The 2011 NBA playoff schedule is now over for the conference finals. History will show that both the Heat-Bulls and Mavericks-Thunder series were very short, each ending in five games. Yet if it wasn’t for some late comebacks, these battles could both still be going on right now. It appeared that Chicago would stay alive for much of Game 5, yet, just like the Thunder, Chicago couldn’t prevent a massive comeback that destroyed its season.
Both of the last two playoff series have been a mirror image of each other. Therefore, it was fitting that the Heat had a massive late run to end things over the Bulls, just like the Mavericks did to finish the Thunder. Yet Miami’s 18-3 run to close out an 83-80 Game 5 win, as reported by Sports Illustrated, may have been more impressive than Dallas’ 17-2 run to force overtime in Game 4.
For one thing, the Heat pulled its comeback out in an elimination game, and seemed to be more overmatched than the Mavericks were before its rally. Chicago had finally clamped down on the Miami Big 3, its defense holding the Heat to 65 points in the first 45 minutes.
Miami could have afforded to lose, since it would have still held a 3-2 lead going back home, where the team hasn’t lost in the playoffs. However, the Heat would not let Chicago have any new life; more specifically, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade wouldn’t let it.
Although James wasn’t as dominant as usual and Wade had several turnovers and some apparent shoulder problems, the two combined for the first 16 of Miami’s last 18 points. This included a four-point play from Wade, a tying three-pointer from James, and a James jumper that put the Heat ahead for good.
On the other end of the court, Derrick Rose came up short in the last minutes yet again. Not only did Rose commit the foul that led to Wade’s four-point play, he missed a free throw that would have tied the score at 81.
Afterward, Chris Bosh finally got into the mix by hitting two big free throws. With no timeouts, the Bulls had to rush down the court for a tying three, and could not set anything up. Finally, James blocked a desperation shot from Rose in the most fitting final act of the series.
While Rose and the Bulls had nothing left in the final minutes throughout the series — just like Kevin Durant and the Thunder — James and the Heat had all the answers, just like Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
For this series, the dominant storyline was how experienced contenders overwhelmed inexperienced teams of the future. But while the Heat and Mavericks have had virtually the same postseason schedule thus far — complete with a 12-3 record — the tie will be broken in the finals starting Wednesday.
NBA.com- “2011 Playoffs Schedule”
SI.com- “Heat’s Big Three erase all doubt with stirring run to NBA finals”