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Dallas’ Defense Took Away LeBron James’ Biggest Weapon

LeBron James did not play well in the NBA Finals. He played well against the Sixers and had very good series against the Celtics and Bulls to reach the Finals, but he did not play well against the Mavericks. He averaged just 17.8 points per game in the series and only got to the line 20 times in six games. For perspective, LeBron has been to the line at least 20 times in a single game 13 times in his career.

While I defended him for making the most of what the defense gave him early in the series, he had plenty of chances to do more later in the series and he didn’t. He either missed jump shots or did not attack the basket late in games. He lacked aggression and he simply played poorly in the fourth quarter of games.

A lot of people call LeBron James a “choke artist,” but I think that is completely unfair. If LeBron were such a choker, then how did he beat Boston or Chicago? As I’ve said before, you have to win big games to get to big games, and LeBron did that, but he could have done much more. The question is, why didn’t he? I believe I can answer part of that.

When thinking of the best way to explain what went wrong with LeBron in this series, I wanted to relate things to sports fans the best way possible. There is only one analogy that stands out to me: the Mavericks were a bad match up for LeBron, just the same way the Jets were a bad match up for the Patriots.

Would you call Tom Brady a choker? Does he not perform in the clutch? How did his 14-2 team lose to an 11-5 team in the playoffs, while two teams the Pats beat in the regular season ended up in the Super Bowl? It’s all about match ups. The Jets have great defensive backs, pressured Brady, and forced him to take a few yards at a time. They didn’t allow him much and took away what he likes to do best. Does that mean Brady’s a bad player? Does that mean he didn’t deserve his MVP? No, it just means the Jets knew what to do to disrupt him, and most importantly, they had the personnel to execute it.

The same is true with the Mavericks.

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Heat and Mavericks Get into Mini-Fight During Second Quarter (Video)

The Heat and Mavericks had some bad blood develop during their NBA Finals series. There was no real rivalry between the teams, but there were some individuals who had previous beef (see LeBron James and DeShawn Stevenson). While nobody will confuse this series for the real hatred going on in the Stanley Cup Final, they did get into a mini-fight during the second quarter. That there was a debate about players possibly being suspended if there were a Game 7 is laughable. That was such a non-incident, and honestly, would you expect everyone to hold hands and hug at midcourt? Both Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem got technical fouls as did DeShawn Stevenson. The Mavs ended up with an extra free throw as a result, but if you’re going to T-up Chalmers there, you should do the same thing to Tyson Chandler for putting his hands on Haslem.

Thanks to Ben Golliver for the video

DeShawn Stevenson: Mavericks Receiving Help from Other Teams to Beat Miami Heat

Once you get into the playoffs in sports and most teams’ seasons have come to an end, tips begin being exchanged. Coaches and players have friends around the League from previous jobs and stops in their careers and they like to help each other out. That’s nothing new — just look at the NFL playoffs and you’ll hear about coaches getting tips from their friends in the business on how to beat an opponent. This has been no different for the Dallas Mavericks, who say they’ve received help from opposing players and coaches regarding their series with Miami. But are these people trying to help their friends, or motivated by a desire to see the Heat lose? Mavs guard DeShawn Stevenson believes it’s more of the latter.

The guys that I deal with, they say a lot of things about how to guard and the way to play them. And coach (Rick Carlisle) said a lot of coaches called him about how to play the Miami Heat. I just think a lot of people want to see us win this thing.”

As I previously noted, teams still in the playoffs receiving tips on how to beat their opponents is nothing new, but what makes this somewhat different is Stevenson’s belief that it stems from people wanting to see the Heat lose. Again, that’s nothing new either — we know the Heat are hated. If they weren’t, their games wouldn’t get such high ratings from all the people who want to see them lose. If the Mavericks can pull off one more victory, many people will get their wish of wanting to see the Heat fail.

via Business Insider, also seen at Black Sports Online

Dirk Nowitzki Wins Sick for Mavs, LeBron James Disappears for Miami Heat

If there were a proper time to criticize LeBron James for his lack of offense during the NBA Finals, Game 4 was it. The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks played their third game that was decided by a basket, and for the second time this series the Mavericks came out on top.

Dirk Nowitzki fought through a fever that reached 101 degrees to score 21 points — 10 in the fourth quarter — in Dallas’ win. Though Jason Terry shot down any comparison to Michael Jordan’s infamous flu game in the ’97 finals, there is little doubt that Dirk came up big in the clutch. And if you have any wonders about how sick he was, just look at his face in the picture. The dude looked like the cousin of death.

LeBron James on the other hand did very little down the stretch. LBJ handled the ball and distributed in the previous finals games and the strategy resulted in wins two of the three games. His decisions to pass to his teammates were usually the right ones because he was double-teamed leaving someone open. But LeBron showed very little aggression in Game 4 even when he should have. He received high pick and rolls allowing him a one-on-one match up yet he decided not to drive late in the game. For whatever reason, he didn’t attack the basket and he ended up with just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting. The eight-point performance was LeBron’s playoff career low and it left him saying he needs to be more assertive in the future.

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Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks Ditch Doris Burke During Ceremony (Video)

After coming back to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5, the Dallas Mavericks were happy to have closed out the series. But staying true to their workmanlike character, they refused to celebrate too heavily knowing they still have their toughest task ahead — a meeting with the Heat or Bulls in the NBA Finals.

ESPN brought out reporter Doris Burke to interview owner Mark Cuban and head coach Rick Carlisle about reaching the Finals, but when she turned to speak with Dirk Nowitzki, she realized the team’s MVP had already exited the floor. Soon after that, the party ended as all the players dispersed. Check out the ditch party:

Even though this is the second time Burke was embarrassed this week, you can’t blame her too much. She probably should have interviewed Dirk before Cuban, but players generally stick around to conduct interviews. The question I have for you is why did they do it? One suspicion I had was that Dirk Nowitzki was upset at the way Mark Cuban was going all WWE in his interview and getting carried away. After all, Dirk said the team was doing better this year because Cuban was keeping quiet, so maybe he was upset that Cuban was opening his mouth. But the overwhelming feeling is that he walked off the floor because he didn’t feel it was time to celebrate.

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Three Adjustments Thunder Need to Make to Beat Mavericks in Game 2

Led by an all-time great playoff performance from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks slaughtered the Thunder 121-112 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday.

Dirk dropped 48 points on 12-of-15 shooting and broke an NBA playoff record for made free throws in a game without a miss by going 22-of-22 from the line.

Kevin Durant tried his best to retaliate, scoring 40 points, but his teammates weren’t up to the task. The Thunder’s performance wasn’t as respectable as the single-digit final deficit suggests; they were outplayed in every aspect of the game.

Any time your opponent shoots 53% from the field and outscores your bench 53-22, you’re in major trouble.

So what does OKC have to do to bounce back and even the series 1-1?

Here are three key adjustments the Thunder can make to win Game 2:

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How Would Dirk Nowitzki’s Legacy Change if Dallas Mavericks Won the Title?

What if during the summer of LeBron, a regular season featuring Derrick Rose as MVP, and a streak of Finals between the Lakers and Celtics, it was the Dallas Mavericks who sneaked in and won the NBA Championship? Discarded as a bunch of losers and postseason chokers, could the sports world handle the Mavericks winning a title?

Dallas has been written off by most people and they’ve deserved it. Since blowing a 2-0 series lead to the Miami Heat in the ’06 Finals, the Mavericks have only won one playoff series while losing in the first round on three occasions. The glaring blemish on their list of postseason failures was a first-round series loss to the Golden State Warriors in the ’07 playoffs, the same year they had the best record in the NBA and Dirk won MVP.

Nobody I know of gave the Mavericks a shot to win it all this year. They tied the Lakers for the second-best record in the West (57-25), and had the fourth-best record in the NBA, but that was typical Dallas — good in the regular season, an easy out in the postseason. They were hardly considered a threat to do damage. But then something funny happened.

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