Mavs on doorstep of ultimate validation - NBC Sports

Mavs on doorstep of ultimate validation
Dallas entered these finals as guests to the King's coronation,but now it's one victory away from the title
AP
The Mavericks' Jason Terry, left,ÿand Dirk Nowitzkiÿcelebrate their Game 5 victory over the Heat on Thursday night. Nowitzki scored 29 points and Terry added 21.
June 10, 2011, 3:06 am

A second perhaps the product of a passionate home following.

But a 15-3 close on the night LeBron James went in calling it the biggest game of his career?

After so much false promise, after being up 2-0 against these same Miami Heat in 2006, after the well-chronicled playoff struggles that followed, we stand at the precipice of validation for the Dallas Mavericks.

Of course the last time we stood here, it turned out to be the precipice of validation for Dwyane Wade in 2006. But that was when Dallas was within 1 1/4 games of an NBA championship.

Now the magic number is one, even if it means that one has to be produced in the other American Airlines arena in this series.

Instead of Cuban doing the talking, the Mavericks are allowing their fourth quarters to do the talking.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry as finishers, who would have thought?

Deep in the heart of Texas, a team with an indomitable spirit closed out its home season with yet another pulsating finish Thursday night. On a night when turnovers were poison, the Heat continually inflicted their own pain.

The Mavericks? Just taught 12-of-13 foul shooting and but a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter.

They are acting like they belong here.

"We understand where we're at, but we also understand what got us here, and that is making sure we stay in the moment," coach Rick Carlisle said at Thursday's finish, after the Mavericks stole into the night with this 112-103 victory to take a 3-2 lead in these NBA finals.

Cuban's cockroaches just won't die. This isn't those previous, ready-to-wilt Mavericks. Instead, it is Terry or J.J. Barea flying off another pick and roll, scrambling the defense that Miami's Pat Riley built and coach Erik Spoelstra had so artfully orchestrated through the first three rounds of these playoffs.

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One more Nowitzki jumper in Game 3 and this already could be over.

Perhaps it is the savvy of Jason Kidd, the aggression of Tyson Chandler, the moxie of Shawn Marion, but there is something tangible here, something we just haven't experienced from the Mavericks before. This no longer is carnival basketball, perhaps fitting because Cuban, the former carnival barker, has backed off.

Yes, there were gritty comeback victories already this postseason against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. But that's the Blazers and Thunder.

And for all that was supposedly achieved against the Los Angeles Lakers, the sweep almost came too easy, ending not with certification of the Mavericks' legitimacy, but instead with questions about the end of the Lakers' dominance.

There were many questions coming into these finals, of how a jump-shooting team eventually reaches its expiration date.

It sure didn't look that way Thursday.

"Last time we had a shooting night like this was Game 4 against the Lakers," Carlisle said. "That's why you just keep working your game. And that's why you stay persistent, you keep defending, you keep systemically stepping into shots that are there and you're going to have some breakthrough games.

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Remember, Cuban wanted high-flying, wanted LeBron, made his pitch last summer, even if he didn't have the cash to back it up.

And even as the Heat teetered this week, LeBron kept issuing proclamations about how he would make everything right, that the Heat would yet hit their stride, as if Dallas was more impediment than challenge.

But the Heat did hit their stride Thursday. Wade shook off his hip injury. James pushed through with a triple-double, the first for the Heat in a postseason. Chris Bosh provided a double-double and Mario Chalmers added 15 unanticipated points.

Until the Mavericks close this out, they will continue to be treated as a guest in this series, guests to the King's coronation, if you will.

But this has become more about the best little team in Texas that Donnie Nelson has crafted. It is one with moxie and grit, and, just ask the Heat, staying power.

"An NBA finals is a 16-day deal or whatever it is," Carlisle said, "and it's very long, but somehow or other it goes by fast. By staying in the moment and just really focusing on what's important for us, that helps us."

In many ways the Mavericks' moment is at hand.

Validation five years after it was ripped away by Wade and the Heat.

There is no need for Cuban to hype the product. It hypes itself.

"We've been great in close-out games this entire playoffs," Chandler said. "We have to continue that trend."

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.



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