Chris Bosh sank the go-ahead jumper with 39.6 seconds left and Miami finally managed to contain Dirk Nowitzki in the closing seconds as the Heat held on for an 88-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday for a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals.
“This is a total win,” said Dwayne Wade, who led Miami with 29 points and 11 rebounds. “You want to win the game on the defensive end of the floor and we got a stop.” Recent history suggests this was a huge win for the Heat. The Game 3 winner in tied finals series has gone on to win the championship all 11 times since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985. The Heat are headed into Game 4 today with a chance to do what they did in 2006: win it all on Dallas’ floor. They’ll need to win that game and the next, on Thursday.
“I feel like we did nothing but get home-court advantage back,” Wade said. “But the next game is a big game. We have to bring our hard hats, understanding it’s going to be tougher to win that game than it was to win this one. I believe in this team. If anyone can do it, I believe we can.” The Hea, who blew a 15-point lead in the last quarter of Game 2, and nearly did it again on Sunday, coughing up a 14-point lead.
The Heat led 81-74 with 6:31 left. Miami players knew the Mavericks’ comeback bid would be in Nowitzki’s hands, but they still couldn’t stop the German, who scored 12 straight Dallas points -- six free throws, a layup, a dunk and a tough jumper -- to make it 86-86. Miami went back in front when Bosh sank a clutch jumper from the baseline. It was even more impressive considering his left eyelid was swollen because of an accidental poke in the first quarter, and he’d been misfiring all series, even when his vision was good. “I don’t care if he missed 15 in a row,” James said. “He was wide open and that’s his sweet spot. ... It’s the trust we have in each other’s ability, no matter what the point of the game is at.” The Mavericks of course went back to Nowitzki on its last two chances. Right after Bosh scored, Nowitzki wanted to take a shot near the foul line but was double teamed and his attempted pass went out of bounds.
After the final timeout, Dallas had 4.4 seconds left to go for the tie or win. The inbounds pass went to Nowitzki and he was alone against Udonis Haslem just above the foul line. Haslem walked the fine line between disrupting the shot while avoiding a foul, and the German’s shot bounced off the rim. “He’s a great player, 7 feet, so he’s going to shoot over me,” Haslem said. “I’ve got to make it tough on him.” When the buzzer went off, Haslem screamed in delight as the Dallas crowd groaned. “Emotional game, fought back, and to fall short at the end is tough,” said Nowitzki who scored 34 points. “But they need two more. Hopefully we can play a better all-around game and finally get some shots to go down.”