MIAMI, Florida, June 14- The dust had barely settled from Sunday night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks when the questions started flying for the Miami Heat.
With all the talent that came from their free agent signings in the offseason how could “King” James and the Heat lose the NBA finals in six games to Dirk Nowitzki and his Merry Men?
Miami was in basketball mourning on Monday.
“It is a failure for myself losing to the Mavericks. Absolutely,” said LeBron James.
The pieces of the puzzle were supposed to be in place from the beginning of the season. Miami had re-signed Dwyane Wade then lured James and Chris Bosh to form the most dangerous trios in the NBA.
But the Mavericks proved with their 105-95 series clinching win at the AmericanAirlines arena that teams, and not individuals, win championships.
“Their time will come but now it is our time,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “Everybody answered the bell.
“This is one of the most unique teams in NBA history because it wasn’t about high-flying star power. Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn’t doing?”
Nowitzki even struggled early in game six. But it didn’t matter because his band of outlaws kept the Heat at bay until the German star was able find his form and help put the finishing touches on the win in the fourth quarter.
Nowitzki, who turns 33 on Sunday, struggled mightily in the first half, scoring just three points on one-of-12 shooting from the field.
“In the first half I had so many good looks,” he said. “I had some one-leg fadeaways that I normally make. My team stayed with me.
“(Jason Terry) got going early. That one timeout he said to me ‘Keep pushing. Remember 2006’. I kept plugging and kept fighting.
“In the third I made a three (pointer) and then in the fourth I was able to make a couple of pull-ups.”
Give Dallas its due. They beat the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the quarter-finals then had to beat the supposed heir apparent Oklahoma City Thunder in the semi-finals.
“Game two was probably the key to the series,” said Carlisle. “Because if you go down 0-2 against Miami it is very difficult.
“And coming back in game four in Oklahoma City, those are key games. Because the Oklahoma City win kept us from going six or seven games.”
Nowitzki silenced his critics and secured his legacy as one of the all-time NBA legends.
“I played with Larry Bird, I played with Bill Walton, I played with Robert Parish. I played with the all-time greats. And Dirk is up there with that upper echelon of great players,” Carlisle said.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban revealled at the postgame news conference that a couple of years ago he had a chance to acquire Kobe Bryant from the Lakers but decided to stick with Nowitzki as his No. 1 guy instead.
“I remember one time years ago when Shaq was available, no Kobe I think it was,” Cuban said.
“There was a discussion. He (Nowitzki) came to me and said ‘You know what, I understand if you think this is a deal you need to pull’. I am like it ain’t going to happen. Because chemistry is important — no disrespect to Kobe. Kobe is obviously a great player with lots of rings.
“But Dirk helps set the culture of a team. And culture is critically important for a winning organization.”
This year’s final was a rematch of the 2006 NBA championship which Miami took in six games for its first title in franchise history. Dallas had never won the NBA championship in its 31 year history.
“Our guys took it personal,” Carlisle said. “They were not going to be denied. Dirk and Jet (Terry) had to live for five years with what happened in 2006 and as of tonight, those demons are officially destroyed.”
There are no guarantees in the NBA even if you have the best team that money can buy.
Can the Heat bounce back? Can they still win with Wade deferring down the stretch to James who looked like the pressure of carrying his team to the title might have become too much.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” said Bosh.