Thursday, June 2, 2011

Miami Heat blows 15-point lead as Dallas Mavericks tie series

The Heat were primed to head to Dallas with a commanding 2-0 Finals lead, but the Mavs rallied to tie the series and seize momentum.

Miami Heat fans get into the "White Hot" spirit outside AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami before the start of Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Miami Herald Staff
Miami Heat fans cheer before Game 2 of NBA Finals

NBA Finals Game 2: Heat vs. Mavericks | Thu., June 2, 2011

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By Joseph Goodman

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban lingered on the court for 10 minutes just to cherish the moment.

He high-fived Mavericks fans. He smiled. He said things like “Whoa!” and “Wow!” over and over again to friends and to himself.

Like everyone else on Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, Cuban was still trying to wrap his head around what happened. Unlike most everyone else, Cuban’s state of disbelief was laced with euphoria.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum was Heat forward Chris Bosh. When asked to explain how the Heat’s lead evaporated so fantastically on Thursday, ending in a 95-93 loss, Bosh simply said, “I don’t really know what happened.”

Well, here’s what happened. The Heat blew it.

Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki spun past Bosh in the final seconds of Game 2 of the NBA Finals and banked in a layup to give the Mavericks a dramatic victory. Nowitzki’s heroics capped an unlikely comeback that tied this best-of-7 series at 1-1 and sent it to Dallas with momentum suddenly favoring the Mavericks.

Entering the NBA Finals, it seemed nothing could top the craziness that was the Heat’s comeback in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Then Thursday happened. The Heat led by 15 points with seven minutes left before the Mavericks reeled off a 17-2 run to tie the score at 90 with 57 second to play.

Nowitzki’s three-pointer gave the Mavs a 93-90 lead with 26 seconds to go before Heat reserve Mario Chalmers tied it with a three-pointer from the corner. That set the stage for Nowitzki’s final drive of the game.

“I got caught up in trying to stop his drive and that’s what he wanted,” Bosh said. “For a split second I played bad defense and it cost us two points.”

Chalmers’ three-pointer dropped with 24.5 seconds to play and the Mavericks called timeout to draw up its final play. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle actually called two plays during the timeout, knowing that the Heat had a foul to give.

But the Heat never fouled and Nowitzki caught Bosh out of position. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony guarded Nowitzki.

“I actually drove a little earlier knowing they had a foul to give and the foul never came," Nowitzki said.

Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “We didn’t use the foul. Obviously, it looks like right now you could second-guess that, but we didn’t take it.”

Dwyane Wade missed a desperation 28-footer at the buzzer to win it. Playing with a torn ligament in his left middle finger, Nowitzki scored 24 points on 10-of-22 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds.

“I played with [Larry] Bird for three years when he was the best player in the world,” Carlisle said. “Guys like that don’t feel pain right now.”

Poor shot selection by the Heat helped Dallas inch its way back into the game. The Heat missed four three-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the game, including two in a row by LeBron James with the Heat clinging to a two-point lead.

“Offensively that’s so uncharacteristic for us — at the end of the game to not be able to execute and move the ball and find an open shot,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our offensive was inefficient enough to spark them and give them some easy baskets.”

The Heat forced 20 turnovers on Thursday and its 31 points off turnovers set a postseason record. Miami’s defense was at its maniacal best to begin the fourth quarter. Whirling, swirling, blocking, stealing — the Heat held the Mavericks to 1-of-9 shooting with six turnovers to begin the final period.

The fourth-quarter blitz — a 13-2 run for the Heat — put Miami ahead by 15 points with 7:15 to play. Just when it appeared the Heat had firm control of the game and the series, Dallas responded with a,to continue:

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