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Do or Die Time, Dallas

Now or never, Mavericks.  Win game five or forget about the series.  Hard to believe entering the series, Miami seemed in control of their destiny.  Now, after a massive role reversal, Dallas is the one who holds the keys to the championship.  Standing in the face of a 2-2 tie, the Mavericks have a chance to put tremendous pressure on the Miami Heat.  Dirk nailed it earlier today when he was quoted saying: "This is our game seven."

That should make Dallas fans breathe a little easier.  It has come to the point where no matter how badly Dirk struggles early in the game, there is no doubt that he'll show up for the final two minutes.  Dirk finally shows the maturity and intensity at the end of games that critics harped for throughout his entire career.  He seems to will in every jumper, drive to the basket and free throw he attempts.  Spectators used to cringe when Dirk commanded the ball late in games.  Now, no matter what defense they throw at him, little doubt exists that Dirk will falter.

Dallas enters game five riding a tsunami of momentum.  They played game four with a sense of neccesity, but in complete control.  They dominated the glass and locked down on the defensive end, forcing Miami into their early-season offense: forced isolations and stagnant movement.  On the flip side, Miami should feel a little perspiration growing on their necks.  Struggling immensely in the fourth quarter, which cost them the game, one has to question Miami's fragile psyche.  Can they bounce back from another late-game collapse?  Can LeBron silence the critics with a big game?  Dallas is playing with the house's money right now.  Miami, unfortunately, is the house.

Game five, tonight in Dallas, holds enormous implications.  If Dallas wins tonight, they have to be considered the favorites to win it.  While that doesn't seem like a bold prediction in the face of a 3-2 series lead, this is a Miami team that has still only lost two games at home during the playoffs.  Miami taking games six and seven at home is completely in the realm of possibility.  But a game five victory for Dallas would certainly make life significantly more stressful for Miami.

But if Dallas loses tonight, this series is over.  Winning one more game on the road, especially with a 3-2 lead, would not be insurmountable.  Winning two games on the road, after losing game five at home, would devastate the Mavericks' chances.  LeBron said today that tonight's game is the "biggest game of [his] life."  And while it is the biggest game of his life, this game could ultimately, justified or not, determine Dirk's legacy.  Because if he struggles tonight, and Dallas loses, everyone will point to game five as the turning point of the series, re-opening the door for the Heat.  The perils of the franchise player.

Dallas has to treat this like their game seven.  Anything short of that effort will cost them this series.  But given the backbone that Dallas and Dirk have shown so far in the playoffs, the Mavericks have a chance, and they certainly won't go down without a fight.

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