DALLAS – Early edge: Dallas.
In terms of aggression.
In terms of poise.
In, well, just about any term you want to use.
Dallas 13, Miami 6, 7:12 left in the 1st quarter. LeBron James is 1 for 3 from the floor, the make being a runout dunk. Jason Kidd looks 28 instead of 38, controlling the game so far with five points and two steals. Dirk Nowitzki is settling in nicely, having just made a jumper after misfiring on his first two tries.
Crowd is alive, too.
Exactly the start Dallas wanted, exactly what Miami wanted to avoid.
With the teams now on the court for warmups, here's a few notes and quotes to help get you going before Game 5 of the NBA finals:
— LeBron James does not have a double-digit scoring quarter in these finals.
— His points (24, 20, 17, 8) and field goals (9, 8, 6, 3) have decreased in every game of this series.
— He hasn't taken more than four free throws in any game during this series. First time that's happened over a four-game stretch all season. He's taken 14 free throws against the Mavs. Consider this: He took more than 14 in seven different games this year.
— No team in the finals has topped 96 points since Boston beat the Lakers 103-94 in Game 2 last season.
— Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had a number of one-liners in his pregame media session. Noting that all the talk leading up to Game 5 has been about James, Carlisle noted that LeBron is "going to come out and he's going to impact the game. The amazing thing to me, Dwyane Wade scored 32 points, and I haven't gotten one question how I'm going to deal with him. That's what I'm shocked about." Carlisle also added that Wade "killing us is not good."
And a quick observation: Maybe the in-game arena promo here shouldn't say it's "time to gear up for the postseason" anymore. Me thinks that point has passed, given how tonight is Dallas' home finale.
Welcome to Game 5, with LeBronwatch back in effect, Dirk's illness still a talking point, and a Dallas police official asking where his SWAT team can park outside the arena.
(Absolutely true. Can't make that up.)
Tied at two games apiece, the winner tonight will hold a colossal advantage going back to Miami, and LeBron James — he of the eight-point effort in Game 4 — tweeted very early this morning that it's "Now or Never!!"
He says he was merely providing motivation for himself, but after Miami's shootaround practice today James added that he took notice of things the Mavericks are saying about him as well, notably DeShawn Stevenson's "checked out" line. Of course, if the Heat and Mavs need to resort to bulletin-board stuff now to get motivated, that's probably not a good sign for either club.
For Dallas, history says tonight is a must-win. Since the league went to the 2-3-2 finals format, the road team has never won both Games 6 and 7.
Dirk Nowitzki says he's feeling better, so that's a good piece of pregame news for the Mavs and the entire Dallas area, which has never talked this much about a sinus infection.
You know the drill. We'll update this once or twice per quarter. Hit us on Twitter with your questions, you might see answers here throughout the night.
Enjoy Game 5.
Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds