Dallas shocks Heat
MIAMI — Those who despise how the Miami Heat were assembled, the runway-style introduction after LeBron James’s decision, the confidence bordering on arrogance, and their championship-like celebration after disposing the Celtics are snickering after Miami’s historic collapse last night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Partying like it was a three games to none series lead, James and Dwyane Wade showboated after Wade’s 3-pointer directly in front of the Mavericks bench extended Miami’s lead to 15 points with 7:14 left. The Heat obviously forgot that the Dallas Mavericks are perhaps at their best when the boot is on their neck.
Behind brilliant play from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks stunned not only the sellout crowd, but millions of observers with a game-ending 22-5 run for a 95-93 victory, tying the NBA Finals at one game apiece. The rally was similar to Dallas’s Game 4 win over Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, a game they trailed by 15 with less than five minutes to play.
“We told ourselves there’s no way we’re going out like this,’’ said Mavericks guard Jason Terry, who scored 8 points in the final run. “And for us to go out in a blowout-type fashion with them dunking on us, shooting threes on us, it would have been disheartening. Each experience, each Finals there’s going to be a turning point. There’s going to be a moment, so to speak. And tonight the moment was ours.’’
The Mavericks methodically erased the Heat’s big lead, and Nowitzki gave them a 93-90 lead with an open 3-pointer with 26.7 seconds left. And to counter the Heat’s display of braggadocio, Nowitzki raised his hand toward the Miami crowd after each down-the-stretch basket.
“I’m so proud of the team, being down 15,’’ Nowitzki said. “We finally got some stops. Our defense got us into the running game. In this league, you have to play until the end, especially the Finals. And we got some lucky bounces there. That was definitely a little hole we got ourselves in, but we kept believing, kept playing off each other, and that was big.’’
After the Nowitzki go-ahead 3-pointer, Dallas left Miami’s Mario Chalmers open for an uncontested 3-pointer just 2.2 seconds later, leaving the Mavericks with a full shot clock for Nowitzki to go to work.
Nowitzki, who struggled most of the evening, took Chris Bosh one-on-one for a streaking lefthanded layup with 3.6 left, and the disheveled Heat, with no timeouts, were relegated to a Wade 30-footer that missed, turning the series in Dallas’s favor. The Mavericks now have home-court advantage for three consecutive games beginning Sunday.
The Mavericks’ rally was sparked by a moment of glee by the Heat. After Wade drained the 3-pointer that extended the lead to 88-73, he kept his right hand in the air for several moments and then raised his left arm, appearing to proclaim victory. As Dallas called timeout, Wade walked past the Mavericks bench, then did a synchronized handshake with James, angering some Dallas players.
“First of all, every team in the league when they go on a run, they do something,’’ Wade said. “It’s part of the game. A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles. There was no celebration. It was a shot made going into a timeout. Every team does something. Don’t make nothing out of that celebration, like you guys [media] did in the Boston series. It was just being excited in the moment.’’
Something obviously excited the Mavericks because they scored 22 points in the final 6:19, beginning what appeared to be a meaningless Terry jump shot. Terry then followed with a layup, prompting a Miami timeout. The Mavericks then scored 6 points in a row before James hit two free throws with 4:10 left for a 90-81 Miami lead. The Heat didn’t score again for 3 minutes and 46 seconds.
“Offensively, we just weren’t in a good rhythm,’’ said James, who scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting. “We’re up 15, if they go on a 12-0 run for the rest of the game, if we don’t score another basket, we still win by 3. Defensively, we have to be more in tune and not allow a great team to get as many looks as they did down the stretch.’’
Nowitzki finished with 24 points, 9 in the fourth quarter. Wade led Miami with 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting but the Heat scored just 5 points in the final seven minutes, none by Wade.
“No question, that’s about as tough a fourth quarter as you can have,’’ Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “When it started to slide, it just kept going. But we’ve been a very resilient group all season long. We’ve been tested. We’re not happy about this. You have to give them credit. They’re a great shot-making team.’’
After being down, 51-42, late in the second quarter, the Heat turned up the defensive tempo and went on a 29-10 run over the next 12 minutes for a 10-point lead. Celtics coach Doc Rivers often said turnovers against Miami were the most costly because the Heat were relentless on the fastbreak.
Dallas began the third quarter with three turnovers in the first two minutes resulting in three Miami dunks, including a reverse spinning jam by Wade for a 55-52 lead. Jason Kidd, denying Father Time all season, began to look his age (38) in Game 2, committing unforced turnovers that resulted in those fast-break points.
Mike Bibby’s fourth 3-pointer of the game keyed a 7-0 Miami run for a 71-61 lead. Bibby, criticized because of his lack of production, enjoyed his best game of the postseason and it opened up the floor for James and Wade.
For example, James dribbled the ball near the 3-point line and was pursued by Shawn Marion, prompting James to dart for the basket for a thunderous dunk and a 75-69 lead with 18.9 seconds left in the third quarter. The Mavericks avoided an all-out Miami barrage and cut the lead to 4, and they were fortunate to be so close.
“Just hang in, let’s get some stops, let’s give ourselves a chance,’’ Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said when asked about his team’s ability to stay close. “We really hadn’t put any pressure on them at all in two games to speak of. It’s hard because they put you in a lot of tough situations. They have a lot of breath-taking ability out there on the court.’’ Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.