No, the Dallas Mavericks won't successfully defend the NBA title they won last year over the Miami Heat.
But as the NBA Finals get ready to tip off Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Oklahoma City between the Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, questions about the Heat's loss to the Mavs in last season's Finals kept popping up during Monday's Media Day. Mostly, it was about how Miami forward LeBron James came up small when the Mavs knocked off the Heat in six games to capture the franchise's first NBA title.
"I didn't play well -- I think I said that 100 times this year,'' James said Monday. "I didn't make enough game-changing plays that I know I'm capable of making.
"I think I let my teammates down.''
Heat guard Dwyane Wade said the loss to the Mavs taught Miami a valuable lesson.
"We had a lot of leads in that series in the fourth quarters and we didn't close them out,'' Wade said. "We learned (from the Mavs) how to stick to it no matter what the situation is looking like, no matter what the outcome may be.
"For whatever reasons we just wasn't the team that Dallas was, and we just wasn't the team that we needed to be.''
Asked what did he learn from the 2011 Finals' series against the Mavs, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said: "We went through a lot of lessons last year. Experience can be probably the most powerful teacher, but we've put that behind us. We went through a lot of that at the beginning of the year and we've changed our dynamics.
"As a team we continue to re-invent ourselves. We built up some character and toughness.''
The Heat had some character last year against the Mavs. Only it was the kind that helped motivate the Mavs and led to Miami's downfall.
After winning the series opener, the Heat led Game 2 by 15 points (88-73) with 7:14 left and right after Wade unceremoniously celebrated in front of the Mavs' bench when he buried a three-point basket. It was the last points for Wade as the Mavs ended the game on a furious 22-5 run and posted an improbable 95-93 victory in Miami to even the series at 1-1.
Then, before Game 5, a camera caught James and Wade laughing, and coughing and mocking the sinus infection and cough Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki struggled with during a Game 4 loss to the Heat.
At the time, Nowitzki said: "I thought it was a little childish, a little ignorant. I've been in this league for 13 years. I've never faked an injury or an illness before.''
Wade actually claimed at the time that the video camera didn't paint a true picture of what happened. But while Wade and James were pre-occupied with some ill-advised silliness, the much more focused Mavs won Game 5 at home, 112-103, then closed out the series with a 105-95 victory in Game 6 in Miami.
Apparently, the Heat has learned from last season's misfortunes to the Mavs as both James and Wade appear more focused. In essence, if the Heat find a way to beat OKC and win this year's title, they''ll owe a great deal of gratitude to the Mavericks.
"I think as a team we're just more comfortable in this Finals so far than we were last year at this point, even though we were starting off at home (last year),'' Wade said. "So I think we're a little bit more tested -- battle tested.
"Obviously we'll never forget losing the Finals. But that can't be your only motivation.''
-- Dwain Price
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