Before going any further, read all of this brilliant post by Rob Mahoney on the Mavericks' locker room following Game 5: "Nothing has changed…in a sense. Dallas believes in their championship hopes as much now as they did on Media Day. Yet to ignore the fundamental difference in the atmosphere both on the floor and within the belly of the American Airlines Center is foolish. There is a discernible difference, even if it exists most obviously in the cosmetics of media prevalence. The players don’t just talk of big games, but have lived them. We all dispense of hypotheticals, because in a most improbable scenario, the Dallas Mavericks are the first team in the NBA Finals. Things aren’t the same. They can’t be, and never will be again. There is a fundamental difference between today and yesterday, between the playoffs and the regular season, between this Mavericks team and the one we saw over 82 games. It may not be drastic, but this is more than just a step in a process for those same Mavs that started the season so full of hope."
In case you were wondering, Shawn Bradley is a part-time cowboy at a livestock ranch.
As always, Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Haberstroh provide a must-read 5 things to watch in Game 5. Chief among them: What's up with Wade?
Tom Thibodeau says the Bulls are keeping their focus on the little things facing a big hole against Miami: "All you can think about is this game. That's it. First quarter, that's all we're thinking about. Be ready to play. And then the next step will be the second quarter. That's all I want our guys thinking about."
John Krolik on the mercurial play of Mario Chalmers: "Here's the thing: For all his flaws, the Heat need Chalmers, both in the short term and the long term. His nearly flawless performances off the bench in Games 3 and 4 were key to the team's victories. And if the Heat want to get the five additional wins they need for a title, they will need Chalmers' active defense, his physicality, his outside shooting, his ability to create off the dribble and his fearlessness, even if some crazy mistakes accompany those attributes."
Don't expect to Dallas to be blown out by either of its potential opponents.
Translating Andrea Bargnani's translated quotation about wanting to leave Toronto
Jason Friedman on the Mavs' super-clutch crunchtime offense: "When the going gets tough, Dirk does not become a black hole but rather the sun of the Mavs’ magnificent solar system." Extending the metaphor: if Dirk implodes in the Finals, the Mavericks' solar system would be in big trouble.
Believe it or not, there's a whole series of great posts devoted to the New Jersey Nets' greatest playoff moments.
After 2007 the Mavericks were to be forgotten. This was the Thunder or Lakers' year, until it wasn't. The awkward but compelling narrative of Nowitzki and the Mavericks.