During the second quarter of Game 2. That's when I recognized the feeling I had while watching the match-up between the Mavericks and the Heat.
To refresh, Dallas and Miami began the second quarter tied at 28. The Mavericks spent the second quarter of Game 2 taking, and then extending, a lead. Late in the quarter, Dallas was ahead by nine points. And as I watched, it felt like a 14-seed was beating a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. It felt like one of those tournament games where the underdog tantalizes us for a while, and then gets blown away by the superior team.
And that's exactly what happened. The Mavericks 51-42 lead late in the second quarter turned into a 15-point deficit by the fourth (88-73). The Heat outscored the Mavs 46-22 during that span. They were turning the game into their own personal highlight reel, with all the dunks they were getting. Miami was about to take a 2-0 series lead.
We all know what happened next, and now we have a 1-1 series. And I don't know what to think.
The prevailing thought is that neither team has played its best game yet, and that's true. We've seen Miami play about as well as it can, but not for an entire game. And for seven minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 2, we also saw Dallas play about as well as it can. But up until that point, the Mavericks didn't play well at all. 19 of their 20 turnovers happened in the first 3 1/2 quarters. And before making nine of their last 10 shots, the Mavericks were shooting only 41.5% from the field (the finished the game at 48%). So Dallas has a lot of room for improvement, which makes me think the best is yet to come. But then I think about the parade to the rim that Miami had throughout most of Game 2, and just how overwhelming their talent can be during certain stretches of a game, and I wonder how Dallas could beat this team four times out of seven.
It's hard to know what to expect, when this playoff run has been such a roller coaster ride. They lead Portland by 23 points in the third quarter (and 18 in the fourth) and lose. The Lakers led Dallas by 16 points in Game 1 of that series before the Mavs come back and win, and then sweep. In Game 4 against Oklahoma City, the Mavericks overcome a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes and beat the Thunder in overtime. And then we have what happened Thursday night in Miami, another 15-point fourth quarter deficit erased.
Maybe that game planted a seed of doubt into Miami's collective brain. Maybe the collective veteran experience that Dallas has can overcome the Heat's star power. Maybe the Mavericks are the better team.
Or maybe that talent volcano will erupt and win three games in a row to win the first of several championships. Who knows? But this series is a lot more interesting than it was at about 10:30 pm central time on Thursday night.