Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks served notice around the world on Thursday night: Don’t ever count us out.
For the second time in as many series, the Mavs pulled off what is being called one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoffs history. Thursday’s retort, however, was that much sweeter because it came in the NBA Finals.
Jason Kidd chest bumps Dirk Nowitzki after their comeback win in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Trailing by 15 with just over seven minutes to go in Game 2, Dallas put together an incredible 22-5 run to snatch a 95-93 victory from a stunned Miami Heat team. The Mavericks now head back to Dallas with a 1-1 split and home court advantage in hand.
Jason told the NBA TV Gametime crew after the game that, even at the lowest point in Game 2, after the Heat went up 15, the Mavericks hung in by remaining united and determined. When coach Rick Carlisle called a timeout following a Dwyane Wade three, Dallas drew on past experience and no one thought about letting up.
"The big thing is, we were in the same situation in Oklahoma," No. 2 said, recalling the Mavs’ 15-point comeback against the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. "So we were in that huddle with seven minutes left saying ‘We have nothing to lose. Let’s go out here and play, make something happen and see if we can get this thing down under double digits.’
"From there they started missing and we just kept playing. That’s what we learned in Portland, you have to play 48 minutes and then in Oklahoma City. It carried over to tonight."
The Dallas offense, led by No. 2, was nearly unstoppable during the blissful run and soon the Miami lead was dwindling.
Jason Terry scored on each of the Mavs’ next three possessions, converting back-to-back mid-range jumpers, then sinking a pair of free throws on the third trip. Rebounds number six and seven on the night from J-Kidd, which he followed with sweet outlet passes, set up the last two of those three possessions.
Shawn Marion added a layup at the 4:33 mark, cutting the Heat lead to 7, however, LeBron James pushed it back to nine with a pair of free throws. But that wouldn’t last for long. J-Kidd answered with a crucial triple with just under four minutes remaining to slash the deficit to a mere six points, 90-84.
"Everybody who played tonight stayed together and encouraged one another to keep playing it out," Jason said. "We found ourselves in the ballgame."
The three by No. 2 was set up by a staggered ball-screen, which left the Miami defense in a poor rotation and eventually put Jason wide-open near the top of the arc for the trey. Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook called it "The Play That Sparked the Dallas Comeback." Click here to read Pruiti’s break down of that play.
In addition to his key triple, J-Kidd also came up with two assists and three rebounds in the final seven minutes of the game. But according to Dirk Nowitzki, who hit the game winning left-handed layup with just seconds remaining, one of the biggest things No. 2 did was to take control of the offense and call plays on the floor.
"I think that’s a big key," he said. "You can’t give an explosive offensive team so many shots at the basket. You’ve got to hold them to one shot, rebound the ball and then hopefully speed the game up some, get the ball in J-Kidd’s hands and play more of our game."
Dallas did just that and Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports couldn’t have been more impressed with the result:
"Oh, what a glorious thing delayed transition basketball is for Dallas. The Mavs get to watch as their shooters and finishers run the floor, picking up defenders along the way and creating space. They get to set screens and then a staggered screen while their opponent talks it up, and before you know it someone has an open look."
Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game was equally awed by the J-Kidd run offense:
"Of all that impresses me about this Mavs team, high on the list is how natural they make feats of extraordinary strength appear. They don’t have the kind of athletic talent that makes highlight reel dunks look easy, but the way they move the ball and find shooters is not normal.
Dallas has a truly exemplary offense, and yet you’d never know it as Jason Kidd makes a relatively routine pass to the corner at just the right time, or Tyson Chandler sets a barely legal screen to free up Dirk Nowitzki with enough room to launch an off-balance jumper. Nothing in their equation is ordinary, and yet it’s all instinctive, all reactive, all a product of a team filled with intelligent ball players doing merely what they know to do.
The Heat D is fast and flexible, but nonetheless subject to the mandates of the offense. When Dirk touched the ball, Miami was largely forced to double. When the ball swung this way or that, the Heat were forced to shift to compensate. All of this is a fundamental part of the offense-defense dynamic, but when the freewheeling Mavs dictated everything with their crisp passing and perfect spacing, the Heat can only do so much."
After the trey by Jason cut the lead to six, the Mavs scored on three of their next four possessions, cutting the Miami lead to nothing. With 57.6 seconds to go, the score was suddenly square at 90. The adjustment in those closing moments, Jason said, was ball movement and getting Nowitzki open. Dirk scored the Mavs’ final nine points on Thursday night:
"We have to get into the shot clock early, instead of holding the ball and getting it to Dirk with 10 or 9 seconds" Jason told NBA TV’s Kenny Smith after Game 2. "They come and double and he doesn’t have time. The swing pass, that guy has to shoot it. We don’t have guys touching the ball then. Our whole method is pass the ball, don’t hold it, just make extra passes. Those guys are closing out, but the big thing for us is the pick and roll, getting Dirk open, get bodies off of him."
Dwyane Wade missed a three on one end of the floor and Nowitzki responded by burying a triple on his side to give the Mavs a 93-90 lead with 26.7 seconds to go. After a Miami timeout, Dallas lost Mario Chalmers on the inbounds and LeBron James fired a cross-court pass that Chalmers turned into a game-tying three.
"We got stops and we maybe gave up two offensive rebounds in that last seven minutes. Guys just stayed together," Jason said. "Even with that last 3-pointer that Chalmers made, everybody just looked forward and said, ‘Let’s find a way to win the game.’ "
After a timeout, J-Kidd put on a 15-second dribbling clinic to wind the clock down, then dished to Nowitzki, who drove for the game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds remaining. Without a timeout, the Heat heaved up a prayer at the buzzer, but it would not fall and Dallas earned a split in Miami.
Following the three by Wade with 7:14 to go, giving Miami a 15-point lead, Dallas called a timeout and the Mavs players grouped around coach Rick Carlisle.
Meanwhile, James and Wade did some celebrating, playing to the crowd as though the Heat had already locked up the game.
Jason described his mindset during the timeout, downplaying the celebration but noting that Dallas was already being counted out, leaving them with nothing left to lose.
"(Wade) followed through and left the hand up," he said. "But the big thing was he made the shot and at that point we were down 15. For us, we had nothing to lose."
But some Mavs weren’t pleased with what transpired, especially in front of their bench. They used the Heat duo’s early celebration as a motivator in the game’s final minutes, wrote Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:
Several Mavericks said they were motivated by Dwyane Wade’s and LeBron James’ premature celebration after Wade’s 3-pointer gave Miami an 88-73 lead with 7:14 left.
"He celebrated right in front of our bench," center Tyson Chandler said of Wade. "I think it angered a lot of us. We came out there and we responded.
"When we were down by 15, we said ‘We have to take it possession by possession. We’ve got to get stops. Let’s play basketball.’ We didn’t even call any plays. Dirk got in a rhythm, starting making shots for us."
The Star-Telegram’s Jennifer Floyd Engel wrote that the Mavs don’t take kindly to being shown up:
"Say this for The Mavs, they do not know how to quit. They stumble all over themselves, they are their own worst enemies, they dig themselves seemingly impossible holes but they do not quit. And they always seem to respond when punched in the face.
Which is what it felt like when Wade just stood in front of the Mavs bench with his hand up for an extra couple of seconds and then LeBron danced with him.
It was a total in your face move.
And the Heat should have talked to Thunder phenom Kevin Durant about how the Mavs respond to those kinds of moves. KD is one of the classiest kids in the league and, in a tiny fit of ego, he celebrated OKC going up 15 in a game by putting on a fake championship belt. The Mavs came back to win that game as well."
Despite a solid start to the series personally, J-Kidd said after Game 1 that he was to blame for the way the Mavs offense faltered.
So when Game 2 rolled around, No. 2 came back strong, pouring in six points on 2-of-5 from three, with five assists and a steal. But his best work came on the glass.
After Game 1, Carlisle explained that the Mavs had to rebound better if they hoped to win. So in typical Hall-of-Famer fashion, Jason responded by grabbing eight rebounds. The total helped the Mavs outrebound Miami 41-30. Mavs Blog explained further:
"The Mavericks blamed a deficit of 13 rebounds for their loss in the first game of the series, and they got a firm grip on the situation in Game 2.
Dallas enjoyed a 51-39 advantage on the boards. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 11 rebounds, and Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd had eight apiece.
The margin in the pivotal fourth quarter was 15-9.
"Rebounding was the biggest issue we had facing us coming into this game," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "We did a much better job tonight. Guys were much more conscientious."
NO. 2’s STRONG START
Dallas’ furious finish to Game 2 was necessitated by a pour showing in the middle, but that came as a surprise, given the start the team got off to.
The Mavs sunk their first five shots to start Game 2, including a triple by Jason from the left wing, which put Dallas ahead 12-6 in the first few minutes.
The Heat fought back, however, and took a four-point lead late in the period before Jason helped to trim the deficit by finding DeShawn Stevenson for a trey. By the end of the first the two teams were tied at 28.
Jason continued his incredible rebounding efforts in the second, and along the way found Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion for easy buckets to propel the two teams to another tie at the break, this time at 51 points.
Things started to go downhill in the third, as the Mavs committed a number of early turnovers to give the Heat some momentum. Nonetheless, Dallas still only trailed by four at the end of the third. That number would grow to 15 midway through the fourth before the comeback began. After the game, Carlisle lauded his team’s resolve:
"If you’re going to win a championship, you have to have the wherewithal to hang in. They missed a couple shots and it allowed us to keep our momentum going. They have a lot of breathtaking ability. But by getting a couple of stops and scoring, we got some momentum."
Jason and the Mavericks have put themselves in good position as they head back to Dallas for Game 3 on Sunday night.
The Mavs will now play three straight home games with the hopes of winning the series in Dallas. Game 3 begins at 7 p.m. CST and will be televised nationally on ABC.
- NBA Finals 2011: Mavs @ Heat Post Game Two Quotes "What Dirk does" (Mavs Moneyball, June 3, 2011)
- The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Miami Heat 93 (Two Man Game, June 3, 2011)
- Mavericks steal Heat’s thunder with stunning rally (The Detroit News, June 3, 2011)
- Mavericks rebound to take advantage on boards (Mavs Blog, June 3, 2011)
- Dirk Nowitzki saved the best for last in Mavericks’ comeback win over Heat (Miami Herald, June 3, 2011)
- DIRK AND DALLAS WITH THE COMEBACK OF THEIR LIVES (Dime Magazine, June 3, 2011)
- Behind the Box Score, where Dallas tied that bad boy up (Ball Don’t Lie, June 3, 2011)
- Mavericks miffed by Heat’s early celebration (Mavs Blog, June 3, 2011)
- Nowitzki knows importance of avoiding 0-2 hole (Mavs Blog, June 2, 2011)
- Heat acted like it had it won much too soon (Star-Telegram, June 3, 2011)
- Breaking down the Mavs’ 22-5 finishing kick (ESPN Dallas, June 2, 2011)
- The play that sparked Dallas’ comeback (NBA Playbook, June 3, 2011)
- Anatomy of a Comeback (NBA.com, June 3, 2011)