DALLAS CLINCH NBA TITLE AS HEAT WILT

The Dallas Mavericks secured their first-ever NBA Championship, defeating the Miami Heat 105-95 in Game 6 of the Finals to clinch the series 4-2.

Five years after blowing a 2-0 lead in the Finals, Dallas laid the ghosts to rest. For Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 21 points and took the Most Valuable Player title after making just 1 of his 12 shots in the first half, a career has undeniably been validated.

For Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, there is no more rallying against the establishment. His team, this franchise, will now raise a banner to its roof as one of the elite group of winners of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

As for Miami, promises were made, lofty boasts of not just five, nor six titles but seven and beyond behind the combined talents of the Big Three in South Beach. They must still strive for a first in tandem. This June, the collective beat out the individuals.

“This is a true team,” said Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle. “This is an old school bunch. We don’t run fast or jump high but these guys play the right way.”

James was a bystander as Nowitzki claimed title (NBAE)

Unlike their opponents, whose flaws were exposed with the world watching on. LeBron James must try again to confound his critics and secure his legacy. The inquests began in the locker room. The pain will endure.

The truth is that Dallas were simply better.

“We got vindication,” said Jason Terry, who hit a game-high 27 points. They got the spoils they deserved.

Like two fighters, desperate to land a knockout punch and claim the high-stakes prize, the blows went back and forth, hard enough to daze, not quite sufficient to floor the opponent to the count of ten until Dallas made what proved to be its decisive move late in the third period.

Somebody said it was now or never. They were right. There was to be no winner-take-all finale to one of the most enthralling Finals in recent memory.

James, tried to answer his critics after a torrid Game 5, hit his first four shots en route to a team-high 21 points. The Heat edged ahead. Dallas threw on a zone. The Heat wilted on the perimeter. The Mavericks went on a 21-4 run, capped by a three-pointer from DeShawn Stevenson which helped open up a 32-27 lead at the end of the first.

The hosts were committing repeated turnovers. Stevenson gleefully profited. Another two three-pointers soared from his hands to extende the gap to 12, the biggest cushion Dallas have enjoyed this series. It wouldn’t last. At least, not then.

With James on the bench, Dwyane Wade ignited a flurry of 14 unanswered points from the Heat to put their side 42-40 ahead.  Rick Carlisle called a time-out. At half-court, the tensions spilled over. Stevenson and Udonis Haslem squared off. The beaches clearing, others threw themselves the melee, with Mario Chalmers joining the initiators in receiving a technical foul.

Still, it broke Miami’s momentum. Jason Terry hit eight consecutive points for the Mavs to cover for Nowitzki’s struggles, enough to push Dallas 53-51 in front at half-time.

Their quest to close out the series was relentless. An 8-0 run early in the third opened up a 63-56 advantage. Wade lit the fire beneath once more, blocking JJ Barea’s shot before bolting down court and finishing an awkward drive.

But Nowitzki emerged from his slumber as Dallas threw another combination to pin the Heat back against the ropes again. Entering the fourth, with French centre Ian Mahinmi sinking a buzzer-beater, they were 81-72 clear.

History beckoned for one team, infamy for the other, James shrinking once more into anonymity, unable to make himself heard above the noise.

“It’s going to be a long 12 minutes,” declared Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.

It unfolded in slow motion as his side went into reverse. Wade carelessly fumbled the ball, watching it slip out of his reach. Barea was able to accelerate to put Dallas 89-77 ahead with 8:12 remaining, the defence in his wake seemingly cast in cement.

This was time for Miami’s stellar trio to justify the investment in their services. Instead, they folded badly. The mistakes kept coming, The execution was poor. Questions were being asked. Answers were not forthcoming.

Dirk: The Finals MVP (NBAE)

“It’s a lot easier said than done,” Spoelstra admitted afterwards. “Sometimes, there is no excuses or no blame. You just come up short because the other team is better.”

Nowitzki, scoring 10 points in the fourth when it mattered most, hit a baseline jumper with just over two minutes to go. Cuban, sat anxiously in the row behind the Mavs bench, punched the air.

James hit a three to cut the gap to 101-92 with 1:28 to go. Chris Bosh finished with 19. Wade had 18. “Sometimes you got it. Sometimes you don’t,” James stated. Whatever they had, it was not nearly enough.

Fittingly, Nowitzki drove in the nail with a lay-in with less than 30 seconds to go. Both arms raised aloft, his team-mates, his owner, his colleagues began to celebrate.

How could they not?

“We came back from huge deficits all season long by believing in each other, playing off each other and moving the ball,” said an emotional Nowitzki.

“This is just unbelievable. The Mavs nation deserves it.”

Dallas, like their German star, had waited a long time for this. So too Jason Kidd, claiming his first ring after 17 years in the league. For everyone associated with the Mavericks, it was a moment to savour.

They took their talents to South Beach and, ultimately, prevailed.

More on Dirk

Images: NBAE / Getty

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