So steep that it's still
Even before by now, we all had it down handily: the 2-3-2 is fucked beyond all mortal creation. The reasonable man stared at it and saw the following: "split the first two, win two of three at home, make it a two game series" hardly put the Heat at a disadvantage. Once this particular saga got underway, and the Mavs seemed so abidingly in control of things, the 2-3-2 looked like the ultimate, unjust pall. With their opponents hamstrung and yoked, suddenly the Mavs were to forfeit their momentum and spend three games as likely underdogs. Maybe the Heat weren't this bad, but they certainly were playing that way; sending it back to South Beach gave them every opportunity to regain their dignity and even claw their way back into a position of leverage. The momentum of the first two contests was being effectively dampened, punished for having so perfectly capitalized on all things that come with home court advantage and exploding out of the gate.
What's baffling, though, and what's nearly killed whatever dramatic unity is supposed to organize a Finals, is how wildly, and totally, things have swung. We haven't just seen the Heat return to form (after haven been every chance and all the room in the world within which to do so); they've basically turned this into three separate mini-epochs. The Mavs ruled, some indefinite amount of time passed and then Miami strode upon the throne's cushions, and now we enter a third. "Making it a two-game series" is more technically true than you might think—Miami taking one in Dallas is about as likely as the Mavs handling their business. Yet it remains conceptually misleading, for it presumes that the preceding events swung back and forth wildly, before equalizing in the perfect harmony of a near-draw.
Here, we've had none of the quirky, illusory drama generated through game-by-game shiftings of mass and gravity, no chances to colorfully depict the how and when the obvious might occur. The Mavs clamped down for two straight, and then the barely-gradated plunge into Wade country. First, the better team was the obvious strong suit; once in Miami, having the best player was the faultless key to all. Momentum builds; Dallas drowned Miami from the jump, while Wade's mastery faithfully rescued his team from the last-man-standing dissonance of the Heat's home games.
When Wade is on, the Mavs haven't been the Mavs. When the Mavs show and prove, Wade has been largely absent. The second statement has clear causal resonance; the first, maybe. What they do prove, though, is how little this has been the clash of civilizations we'd hoped it might be. Instead, we're seeing how one team's formula, if given the right components and made to click brightly, can override another's sense of identity, keep it from even being a instant-by-instant struggle for the strategic and ideological upper hand. What makes some other serieses so amazing is that these two identities modify each other, and force each other to adapt and step up, over the course of a game. A possession, even. Here, we've gotten unmitigated Mav-ness, and then a wilting blast of Wade's prowess. Someone remarked last month that the Suns were playing against the basket, not the other team. Here, I would argue that these teams have been going against themselves, with their success depending on how clearly they can come out manifesting their in-house style, identity, and coherence. Because so far, I haven't really seen anyone directly complicating anyone else on some nuts and bolts, pass the details shit; it's a contest of execution, concerned as much with the spiritual as the physical.
We've now got abundant proof that both squads are, in their own ways, viable championship teams. Here's hoping that these last two will finally let us see how these two squds match up, playing their respective games on the same night, on the same court, in a way that forces them to actually look each other in the eye and see a soul staring right back.