Dirk will tell you that he doesn’t harbor hatred in his heart but that his feelings for the Heat are 'about as close as it gets.' Miami stole the 2006 title from him, for a moment on Friday morning seemed to have stolen his luggage from him, and by Friday night used steals and turnovers to beat his Mavs 110-104.
Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks eventually took a piece out of the Miami Heat, the team that stole the 2006 title from him, the team that dissed him as he got his revenge with the 2011 championship, the team that giddily plays the villain as it seeks to also play its way to a third straight title.
And the team from a town that seemingly had stolen Dirk's luggage, only to be returned hours before this tipoff in Miami.
"So now I can wear my lederhosen tonight,'' The Big German tweeted before the game.
Even though Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the only holdovers from Dallas' title team, Friday night’s Mavs-Heat game echoed some of this rivalry at its best. Maybe that's because Miami’s core of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade remains intact – and those two experienced career-topping games in terms of efficiency.
James scored a season-best 39 points and had never before recorded than many on just 18 shots. Wade notched a career-high eight steals -- part of Dallas' season-worst 24-turnover barrage.
"The turnovers,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, "doomed us.''
This game did not feature Wade and James mocking Dirk’s flu bug, or DeShawn Stevenson taunting LeBron with his R-rated t-shirt, or Jason Terry rising above James for a score that justified Jet’s Larry O’Brien Trophy tattoo. Still, again, it had its moments, including a Mario Chalmers elbow to the face of Nowitzki that allowed the Mavs to keep it close with five minutes left.
However, a Mavs club with no real experience in close games this season collapsed in this first forage into that area.
Dallas is among the handful of teams in the league that has yet to play a game decided by three points or fewer. So the "clutch'' and the "crunch'' haven’t been demanded of them yet.
And it showed.
With five minutes left the Mavs were within a score of the champs. In rapid-fire succession came DeJuan Blair involved in a turnover inside, Monta Ellis involved in a turnover on the wing, another Blair-related turnover, a Monta airball, another turnover with 48 seconds left. ... And suddenly, Miami (now 6-3) was up by seven with 46 seconds left and technically, the game exited the NBA definition of "clutch" time.
"I think we showed we can compete against anybody," said Jose Calderon, and there is some truth to that. Nowitzki led the Mavs with a season-high 28 points, Vince Carter scored 21, Ellis scored 20 and Calderon chipped in 12. So 5-4 Dallas can certainly compete with anybody in the scoring department.
But the Mavs are just 1-4 on the road. They haven't exhibited "clutch'' yet. And the turnovers are an epidemic.
"If we go out and compete like this every night and cut our turnovers down,'' Ellis said, mirroring the comments of his backcourt running mate, "we can compete with anybody in this league."
But at this moment, that's a large "if.'' The Mavs need to find a way to hate turnovers as much as they hate the Miami Heat.