Friday, June 3, 2011

Nowitzki Produces His Own Legend in Breathtaking Comeback

It just so happened that the Mavericks awakened when the stakes were larger than life, before Dirk Nowitzki -- a public figure too often denounced for the wrath of failures in the postseason or Finals -- encountered endless criticism. So disappointingly, for a franchise that seemed to displease us more than fascinate us, Nowitzki was the focal point of any frequent blemishes in the postseason and never prevailed to save the Mavericks from itself -- or better yet -- at least delight the petulant owner Mark Cuban.

If the Mavs dare to venture in the Finals and hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy in June, Nowitzki must know the significance in rescuing Dallas as the team was under duress and trailed for much of the night. In a way, he knows the Mavs are superb and have been evidently the deepest unit in these playoffs, elevating to an all-time high and ready to capture a championship in order to relieve themselves of the bitter collapse in the '06 Finals. So now, five years later, Nowitzki drove Dallas to one of the greatest epic comebacks in ancient history. The other night in Miami, where the liveliness in the city uplifted the mood, the Mavs weren't so lucky and lost Game 1 because of porous shooting.

Remember what happened back in the '06 Finals collapse?? If we could grasp a clearer understanding and follow one's mind, maybe we then would corral the assumption that Nowitzki won't allow this to happen again, ready to erase the nightmarish thoughts of blunders and heartbreaking collapses. The home crowd booed forcibly and turned silent when the Mavs came back from a 15-point deficit and avoided the dismay on the emotional and inspirational performance late near the end of regulation from Nowitzki. All of this defines a series filled with eventful drama, watching the Mavericks survive with a breathtaking come-from-behind victory in the closing minutes to close it out in a dramatic fashion.

“Dirk knows for us to win this series he’s going to have to play all-around basketball,” Rick Carlisle said. “He’s going to have to fight through periods where the ball isn’t necessarily going in the basket, which he did tonight.”

With 24.5 seconds on the clock, Nowitzki stood over on the sideline where he looked disgusted and furious in the huddle as head coach Rick Carlisle diagrammed a solid play on the last possession, all while Nowitzki recalled the collapse to the Miami Heat. Those are fiascoes that continue to haunt Nowitzki, and as much as he has been blamed for the struggles, he wasn't allowing the Mavs to stumble again.

Seconds later, while coming out of the timeout, he walked onto the floor in the tense seconds of Game 2 and he was given the ball after it was promised that he would touch it on the last possession. Down by 15 with over six minutes left, the Mavs rallied and survived on Nowitzki's brilliance, closing the game and tying the best-of-seven series from a magnificent 22-5 run. Once the Mavs and Nowitzki found their swagger, it was immutable to cease Dallas from an enduring run that ended the night and gave the Mavs a 95-93 win.

It's clear that the Mavs, as evidence reveals a much-improved Dallas squad after such a historic comeback, are built as a championship-caliber team. If not for Nowitzki, even if the Mavs are surrounded by an ultimate brand of talented role players, Dallas wouldn't be so resilient or poised. The salvation is a lift in the Mavericks' playoff success, hungrier and stronger than the last Finals appearance, finally playing with confidence and perseverance.

It was because of Nowitzki, a foreigner from Germany, for which the Mavericks advanced to the Finals and clearly turned it around in Game 2. It was because of a seven-footer, a skilled shooter who can knock down an array of shots with the arsenal in hurling jump shots, for which Dallas had a courageous mindset and believed in Nowitzki late in the game.

More than likely he's one of the greatest shooters, perhaps one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. It certainly feels like he is when Nowitzki hastily drove to the rim, pushed from the right to the left, lifted the ball skyward and dribbled past a defenseless Chris Bosh. That's right, he couldn't hesitate to float into the paint with a torn tendon in his index finger on his left hand and had the ball where he is notably efficient. The ball landed into the basket with 3.6 seconds left.

If Nowitzki is as mentally dominant as we've come to believe, he indeed was on this particular night, scoring nine straight points to finish one of the most improbable, implausible comebacks in NBA Finals history. This isn't to suggest, mind you, that the Mavs can win it all, celebrate and host a parade in downtown Dallas in the upcoming weeks but, in clarity, this is a series with much drama and intense excitement.

For one, if you haven't noticed, the Mavs are alive and can make it challenging for the Heat. It's such an insult to rule out the Mavs, and maybe even greater, Dallas delivered a convincing blow to the Heat. All it takes is one player to discourage and disrupt Miami's blueprint for success -- when the Heat built invincibility during the playoffs.

In most ways, the Heat probably carried a pompous disposition about themselves, and mostly everybody sensed a lopsided, uncontested finish on a night that Dwyane Wade dropped 36 points on an abundance of empathetic dunks as the Miami superstar discombobulated the Mavs. Best of all, whatever improvements the Mavericks made since '06, from roster transitions to offseason upgrades, Nowitzki shattered the Heat's heart and became an NBA legend.

Because it was a night that the Mavericks were humiliated and incensed in a blowout, as the Heat dunked on and walked all over Dallas, no one ever imagined an epic rally. It was a stunning collapse for the Heat, it was the Mavericks propelling to a historic comeback in Game 2 of the Finals. And all of the sudden, it's a thrilling series to remind the viewers what fun the NBA presents.

With the series even at 1-1, the series shifts to Dallas for the next three games resuming Sunday night. The series was OVER to some, when Wade fired a three-pointer from the corner in front of the Mavs bench and gave the Heat an 88-73 lead as the building erupted. Through the Heat's ferocious defense forced turnovers on many possessions and resulted in fastbreak dunks or alley-oops, allowing Miami to kill the Mavs in transition, Nowitzki responded like a leader and changed the dynamics of the series.

It was an unbelievable push in the final minutes and Nowitzki scored with his injured left hand, driving twice for left-handed layups, along with the game-winning shot to end any possible thoughts of foundering in a horrid catastrophe. It's rather surprising to see Jason Terry quiet in this series, but he suddenly came to life in the second game of the Finals. When he left Mario Chalmers open for an uncontested three-pointer, Nowitzki scolded him.

"Big fella told me he had my back,” Terry said. “And he did. He came down and got the game-winning bucket.”

The surest thing is that Nowitzki solidified his legacy when he scored on a jumper and heaved a layup to tie the game at 90-90. His late heroics stunned the Miami fans in the stands as he was proficient in his promise to beat the Heat and dashed to the rim.

As the Heat celebrated prematurely, Nowitzki laid it on the glass. This was the beginning to redemption for Nowitzki and the Mavs in an epic finish we'll be talking about eternally.