The Dallas Mavericks won a shootout to the Miami Heat in Game Five,112-103, thanks to solid contributions from Dirk Nowitzki, and some key role players.
The Heat are back home and attempting to maintain their home court advantage by winning Games Six and Seven at American Airlines Arena.
Though the Mavericks have a great deal of momentum heading into Game Six, it can easily swing back to the Heat. Erik Spoelstra's squad kept the game close for most of the way and even led with 3:38 remaining, and were playing with Dwyane Wade suffering from hip problems.
The Heat didn't play their game. They allowed the Mavs to make Game Five a high-tempo contest, and that benefited the Mavericks with their collection of shooters.
More than likely, the Heat won't let the game get out of control in Game Six. Expect a better defensive effort from Miami, and a more patient offense.
LeBron James dispelled rumors that he was mentally and physically fatigued by going for a triple-double in Game Five. James wasn't able to lead Miami back when the Mavs went on a fourth quarter run, but was able to keep the Heat in the game with Wade not at 100 percent.
It will be up to James to prove he's the superstar that made the high-profile decision to take his talents to South Beach. This is the moment of truth for James. He went to the Finals with the Cavaliers and came up short. Now, he's in an elimination game with two superstars by his side.
But James isn't alone in the challenge. The Heat have to make key defensive changes after Game Five..
The big adjustment that the Heat need to make will be slowing down J.J. Barea. Miami had done a great job of keeping the quick point guard from going on a scoring streak, but Barea heated up in Game Five.
Rick Carlisle has to be pleased that the Mavericks have new-found confidence. Nowitzki had a big scoring night, but that was to be expected. But Jason Terry looked rejuvenated, hitting shots that he had trouble converting earlier in the series.
Tyson Chandler also picked up his game. The Mavs' center gave a solid effort on both ends of the court.
Most importantly, the Mavs proved they can win without Shawn Marion playing the lone job of scoring star to Nowitzki. Marion had his worst game of the series, scoring just eight points. The Heat did a very good job defending Marion, but unfortunately, the Heat did little job of containing anyone else.
Expect Miami to play tougher defense in Game Six. The Heat should go back to the strategy that got them here: a patient offense, and an aggressive defense.
PREDICTION: The Heat take a slim lead going into halftime, thanks to Chris Bosh hitting some key shots, and getting Chandler in foul trouble. The Mavs come right back in the second half, and go on a scoring run with Marion leading the way, and Nowitzki forcing the Heat into fouling him. But this time, James and Wade combine to hit key shots and don't allow another fourth-quarter comeback by the Mavs.
SCORE PREDICTION: Heat 85, Mavericks 80.