The Dallas Mavericks are on the brink of their first championship in the most fitting of ways: They cranked up their offense.
As much as coach Rick Carlisle preaches defense, this franchise that rose to prominence a decade ago by outscoring 'em did exactly that in Game 5 of the NBA finals, riding 29 points from Dirk Nowitzki and 13 3-pointers to a 112-103 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday night for a 3-2 series lead.
The Mavs are headed to Miami looking to finish on Sunday night what they started in 2006. Dallas took a 2-0 series led there, only to drop the next four games. This time, the Mavericks only need to win one of the last two to make Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and everyone else on the roster NBA champs for the first time.
Dallas players have been saying for days that they have yet to play their best game. They also had yet to play with the comfort of having the lead most of the night.
They did both this time.
Although things were tense at times — especially when they trailed 100-97 with 3:38 left — this veteran club just did what it had been doing all game, hit 3-pointers.
Jason Terry nailed the first to tie it at 100. After a dunk by Nowitzki put Dallas ahead — for good, as it turned out — Kidd started stretching the lead with a 3-pointer and Terry followed with another, punctuated by his traditional flying jet pose in honor of his nickname and his initials: JET.
The Mavericks wound up closing the game on a 15-3 run. They became the first team this series to win consecutive games.
So, how did they treat the most significant win in franchise history? Mildly, as has been their tradition this postseason.
Nowitzki put his arms up toward the bench, but hardly smiled. No, it wasn't the lingering effects of his sinus infection. It was the unfinished business of having 15 playoff wins, when they need 16.
After all, Boston held a 3-2 lead over the Lakers last year, only to blow it. Overall, 19 of the 26 teams that have led a finals 3-2 have gone on to be crowned champs, including Miami in '06.
Fans certainly weren't subdued.
The 52nd and final home game this season was the most raucous yet, with repeated chants of "Beat the Heat" for the time all series. They also screamed "MVP" every chance they had for Nowitzki.
Now they're hoping for one more gathering at the American Airlines Center — with the Larry O'Brien Trophy.