The more and more the 2011 NBA Finals plays itself out, the more and more the series is taking on the form of a real life soap opera. Maybe that’s what so great about sports. Even when the drama is manufactured, it’s real all at the same time. Game 4 saw an Oscar’s nominations worth of storylines leading into Tuesday’s pivotal matchup. D-Wade dominance, Dallas’ starters sans Dirk disappearing act in Game 3, Jason Terry’s challenge to LeBron, the issue of “shrinking” and, lastly, LBJ’s role alongside his partner-in-transition. Now, Game 4 has come and gone by a score of 86-83 and you know what? A new set of questions is right here to pick up where the old ones left off.
Fast forward all the way to the fourth quarter and the Heat are in familiar territory. Led by Dwyane Wade (Bosh had a dominant first half), the Heat seem to be staring 3-1 in the face; an opportunity no team has ever lost in the Finals. Almost on cue, though, Game 2 happens all over again. Shots stop falling and Miami becomes turnover turnover happy allowing a nine point lead to dissipate in what looks like the blink of an eye. During the final 7:23 of the game, Miami goes 1-9 blowing more than a handful of chances to take the lead for good.
Dirk was bothered by a fever the entire night, even missing 10 of 11 shots during one span. The difference between Games 3 and 4, however, was the supporting cast. Tyson Chandler tallied 13 points and 16 rebounds, Shawn Marion added 16 while Deshawn Stevenson came off the bench to drop 11. It wasn’t exactly the second coming of Jordan with the flu in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals, but Nowitzki played valiantly when it mattered most, scoring 10 of his 21 points in the final period of play.
Jason Terry was under more pressure than anyone primarily due to his belief that LeBron would not be able to shut him down for the duration of the series. At least for another even numbered game, his bite matched his bark. Eight of his 17 points came in the fourth, including two hypercritical free throws to push the lead to three with six seconds left.
Unfortunately for Mavs fans, the biggest story of the game forces Dirk’s illness, their resiliency or the fact they played astounding backs-against-the-wall-basketball to take a back seat. It doesn’t even revolve around Wade’s missed three throw that would have tied the game at 82 with 30 seconds left or mishandling the inbounds pass after Terry’s free throws. It centers around none other than LeBron James who finished with eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists (a “triple single” one text sent to me last night said). For as much praise and acclaim as I throw his way when things seem brightest, I have to call a spade a spade when it is beyond evident. At some point facilitating becomes passiveness and which gives off body language of pure disinterest. James tripped, fell and rolled over that line last night.
I sat in my friend’s living room in a stupor, mainly because I knew where this was headed. The Boston series would be brought up, the inevitable comparisons to you know who as well as the ongoing speculation of his desire to perform on the game’s brightest and most scrutinized platforms. Now if he comes out in Game 5 and has one for the ages, I’ll be the first to say I told you. In part, because the biased fan side of me believes he will; especially after the beating he’s about to endure these next 36 hours. The scene sets up perfectly because, remember, this is all a soap opera. Then again, Dallas also has a huge say so in where this script ultimately culminates. And that’s all the more reason to continue watching.
Join us Thursday for the fifth episode of As The Pick Rolls Turns.