Dirk Nowitzki has written a textbook on comebacks throughout the NBA Playoffs, but for the first time the Dallas Mavericks need a series comeback in the 2011 NBA Finals. The Mavericks, after splitting two in South Beach, fell in Game 3 against the Miami Heat on Sunday, putting Dallas in a precarious position. One more Miami win in Big D in the next two games would give the Heat two chances to close out the championship at home.
In other words, Dallas can survive losing one of the three games scheduled in Texas, but it can't drop two and reasonably hope to survive. That makes Game 4 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC) critical, obviously. All Finals games are critical -- it's the Finals, after all! -- but this is where the series hinges on dogfight or desperation.
The Heat defense proved too much to handle for every Maverick but Dirk in Game 3; Nowitzki had a marvelous second half, but got little offensive help and missed a potential game-typing jumper in the closing seconds to hand Miami the win. On the other end, Dallas has played solid defense itself, but has no long-term solution for Dwyane Wade, who has been a killer. DeShawn Stevenson is the preferred defender on Wade, but he's a minus offensively against normal teams, let alone Miami. That leaves Jason Terry, J.J. Barea or Jason Kidd on Wade. Good luck.
Chris Bosh hit the Game 3 winner for Miami despite a poked eye; he said Monday he feels OK and his vision hasn't been affected. Brendan Haywood, however, may miss action due to a hip injury. That malady opened the door for seldom-used Frenchman Ian Mahinmi, who suffered the indignity of being crushed by LeBron James on a dunk.