Nowitzki’s Mavericks one win from first title
MIAMI—Dirk Nowitzki has spent the past five years answering his critics for his playoff failures and now LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the only things standing between the German and his crown.
Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks are one victory away from capturing their first NBA championship in the franchise’s 31-year history.
The Mavericks, who lead the best-of-seven NBA Finals 3-2, will attempt to win the title in game six Sunday against “King” James’ Miami Heat, the team that ended Dallas’ title shot in the 2006 NBA Finals.
“When you don’t win, criticism comes with it,” Nowitzki said Saturday. “That’s just a part of the game. If you’re the star or the face of the franchise and if you win, it’s great for you, and everybody looks at you.
“And if you lose, you’re going to get hammered. I got hammered the last 13 years. So hopefully this year I hope I can make the hammering go away for one year.”
Nowitzki, who turns 33 on June 19, said he doesn’t need a championship ring to secure his place among the NBA legends.
“I’m not trying to win for my legacy or for anything other than for just me being on the best team there is for that year,” Nowitzki said.
“You want to be a part of the best and so hopefully we can fulfill that and everything else is kind of a side note to me.”
Wade injured his left hip during game five but said it won’t be a problem Sunday.
“This is just another day of getting treatment and getting rest,” Wade said. “I’ll be totally fine when it comes to tomorrow. No extra padding.”
This year’s final is a rematch of the 2006 NBA championship which Shaquille O’Neal-sparked Miami took in six games for its first title in franchise history.
Jason Terry said he cried five years ago when the Mavericks lost on their home court to the Heat. But if there are any tears shed Sunday, they will be tears of joy.
“I remember getting hit in the head with confetti,” Terry said. “Just watching them celebrate, ride off on golf carts, champagne bottles and all that.
“I remember being back in our locker room, myself and Darrell Armstrong holding each other and just crying the night away. Something I’ll never forget.”
Three of the five games have been decided by three points or less and the Mavericks became the first team to win back-to-back games with a nail-biting 112-103 victory in game five to take a 3-2 lead.
“This is as close a series as you can be,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think they have 463 points, we have 459 points. There have been 50 lead changes and 44 ties.
“You have to stay the course. We’re doing a lot of things well. We’re a very good closing team on both ends of the court.
“They’ve been able to do it better than us in three of the games, but we feel very confident coming home and being able to do the things that we’ve been successful at, particularly closing.”
When he is healthy Wade has looked unstoppable in the finals. But Wade said in order for Miami to win their second title in five years, he and James have to re-establish their synergy.
When Miami fell behind 2-0 in the finals five years ago to Dallas, then-coach Pat Riley said that he didn’t like it when Wade handled the ball 50 times or more in a game because the Heat usually lost.
Wade said Saturday that since he lured James and Chris Bosh to Miami in the offseason, the Heat’s game plan has changed. He said the key is he doesn’t try to score on every drive now.
“Fifty touches, that’s not in the game plan for me no more,” Wade said. “That stopped in July. I have to be aggressive when I get my touches and not always be aggressive to score.
“Back then it was totally different. We had myself on the perimeter, Shaq was in the post.
“Now we have myself and LeBron handling the ball a lot and our point guards handling it.
“If the opportunities are there I’m going to take it. If it’s not, I’m a willing passer.”