Heat-Mavs: Pride Goeth Before a Lead Change

“(Dwyane Wade) celebrated right in front of our bench. I think it angered a lot of us. We came out there and we responded.” — Tyson Chandler, media enabler

According to some Mavericks and media mavens, Dwyane Wade’s preening inspired Dallas to a spiteful comeback from 15 points down. Tidy story, that.

But it begs the question: Why would an early Heat celebration motivate Dallas if winning an NBA title couldn’t? Royce Young expertly fleshed out the absurdity of this narrative, concluding that such an explanation would reflect poorly on the victor:

“But really, that’s an incredible slight to the Mavs. Because if that’s really what it took to wake them up, then they’ve got some soul searching to do. They came back from 15 down in the biggest game of the season not because Dwyane Wade held his hand up and LeBron tapped him in the chest. They came back because they’re a damn good basketball team with an incredible will to win.”

Agree.

Inspiration of the heart makes for a grand sports yarn. It’s the dazed boxer on the mat, seeing his blurry wife and summoning the winning upper-cut. Such tales let people believe that dire situations can be overcome by jolts of passion, that the act of wanting instantly morphs into accomplishment. And for a fan: How appealing! We’re primed to buy into a psychological get rich quick scenario that conveniently removes the athletics from athletics. Reduce victory to a matter of will, and you’ve brought the players to our level. Add an explanation of what fueled the will, and you have yourself a deadline masterpiece.

But, back to the prancing Heat.

What fascinates me about last night’s narrative isn’t that it’s false or that it fits into the Decision-spawned, media-fed Miami Heat Story of arrogance-meets-comeuppance. I’m struck by how the fairy tale got at the truth from a completely goofy angle. What I mean is: Hubris really did undo the Heat–actual tangible, basketball hubris.

This is not “choking,” “gacking,” or collapsing from “softness.” Basketball hubris is hero ball, the Icarus confidence that melts the wings of hot shooters. It’s Dwyane Wade, playing so brilliantly through 3 ½ quarters that he perhaps over-trusts his distance shooting at the end.

Wade and James combined for fourteen three-point attempts, making just four. While some of the heaves were acts of shot-clock inspired desperation, others were simply bad takes. The entire team slung 30 three pointers, which would be great if they were the D’Antoni-era Suns.

This does not mean that Miami is inherently cursed by some grand moral flaw. False belief in a “hot hand” is a common basketball phenomenon, and any team can settle for too many contested threes over the course of a frenetic 48 minutes. But, in this game, the losing party was indeed arrogant in regards to its own ability to hit certain shots.

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  3. Why the Heat could Playoff FAIL
  4. Scouting the Miami Heat: Offense
  5. Comparing the defensive philosophies of the Heat and Celtics

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