is little solace to the average Heat fan today.
If this season was a dinner party, then the Heat was the wildly entertaining, unpredictable, slightly too intoxicated guest that everyone was happy to see eventually go home. Alone.
In the Heat’s case, without the trophy.
Miami’s season-ending defeat was both foreshadowed, yet willfully unexpected.
The warning signs were there in those Dallas games: LeBron James clearly wasn’t right and hadn’t been all series. The Mavs were finding holes in what looked like a suffocating defense. Dwyane Wade sustained an injury. The Dallas shooters were gaining confidence.
Yet many still believed that returning to Miami would swing the series back in the Heat’s favor,
The reality is geographic location was always secondary to LeBron James’ mental state.
But things looked so promising initially.
Miami started the game with the type of Ussain Bolt burst everyone expected.
James looked especially sharp, making his first four shots, including a couple of long-range bombs.
That’s the James Heat fans were waiting for.
“Finally!” the cry rang out of every packed sports bar in Miami.
“Where was this all series long?” they wondered.
And then, as quick as a Barea first step, it was gone.
James missed his next three shots; Dallas composed itself, regained the lead and took control of the game.
Going into the fourth quarter down by nine points, Miami needed something special from one of its stars.
Instead, all it got was a multitude of mental errors.
Ill-advised three-pointers from Wade and James, turnovers, missed free throws and of course missed rebounds.
It was a game Miami so desperately needed. If only it showed.
AT THE VERY LEAST
If you’re looking for bright spots — and you’ll need a pretty powerful magnifying glass to do so — you’ll find them in Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem.
Both players exhibited the type of fiery passion and relentless effort that you expected to see from the stars.
Chalmers outscored Wade and attacked the paint time and time again.
Sure, sometimes that didn’t work out too well for Miami — two specific fourth quarter instances come to mind — but you can’t fault him for trying.
Throughout the series, he made it his mission to prove that he has the mental fortitude to play on any stage. He convinced a lot of people along the way.
You may remember he did the same thing last year, scoring 20 points against Boston in Game Five. He clearly rises to the moments.
He displayed the type of confidence that you wish James showed.
Miami will be fortunate to have him on its roster next year.
Haslem played his best game of the playoffs, almost notching his first double-double of the postseason, with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Too bad both performances were in vain.
Miami simply needed more from its alleged “Big Three.”
The game was crying for someone to seize the moment and take control of the game.
No one stepped forward.
Wade was the most likely candidate, but despite being incredibly effective in attack, he took a backseat offensively. Maybe it was the hip contusion. Or perhaps Wade just had an off game.
Either way, in the all decisive fourth quarter, Wade scored just four points and had as many turnovers (two) as field goals.
James was similarly vacant, and scored only four points in the period, if you don’t count the three-pointer he made when the game was already out of reach.
This time, Miami cannot complain about a free throw discrepancy. Miami shot 15 more free throws than Dallas in Game Six.
The problem was the Heat only made 60 percent of them.
As far as timing goes, the team certainly picked the wrong game to have its worst free throw shooting performance of the series.
For Dallas, it was the ultimate revenge. It was their turn to seize the momentum from a more talented opponent and secure an improbable win in their opponent’s arena.
The Mavericks again exhibited the type of steady play and veteran guile that has come to define the squad this season.
The allegedly one-man Mavs were able to survive an uncharacteristically woeful shooting night from Nowitzki (9-for-27), through timely shooting and inexhaustible hustle.
Miami thoroughly outplayed Dallas for most of the first four games, but only won two of the games.
Dallas was far superior in the last two games and won both. It’s really as simple as that.
Sports can be cruel that way.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
While it may be too early to use the dreaded phrase, “look ahead,” especially since we don’t know if there will be a season next year, certain things don’t need to wait.
You probably have an idea of where I’m going with this.
Like seemingly everything else this past year, let’s begin with LeBron.
No, his lackluster Finals performance doesn’t mean you can slam your gavel just yet and rule without a shadow of a doubt that his career arc is now more acute than obtuse.
That’s silly. He is still 26. Jordan didn’t win until he was 28. Remember that.
At the same time, we won’t be able to continue saying this much longer.
At some point, it’s either going to all come together for James or it isn’t.
And ultimately, that’s up to him.
If he’s serious about winning, we will know very early next year.
What he should do after he takes some long-overdue time off and let his body recover, is focus on one thing this summer: his postgame.
Not commercials, not being a global icon, not his cartoon. Post moves.
Forget for a second all of the swirling explanations and half-hearted psychological theories going around the past two weeks.
On the court, it came down to one thing: Dallas kept close the lanes to the hoop and forced James to shoot.
The same jumper that was falling against Chicago and Boston tightened up and was far less accurate with all of the eyes of the basketball world watching.
He had no counter move.
Wade did. That’s why he had the better series.
Whether it was the stocky Jason Kidd or the bigger Shawn Marion on him, Wade was able to destroy either in the post and either score or draw a double team almost every time.
That freed up the other parts of his game.
Dallas had the audacity to often defend the 6-foot-8, 260 pound James with Kidd, a 38-year-old who was giving up easily 50 pounds, simply because Dallas knew that James doesn’t have the post moves to make them pay.
That’s the most inexcusable part of James’ performance and something that hasn’t received nearly enough attention.
If James had simply developed a dependable post game by now—and it’s already been eight years—it would have been a completely different series.
It’s one of the ways you beat a zone. On the few occasions he caught the ball in that area, the Dallas defense got sucked in and Miami found open shots. Too bad it hardly ever happened.
Same goes for the Wade-James pick and roll, an incredibly effective play that you have to believe wasn’t run nearly as often as it should have due to James’ reluctance to set screens instead of use them.
If you don’t start hearing about James working out with a former great like Hakeem Olajuwon at some point this summer like Kobe Bryant did a few years back, then James simply doesn’t get it and he probably never will.
Self-forgiving tweets like this make you wonder how introspective James can be.
He has to take responsbility
If he doesn’t, then Wade or Riley will have to make him aware.
It may have only been year one, but for this team to feel confident going forward, things have to improve.
Losses like this make short summers feel lengthy and lockouts feel eternal.
Let’s see what they do with the time.