Dallas's Terry wears his art on his sleeve

Mavericks can clinch title tonight, but Nowitzki keeps emotions in check.

Jason Terry stretches during a practice session ahead of Game 6.
Powered by automated translation

Jason Terry put his faith in the Dallas Mavericks in ink. On the inside of his right biceps.

With one more win, he will get to keep that tattoo of the NBA championship trophy - plus have the real thing.

Terry had his title hopes injected into his arm in October, during a get-together at teammate DeShawn Stevenson's house. At the start of the play-offs, Terry vowed to have it removed if the Mavericks did not win the title.

Thanks largely to him regaining his shooting touch, Terry and the Mavericks are closer to a title than ever before. The trophy could belong to them as soon as tonight.

"We put ourselves in the situation we wanted, to go back there with this opportunity," Tyson Chandler, the Dallas centre, said. "But we can't get too ahead of ourselves. We can't get caught up in the hoopla."

In their previous 30 seasons, the closest the Mavericks came to being champions was in 2006, when they held a 2-0 series lead over the Miami Heat and a big lead in Game 3. But Miami rallied and won four straight games, and the Mavs had to watch the Heat celebrate on their own floor. So the chance to close it out tonight in Miami is a delicious bit of payback for Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, the only survivors from that 2006 team.

"We must go out, play aggressively and take advantage of our opportunity," Terry said.

The Mavs have done that all post-season. Every time they have got three wins a series, the fourth has followed right away. They are 3-0 in knockout chances. Only one was on the road, but it was in one of NBA's most hostile arenas, in Portland.

Dallas have already tamed the Miami crowd once, handing the Heat their first home loss of the post-season in Game 2.

"It's going to be hard to go to Miami and win, but we know we are capable of doing it," forward Shawn Marion, the Dallas forward, said. "It's going to be crazy. We know what's at stake here."

The Mavs are keeping their excitement level under wraps.

They have been in anti-celebration mode since Game 2 of the second round, when Nowitzki was upset about how giddy some players got after a second straight victory in Los Angeles. He has remained stoic regardless of the circumstances, even walking out of the Western Conference title celebration before it was over.

On Thursday night, following the most significant win in the franchise's history, with fans cheering wildly, all Nowitzki did was wearily raise his arms. "I can't enjoy it much," he said. "In the play-offs, for some reason, you're always on the edge. You don't sleep much. You think basketball 24/7. I can enjoy it hopefully next week when we're on vacation."

* Associated Press