Half-way through the 3rd quarter of game 5 of the NBA Finals after an out of bounds call against Miami, Hubie Brown put it best when he said; “Let’s call it an iffy,” after both Dwyane Wade and Devin Harris flicked the ball off one another’s hands. And from tip-off to the sound of the final buzzer, that is how the game can best be described. The back and forth ebb and flow of the game for the first 3 quarters was as expected. Dallasstarted off the game with the fiery passion that is representative of a team following up back to back losses, and then Miamiresponded. Jason “The Jet” Terry led a 21-9 run going into halftime, and Josh Howard helped out right after intermission giving Dallasa thirteen point lead. Once again, Miami responded with an indomitable mind-set that is expected of a veteran-filled team, and eventually squeaked out a one point victory. But in a game filled with exciting play after exciting play, the game was-; well, let’s call it an iffy.
Let’s call Dwyane Wade’s 1st half play an iffy, because he came out with a lackluster performance, and an inexplicable arrogance that almost cost his team the game. His arid passes, misaligned shots, and inability to get involved in the offense the rest of the team was running was quite iffy. Yes, his 3-13 shooting performance during the first 24 minutes of the game was due in large part to a valiant and committed effort by Dallas to deny Dwyane Wade any opportune looks at the basket. When I saw Devin Harris expending every bit of energy he saved up since game 4 to deny Wade the ball on the opening play of the game, I knew Wade would not start the game well. Nonetheless, a valiant defensive effort or not, Wade’s first half play was detrimental to the Miami cause, and it can only be called iffy at best.
Let’s call the idea that Hack-a-Shaq, or constantly fouling him, works even if Shaquille O’Neal misses the ensuing free throws. For while it cost Miami a high percentage shot at matching the points just scored on the other end of the court, but it also puts Miami in the penalty early and allows loose ball fouls to send Heat players to the line. In the 3rd quarter, when Dallas could have put a strangle hold on the game, as well as the series, there were 3 non-shooting fouls that led to 6 Miami points during a time when Miami had little or no offensive rhythm. Because of those “free” points, Miami turned a double-digit deficit into a 1 point debit going into 4th.
Let’s call Gary Payton’s lay-up an iffy. Stuart Scott jokes all the time about how Gary Payton is 67 years old, and at times it’s hard to argue with him when looking at how GP plays the game. Yeah, the Glove is not the glove anymore and that is obvious, but that flip-left-handed shot over Dampier reminded me more of the old guy at the park who still schools the youngin’s more than anything else. There was also his big three which, believe it or not, effected the game more than the stat sheet might indicate. This is because Riley’s brilliant move to give Wade the ball at the top of the key in order to avoid the double team would have no doubt failed had Gary Payton botched that first three-point shot, when Jason Terry all but double-dared him to make it when he left to double-team Wade. GP was big in this game, and even though his game has been spotty and iffy for most of the playoffs, he has made some big shots that you expect from a player of his caliber. But c’mon GP, you can tell me, not even you expected that iffy lay-up to go in.
Let’s call Josh Howard’s timeout an iffy. Avery Johnson clearly gave the signal for a timeout, whether that means one thing or another to the Dallas Mavericks, or even if he signaled something else along with it, Johnson did give the timeout signal and Howard asked for a timeout. Should the referees have been obliging enough to realize that that is not what the Mavericks really wanted at that point and time? Probably, but it’s not their job to play mind reader, and there have been crazier things done on purpose in these 2006 NBA playoffs. There have even been crazier things committed by Josh Howard. In college, against Maryland when he played for Wake Forest , he called a timeout that they did not have, a move that ended up costing Wake Forest the game. Maybe the referee’s knew Howard’s past was a little iffy.
Let’s call the foul on Dwyane Wade an iffy. Yes, Dirk touched the waist of this phenomenal superstar who went to the line 23 times prior, but to call that a foul is quite a reach. Any player of basketball knows Wade’s arid lay-up on that attempt was more of a result of him attacking the rim with a full-head of steam and being out of control than it was due to Harris’s and Dirk’s incidental contact on the drive. In the first quarter, when the ref’s clearly have to establish that there will be no more flagrant fouls, than that play could be called a foul. But when the birth of a new legend, whether it be Dirk or Wade, is on the line, you cannot end an NBA Finals game on a controversial call. With that said, Wade was the aggressor. Heck! He took on
Dallas’ two best defenders in the same play! The aggressor will more often than not come out on top, because he puts the pressure on the referee to make a decision, not the passive-aggressive, not Dallas. In Poker, the bully always wins, but on this iffy, Dallas got a bad beat.
Let’s call predicting who was going to take the shot for Dallas during the majority of the second half an iffy. Throughout the second half, Dallas seemed to have no flow in their offense after their initial run coming out of the locker room. They managed to get up good shots, and make some key offensive rebounds that resulted in making game 5 an instant classic, but none of it was in rhythm. In fact, outside of Jason Terry’s efforts, nobody was consistent enough to be worthy of taking a big shot. Dirk was commendable, but his frequent double teams counted him out, and Josh Howard was dwindling out of the game long before his costly timeout. I kept asking myself, who are they going to go to? Maybe that question was the confusion that resulted in the Heat giving up open shots and rebounds, but it is also why Dallas will not see a game 7 if they cannot go through somebody other than Dirk for the first 40 minutes, so Dirk can do his thing in the last eight.
Lastly, let’s call the idea that Dwyane Wade is automatically the Finals MVP (should Miami go on to win the series) an iffy. Afterall, the Heat are not even in game 5 after the first 3 quarters if it is not for the supporting casts’ hustle and big shots. Not to mention ( and maybe it is just me) Shaquille O’Neal is being double teamed, hacked on the catch, challenged at the rim, and brought out on pick n’ rolls, and yet he continues to make the correct basketball move, play after play. Wade is winning the games in the end, in large part because Dallas will not allow Shaq to win it, but Shaquille is keeping the Heat in the game so that Wade can perform in the end. Which one is more important? Let’s call that an iffy, too.