Heat 92, Mavericks 84

Mavericks get burned by Heat

LeBron James pushes past DeShawn Stevenson in the Heat’s victory over the Mavericks in Miami. LeBron James pushes past DeShawn Stevenson in the Heat’s victory over the Mavericks in Miami. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 1, 2011

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MIAMI — There is a pattern developing here. In front of a horde of white-clad fans the Miami Heat simply rely on their brilliant defense and three All-Stars to stave off another worthy but inferior opponent.

Last night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat met the final obstacle in their quest for a title. And like the three previous teams, the Dallas Mavericks left discouraged and befuddled after Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The Heat shot 38.8 percent, got zero points from two starters, and trailed by 8 points early in the second half, and yet they used defense and the heroic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to once again pull away in the final minutes.

James delighted the crowd with a thunderous one-handed dunk for a 3-point play, while Wade added a step back 3-pointer as the Heat prevailed, 92-84, to remain undefeated at home in the postseason.

The Heat toyed with the Mavericks until the midway point of the fourth period and then pulled away with exceptional plays by James, Wade, and Chris Bosh. A 68-66 lead early in the fourth turned into 89-79 at the 1:08 mark with all but 6 of those points scored by the Big Three.

James finished with 24 points on just 16 shots and he single-handedly put Miami ahead late in the third quarter with three 3-pointers. Wade added 22, including 7 in the fourth quarter.

“It’s not as if we’ve created two new players,’’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said of James and Wade. “That’s who they’ve been their entire careers. We had quite a few close games in the regular season where we failed. We had to adjust some things. Every playoff game has been one of these that goes down the stretch. The more times you’re in it, probably the more confident you get.’’

The Heat were effective in frustrating Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 27 points but on 7-for-18 shooting. But the rest of the Mavericks were a combined 17 of 48 from the field. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry scored 3 points in the second half as Dallas made just 11 field goals in the second half.

And as they won the previous three series, Miami used aggressive, energetic defense to force the Mavericks into hurried shots. The Heat were content to allow Nowitzki to shoot, but every one of his shots was contested while the remaining Dallas complements had little to offer in the second half.

The Mavericks bench finished 4 of 22 from the field, including 1 of 8 from former Northeastern standout J.J. Barea.

Terry tallied 12 points in the first and zero in the second. As usual, Miami’s physicality wore down the opponent while their three All-Stars emerged with decisive baskets down the stretch. The recipe is a well known one, but no Miami opponent has been able to stop it.

Not the 76ers, Celtics, nor the Bulls. And despite a defense that held the Heat to sub-40 percent shooting, Dallas had no solutions in the fourth quarter.

“Missing so many shots, that was not us,’’ said Dallas forward Shawn Marion said. “You hold a team to 38 percent and 92 points, usually that’s a victory for us. We’ve just got to freelance. We got into sets and we just lost our rhythm.’’

Dallas began the period with a 7-0 run in the first two minutes to stretch its lead to 51-43 and then scored 6 points over the next seven minutes.

Miami responded to cut the deficit to 2 on several occasions but couldn’t come up with the elusive tying bucket. Dallas’s strategy was to force the Heat into 3-pointers and the ploy worked. At the 3-minute mark of the third quarter, the trio of Mario Chalmers, Mike Bibby, and Wade were a combined 4 of 14 from the 3-point line. Finally, the Heat took the lead on a 3-pointer from James, who drained one from the left of the circle for a 60-59 lead with 1:09 left in the third.

James, who converted 21 3-pointers in the previous three playoff series, made his first 4 from beyond the arc. He then ended the quarter with a fadeaway 26-footer for a 65-61 lead.

“We’ll play better, I’m very certain of that,’’ said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. “This is a very good basketball team we’re playing. They were more opportunistic tonight than we were. Again, I thought there were some critical situations where we needed to somehow come up with one loose ball here or make a shot there that would have made a big difference, but it didn’t happen.’’

Bosh continued his sparkling play from the Eastern Conference finals in the opening game against his hometown team. Bosh gave the Heat an advantage in the paint and opportunities for second-chance points. He led Miami with 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half.

The Heat depended on an unlikely source for offense in backup guard Chalmers, who canned all three of his 3-pointers in the final 5:32 of the second quarter as Miami reduced the Dallas lead to 44-43.

Both teams combined for 37 percent shooting, 12 turnovers and 18 personal fouls, statistical proof that it should be a defensive-dominated series.

The teams combined for 37 percent shooting, 12 turnovers and 18 personal fouls.

The teams spent the first quarter going through the expected feeling-out process since they had not met since December. And the result was one of the uglier quarters in recent playoff memory. The teams were a combined 10 for 35 from the field with six turnovers and 10 missed 3-pointers.

The Heat began with Joel Anthony on Nowitzki and Spoelstra sent another defender at the perennial All-Star when he gathered the ball in the post. He was limited to three shots in just over 9 first-quarter minutes.

To facilitate the double team on Nowitzki, the Heat had to leave Kidd open on the perimeter and he led the club with 6 first-quarter points, draining 2 of his five 3-point attempts while Terry added 6 points off the bench as Dallas plodded to a 17-16 lead.

Miami’s Big Three combined for 15 of the team’s 21 shots and the Dallas defense forced James to shoot with a defender on his hip. Carlisle even threw Barea at James in the post. James scored 8 points on 3-for-6 shooting.

Wade didn’t dispel those rumors that he is playing hurt. He missed four of his five first-quarter shots and tallied just 2 points in the period. He did bounce back, however, with an uncontested 3-pointer later in the second period for a 33-29 Miami lead.

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