And for whatever reason, unless there’s an NBA title at stake, the Miami Heat simply cannot beat the Mavericks.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points, Jason Terry had all of his 19 in the final 11 minutes, and the Mavericks ended Miami’s 12-game winning streak by beating the Heat 98-96 on Monday night.
It was Dallas’ 14th straight regular-season win over the Heat, and the Mavericks were the last team to beat Miami this season, too. Dallas has now snapped six opponent winning streaks of at least five games this season – including a pair of 12-gamers, against San Antonio on Nov. 26 and now against the Heat.
Terry had the biggest blow, a 3-pointer with 1:25 left to put Dallas up 89-85. Miami got within 91-90 on a three-point play by LeBron James with 56 seconds left, before Shawn Marion hit three free throws in the next 37 seconds to extend the margin back to a somewhat-comfortable one for the Mavs.
Terry finished with 19 and Caron Butler scored 13 for Dallas, which won despite giving up a 17-0 run in the first half and a 13-0 run in the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade scored 22 points, while James and Chris Bosh each scored 19 for Miami. By the time Wade hit a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining, James was already tugging off his jersey and making the walk off the floor.
Mario Chalmers had 13 points and James Jones added 10 for Miami. Marion finished with 13 rebounds and Tyson Chandler grabbed 10 for Dallas.
Terry simply took over in the final 12 minutes, shooting 6 of 10 from the field. His teammates shot 3 of 10, Nowitzki going 0 of 5.
Somehow, it was enough.
”Two good teams playing and going back and forth the entire game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”Really, nobody could pull away. … Bottom line is they made bigger plays down the stretch more consistently than we did.”
The first half had about as many story lines as it had minutes.
Dallas came out flying, running out to a 14-2 lead and looking every bit like the team that has dominated Miami since the start of the 2004-05 season – except in the 2006 NBA finals, from which the Heat have a banner swaying with the tiniest bit of illumination over the East baseline.
Miami trailed 23-10 when James and Bosh checked out of the game for the first time. When they returned, Miami led 27-23.
Harkening memories of his MVP run in 2006, Wade led Miami on a 17-0 spurt, personally accounting for the first 15 – scoring nine of them, and setting up 3-pointers by Jones and Chalmers, the last of which put Miami ahead for the first time early in the second quarter.
What Dallas did best was something that teams simply don’t do: Keep James silent.
James played only 12 minutes in the first half – without a point, going to the bench with 6:01 left until intermission with three fouls. Dallas’ zone defense left him completely bottled up, and Nowitzki scored nine points in the second quarter to keep the Mavs in front for much of the period.
A late Miami spurt, fueled perhaps by Mike Miller’s first appearance of the season, gave the Heat a 44-43 lead at the break.
Miller checked in for the first time with 3:52 left in the half, the crowd greeting him with one of its loudest ovations of the season. Miller missed all four of his shots, all from beyond the 3-point arc, but grabbed three rebounds on what’ll go down as one of the most bizarre Heat possessions of the season.
Most NBA possessions last less than 24 seconds, with one or two shots.
The Heat had one trip last 52 seconds – with eight shots.
It all started when Nowitzki missed a 3-pointer and Miller got the defensive rebound for Miami with 2:45 remaining. Miller got two of Miami’s seven offensive rebounds in the next 45 seconds, all before Chalmers, finally, connected on a 3 with 1:53 left for a 42-39 lead.
After Dallas opened the third quarter on a 12-4 run to re-claim a seven-point edge, James got his first points of the night with a 3-pointer – kick-starting a 13-0 Miami run that ended with the league’s two-time reigning MVP connecting again from outside the arc to give Miami a 61-55 lead.
James struck again at the buzzer to end the third, his jumper over Jason Kidd putting the Heat up 68-65 entering the wild final 12 minutes.
Notes: Terry’s total in the fourth quarter topped his output from 19 entire games this season. … Dave Chappelle was in the sellout crowd, along with Heat regulars Dan Marino, Gloria Estefan and Jimmy Buffett. … It was Wade’s 500th regular-season game. … Spoelstra remained one win behind Stan Van Gundy for third on the team’s career list, 112-111.