MIAMI - The hammer Dirk Nowitzki is so close to escaping is pounding away harder than ever at LeBron James.
The Dallas Mavericks are a victory from claiming the title that James came to Miami to win. It would forever alter Nowitzki's reputation, which has already been elevated during this series as he's ignored injury and illness.
And James is now the target of all the criticism Nowitzki long endured, the one shouldering most of the blame as things go wrong.
"That's just a part of the game if you're the star or the face of the franchise," Nowitzki said Saturday. "If you win, it's great for you, and everybody looks at you. And if you lose, you're going to get hammered. It's just part of the business."
He has two shots at it. The Mavs can win their first title Sunday, or Tuesday if the Heat force a seventh game.
That would require a stronger effort from James, who this time a year ago was coming off his second straight MVP award and was three weeks from becoming among the most sought-after free agents in sports history.
Now he's the guy who can't produce in the fourth quarters, with 11 total points in five games, the one with the big name but the puny stats who had to spend part of his off day answering all sorts of questions about what's happened to him.
Are those 44 minutes per game you're playing too much?
"I wouldn't say it's too much. I don't think so," James said. "I don't feel like I'm hurting my team for the time I'm out there. I don't feel like it's too much."
Is something wrong with your shot technique?
"At this point, I don't think technique has anything to do with it," James said. "Shots go in, shots don't go in."
Are you simply feeling the pressure of the Finals stage?
"I think the game of basketball can be pressure," James said. "Playoff basketball is all about pressure, how you can handle it."
James did allow that perhaps he hasn't been as aggressive in the fourth quarter because Dwyane Wade has been playing so well. Wade is averaging 28.4 points - 11 more than James, who also trails Chris Bosh.
"He's one of the best players in the world," Wade said. "So we're not necessarily concerned about him to that extent. I want him to play and feel confident."
James noted that he did have a triple-double last game, but even with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, he said, "I had a bad game in a lot of people's eyes. I understand that."
Nowitzki knows the feeling. He has been the lone big star on a Dallas team that's won 50 games for 11 straight seasons, yet he's known best for his failures: He was tagged as soft - a label many European players receive - and given derisive nicknames such as No-win-ski or No-ring-ski. But he has showed plenty of toughness.