The story can now be told of exactly what happened at halftime of Game 6 during the 2011 NBA finals.
Brian Cardinal, the comic relief and official pulse-checker for the Mavericks during that season, had seen Dirk Nowitzki go 1-for-12 from the field in the first half of that game at Miami’s American Airlines Arena.
The Mavericks were up 3-2 in the series and actually led 53-51 at halftime despite Nowitzki’s pitiful performance through the first 24 minutes.
Halftime was Cardinal time, as he explained Tuesday night before the Mavericks’ home finale against Phoenix, which served as a tribute to Nowitzki.
“I think the biggest thing I was trying to do is just break the ice,” Cardinal said. “There was so much tension and frustration across the board. He was mad. We felt kind of good.
“But the biggest thing I think I said to him was that: I love it, you got them right where you want them. He was like, ‘what the hell are you talking about?’
“I said, you haven’t made a shot yet. And to get him to chuckle and call me nuts, to break it up a little, that’s what it was all about and what I was trying to do.”
Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle remembered the scene, too.
“He had a really rough first half,” Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “And Brian Cardinal stepped in and had some words of wisdom for Dirk at halftime.
“We were able to get Dirk the first shot of the second half and he hit it. And then he had a brilliant second half to bring home a championship. It was a brilliant example of a time when the goal was there, but there was going to be an obstacle. He had a lousy shooting half and he was able to erase all that stuff and kick ass in the second half. It was a beautiful moment.”
Cardinal was one of many friends of Nowitzki and fellow competitors through the years who were at Tuesday’s game. He also was reluctant to take any credit for the moment.
“We were just trying to screw around and it was the perfect moment to take a little edge off of him and hopefully help him relax a little,” said Cardinal, who now works with the Purdue athletic department. “I guess it worked to the extent that he played a lot better and led us to a championship.”
Most people would agree that the ploy worked pretty well.