by Adam Figman | @afigman
Still coming down from the non-stop excitement that was last night’s game, I headed through the Texas heat to the American Airlines Center today to see how the Heat and Mavs were coping and moving forward with the series now tied at two. First up was Dallas, finishing up its practice with some light stretching and some three-point shooting as the media stormed in. Once again, Peja Stojakovic was grouped with the big men working on mid-range jumpers and post-moves, and once again I thought he’d be better off launching treys with the guards. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd split as soon as—well, while—the reporters entered, and both returned for media availability a half hour later.
In the interview room, Nowitzki addressed the status of the illness that plagued him yesterday: “I still a got a little high temperature, but the fever is mainly gone. So that’s obviously the main concern always. Anything else, the sniffles or the cough, you don’t care about that as long as the fever is gone. That’s the main thing you worry about.”
From the sounds of it, the German big man didn’t do anything too physical earlier on—”no running or banging,” as Coach Carlisle put it—but nobody was worried about getting a tough workout in today anyway. The group watched film, rested up, and, if all goes to plan, will be ready for a repeat tomorrow night.
One of the day’s big themes, naturally, was the off-night LeBron James had during Game 4. Reporters were constantly badgering players with hopes of some kind of tough talk, though they were met with plenty of resistance. Shawn Marion’s refusal was the best: “Half of y’all are full of shit. Most of y’all have never played basketball. Everyone thinks they’re experts at basketball, but they’re not.” And later, “Y’all going to say just enough of what I say to say what you want to say,” right before he joked with a reporter that the scribe was “really looking for something!”
Despite the relatively strict schedule the NBA sets for the Finals, the Heat showed up to their 30-minute media availability time 25 minutes late. Coach Spoelstra hit the interview room first, and as he likes to do, grabbed the mic and started talking without the need of any stupid question. “We’re in an absolute heavyweight bout, and that’s the way it should be. It’s as even as a series can be. Right now there’s no woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
LeBron followed. Many were still wondering what had him off last night, and many were looking for reasons, even, in some cases, full-blown excuses, for why he scored only 8 and disappeared late. He didn’t have many. “Eight points is definitely inexcusable for myself. I hold myself up to a higher standard than that. I had to do a better job of putting myself in situations where I can benefit myself and my team, no matter how many minutes I’m out on the floor.”
And, most notably, he was asked if it was time for him to start to focus a little more energy on getting himself—and not his teammates—going on offense. “I think it’s that time. I think it’s that time that I try to get myself going individually. But at the same time still play my game. … That’s something I’ve done my whole career. Still be aggressive but at the same time get guys involved and have to do that.”
Afterward, Dwyane Wade spoke about LeBron’s night. “He knows he didn’t play well. Obviously he feels like he let me down. I had a similar conversation with him in the Chicago series. Obviously, I understand he’s going to respond. So we just talked about the moment more than anything. We don’t lost games because one player is not scoring. We lost this game for many other reasons.”
Not a bad point, though a few buckets from James won’t hurt much. The 30 or so minutes of Miami practice the media was able to witness were pretty low key—free throw shooting, a little jumpshooting, and that was about it.
Quick thought. If I was on a fan of the Heat, or better yet, a player on the Heat, I’d be terrified of the impending three games for one reason: The Mavs didn’t really play well last night. They scrapped on defense and forced turnovers, but the one thing they stressed Monday that they needed to do—convert on the open perimeter looks they rarely get—never took place. Jason Terry was adamant about that today, saying they still need to do a better job of taking advantage of offensive opportunities.
So we’ll see if that happens tomorrow night. What I do know is that there’s very little at all—be it some offensive life from LeBron James, or a couple of converted open baskets from the Mavs—keeping this series from swinging in either direction.