Nowitzki got sweet revenge by clinching the 2011 title in Miami, crossing off the final line on his NBA legend to-do list, but that doesn’t erase the deep wounds from the Mavs’ meltdown against the Heat in the 2006 Finals.
And there’s still ample bitterness between Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, the MVPs of those Finals. Nowitzki will never forget Wade’s months-after-the-fact ripping of the big German’s leadership after their first Finals meeting, words Wade had to swallow in 2011, when the Mavs handed the Heat what remains their lone playoff series loss since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.
“We said hi and that’s about it,” Nowitzki said of his interactions with Wade. “We’re not going to go to dinner or anything.”
With all that history, it’d be fun to pump up Tuesday night’s visit from the Heat as the continuation of an intense rivalry. It just wouldn’t be realistic.
Since Nowitzki and crew chugged champagne in Miami, the Heat is undefeated against the Mavs. Maybe Miami gets a little extra inspiration by looking up in the American Airlines Center rafters and seeing the Mavs’ championship banner. The Heat won by an average of 17 points during its trips to Dallas the last two seasons.
And the Heat were the ones chugging champagne at the end of those seasons, while the Mavs haven’t won a playoff game.
“The last two years, they’re champs,” Nowitzki said. “One year we were the eight seed going into the playoffs and got swept, the next year we didn’t make the playoffs. It’s kind of hard to have a rivalry if we’re not even a playoff team.
“Back in ’06, obviously they beat us; ’11 was a great payback. But those two years are long gone. They’re the best team the last two years. We’ll see if we can still compete with them.”
The Mavs headed into the All-Star break with some major momentum. They won six of their last seven games, capping off that run with a road win against the Indiana Pacers, who have emerged as the Heat’s primary rival.
For the Mavs, Tuesday night is about picking up where they left off, possibly taking another step toward getting back into the playoffs. That's Nowitzki's narrow focus. No sense in sweating a rivalry that seems so long ago.