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2011 NBA Finals fan reaction: Dwyane Wade shifts momentum back to Miami Heat in a “Flash”
Chris Bosh(notes) hit the 16-foot jumper from the left-wing with 39.6 seconds left to give the Miami Heat an 88-86 lead over the Dallas Mavericks they would never relinquish in Game 3 of the 2011 NBA Finals on Sunday, June 5 at American Airlines Center, but it was Dwyane Wade(notes), or Flash as he's known to his many fans, who shifted the momentum of the best-of-seven championship series back to the boys from South Beach.
Now up 2-1 in the series, Miami looks to put a stranglehold on Dallas and take one more step on their journey to a title with another victory in Game 4 on Tuesday, June 7. With Wade putting on performances in these Finals eerily similar to the ones he had in the 2006 NBA Championship series when the Heat came back and won 4-2 after being down two games thanks mostly to Flash, it's almost as if the Mavericks have no chance whatsoever.
Dallas is certainly getting amazing play from their star power-forward, Dirk Nowitzki(notes), who in Game 3 led all scorers with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe to go along with 11 rebounds, a steal, and three blocked shots, but Miami's inimitable superstar shooting guard seems to have an answer for every Nowitzki offensive.
More importantly, the Heat seem to have an answer defensively for the Mavericks, holding Dallas to just 40 percent overall from the floor, and 38 percent from downtown, and harassing them into critical mistakes and turnovers on the offensive end; none more crucial than Nowitzki's errant pass that sailed out of bounds with 30 seconds left in the game and the Mavericks with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Dallas, and Nowitzki would have yet another chance with just over four seconds remaining after LeBron James'(notes) 25-foot three-point attempt rimmed out, but after calling a timeout and advancing the ball, Dirk was unable to sink one of his trademark fade-away floaters from the top of the key as time expired thanks in large part to the smothering defense of Udonis Haslem.
As I sat watching this game, I was frankly amazed the Heat were able to even pull out a victory, considering how many atrocious calls were being made against Miami, as well as how many times the officials seemed to be swallowing their whistles when a Heat player was fouled going to the rim.
It appeared for most of the game Miami couldn't draw a foul even when Dallas players blatantly committed a violation (such as Jason Kidd nearly blinding Chris Bosh poking him in the eye), and it had my blood boiling at various times throughout the contest.
Yet, the Heat were able to overcome the seemingly blatant bias in refereeing that saw Miami called for 27 fouls to Dallas' 14, and the Mavericks going to the line 27 times to the Heat's 15; despite Miami being the more aggressive team, driving to the hoop over and over again throughout the game.
When I learned midway through the contest Dan Crawford was one of the officials, however, it made perfect sense. Crawford is the same official who was responsible for many of the unbelievably horrible calls in Game 1 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals; a 103-82 victory for the Chicago Bulls over the Miami Heat which I wrote about here.
Thankfully he didn't officiate any of the other games between the Heat and the Bulls in that series, which was probably key to Miami being able to go on to win the best-of-seven Conference Finals matchup 5-1. Even more thankfully, it's not likely he'll be officiating any other game in this series, unless it goes to a seventh game (which I'm doubting will happen).
Wade has shifted the momentum in this series back to Miami, and it wasn't just his team-high 29 points on 12-of-21 from the floor, 2-of-4 from downtown, and 3-of-4 from the line to go along with his 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot. It was also his leadership of his teammates like Bosh and James.
While I don't subscribe to the view Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has about the dynamic between LeBron and D-Wade, and don't believe James is gritting his teeth as much as Wojnarowski would like to believe, I will agree Wade has asserted himself in these 2011 NBA Finals.
As Wade himself said, "I've been here before, so [I'm] just trying to lead. My guys did a great job of following."
There's no question Dwyane is the leader, both vocal, and at times in his play, of this superstar group of players from South Beach, and he's got every right to be as everyone points out, because he has been to the promised land. He's been there, and tasted of the milk and honey. He knows what it takes to finish off an opponent when it matters most, and he's not likely to let the Mavericks off the mat again.
Yet, that doesn't mean there isn't another leader on the team; for there is. His name is LeBron James.
I believe many Miami fans, like me, were hoping LeBron James would get the Finals MVP this year, if only to quiet all the haters. Wade is still mine, and I believe most Heat fan's favorite player. He's still "The Man" in South Florida when it comes to basketball. In fact, he's pretty much the man no matter what sport you talk about.
However, LeBron is "The Man" down there as well, and true Heat fans recognize that if Miami is going to win multiple titles as James promised, it's going to only be because LeBron has been an integral part of bringing them to South Beach.
True Miami fans know the whole ridiculous notion there has to be an "Alpha Dog" between LeBron and Dwyane is silly; as do James and Wade. To them, as well as any real Heat fan, the only thing that matters is winning the title. Everything else is just noise.
I've said I won't predict how many games this series will go since my initial prognostication of a 4-game sweep has been thrown out the window, but if Wade continues to play like a superhero, it's not likely to be a long one.
NBA Commissioner David Stern probably won't like that happening, but he'll have to live with it. Wade, LeBron, Bosh, and company don't seem like they're willing to give him or Dallas any choice in the matter, and I know James will be more than happy to "defer" to Wade's greatness if that's what the perception is, because he knows true Heat fans know his value to the team.
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All stats and information taken from personal notes and verified at Basketball-Reference.com and Yahoo! Sports.
Read more by Daniel Barber aka Hotnuke at TFS Sports.
*Daniel Barber has been a fan of all Miami teams since he was a child or since their inception having been born right above Miami.
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