Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah calls the Miami Heat “Hollywood as hell” and he may be right.
With a little over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the home team an 88-73 lead over the Dallas Mavericks. Game over, right? Well, that’s what the Heat was thinking too because they started acting like they were getting ready to pose for postgame pictures.
After swishing the 3-ball, Wade held his hand up as he walked past the Mavericks bench. He was then met by LeBron James near midcourt and the two BFFs got caught up in the moment and began to celebrate excessively, with James yapping at Wade and punching him in the chest three times as they head to their sideline during a timeout. It was a bit over-the-top but nothing out of the ordinary. Heck, DeShawn Stevenson celebrates EVERY single 3-point shot he makes whether it’s the playoffs or not. However, it is the NBA Finals so every little moment and every little action caught on camera will scrutinized.
From that point on, the Heat stopped playing their usual suffocating defense and settled for long jump shots. Basically, they took their foot off the gas pedal and checked out of the game mentally. Wade and James thought they were flying to Dallas up 2-0 in the series. Instead, the Mavericks took advantage of a relaxed Heat squad and went on a 22-5 run to finish the game, including nine clutch points from Dirk Nowitzki.
“Right at that moment, it was a huge turning point in the game,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry said of the Wade-James early celebration.
With the game tied at 93, Nowitzki made a layup over Chris Bosh with his left hand with 3 seconds left to give the Mavs a stunning 95-93 come-from-behind victory. The Mavericks’ improbably comeback – or a Heat meltdown, depending on how you look at it – knotted the NBA Finals 1-1 with the next three games in Dallas.
Despite what appeared to be an obvious early celebration, LeBron denied it and thought it didn’t impact the outcome.
“There was no celebration at all. I was excited about the fact that he hit a big shot and we went up 15,” said James. “It was the same thing we’ve done over the course of the season. There was no celebration at all. We knew we had seven minutes to go still to close out the game. As far as celebrations, that word has been used with us all year. We knew how much time was left.”
Wade said a celebration involves confetti and champagne bottles, and he too thought it was a non-issue.
“First of all, every team in the league when they do go on a run they do some signal, whether its a chest bump. It’s part of the game of basketball. That was no celebration. If it pumped them up, they won the game. If won’t be the first time and it won’t be the last time that if we do a great play we’ll come to our teammates and do something. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.”
Despite what Wade and James said, the fact of the matter is they did celebrate a little too much and they compounded it by losing their edge in the final seven minutes of the game. And the Mavs were definitely irked by what will be known as “The Celebration,” and they used the Heat’s cocksure attitude as motivation.
When the Heat went up by 15 points, the Mavs’ defense got tighter and their ball movement on offense got sharper. Meanwhile, Heat kept jacking up 3-pointers and got real stagnant on offense, almost looking like they were just shaving time off the clock and trying to hit that home-run ball.
The Mavs made nine of their final 10 field goals, while the Heat missed 10 of their last 11 shots. LeBron had just two points in the fourth quarter and missed all four of his field goal attempts (two of them were 3-point field goal attempts with the shot clock winding down). Wade had a game-high 36 points, but he also settled for jumpers instead of attacking the basket.
The Heat can’t blame anyone but themselves in losing a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter and now face a rejuvinated Mavericks team that seem to have all the momentum heading into Game 3. Winning a championship is hard enough on its own, now the Heat made it more difficult on themselves because of their arrogance.