Dirk Nowitzki knew that the importance of his Mavericks winning their last home game of the season could not be understated. Game 5 of the Finals, with the series all even at two games apiece and the next two back in Miami, was for all intents and purposes a must-win for Dallas.
Nowitzki put it into the simplest of terms after Thursday morning’s shootaround.
“You don’t want to give them two chances to close it out at home, so this is our Game 7,” he said.
The Mavericks played like it. Putting together their finest offensive performance of the Finals, Dallas blistered Miami for a 112-103 win the team knew it so desperately needed.
The numbers for Dallas in this game were absolutely staggering, considering how the first four games of this series had gone offensively against the intelligence and speed of the Miami defense. The Mavs shot over 65 percent from the field in the first half, on their way to an outstanding 56.5 percent for the game. As good as that overall number is, the three-point shooting was even better, and was the area where Dallas was able to do most of its damage.
As a team, the Mavs hit 13 of their 19 attempts from beyond the three-point arc, good for a ridiculous 68.4 percent. This comes after Dallas made a combined 27 threes in the first four games of the series, and averaged just 34 percent shooting from downtown on 79 total attempts.
The scary thing for the Heat is, there wasn’t necessarily any big adjustment on the Mavericks’ part that Miami can try to counter moving forward. As Jason Terry pointed out afterward, Dallas just hit the open looks that they failed to convert earlier in the series.
“We are getting the same looks we knew we would get,” he said. “After Games 1 and 2, you watch it on film, you see it and then you realize where you’re going to have the opportunities. I said to myself, I said to my teammates, we’re not going to continue to miss those open shots that we’re getting.”
Nowitzki said effectively the same thing, when asked if the difference in his team’s offense in this one was simply his team’s ability to knock down shots.
“I thought in the first four games we looked at the film, we stepped into some good shots,” he said. “We just, for some reason we weren’t knocking them down like we did in the first three series. I mean, if we would have struggled shooting the ball like that in the first three series, I don’t know if we would have gotten here.
“Our ability to make shots on the weak side is a big part of what we do. Tonight we talked about it. Keep stepping into those shots when they’re there … I thought we hit big, timely shots tonight. ”
None were bigger or more timely than Terry’s dagger three with 33.8 seconds left, a backbreaker of a bucket that put Dallas up seven and sealed the win, placing the Mavericks just one win away from an NBA title.
If the Mavericks are to get that last victory, Game 6 would appear to be their best opportunity to do so. Home court advantage in the Finals is strong, and Dallas needs to only look back a single season to see the team that played the middle three games of the series at home leave with a 3-2 lead, before proceeding to lose the next two on the road. Just as Nowitzki described Game 5 as being his team’s Game 7, he and others did the same when talking about the importance of Game 6, likely for this very reason.
Yes, Dallas is facing its second consecutive Game 7, figuratively speaking. All the team has to do now is come up with one more game of stellar shooting to ensure that they don’t have to play in a literal one, on the road, with a championship hanging in the balance.