After two days of intense film study and painstaking analysis of
the final 14 possessions in their end-of-game collapse in Game 2 of
the NBA finals, the Miami Heat finally came up with the reason
It wasn’t a highly technical reason.
”We let one go,” Dwyane Wade said.
And entering Game 3 of the NBA finals, the Heat will try to let
Game 2 go again. The way Miami sees it, carrying over the stigma of
that loss – one of the worst late-game collapses in finals history
– would only doom them again Sunday night when the scene shifts to
steamy Dallas for the first of three games on the Mavericks’ home
Dallas rallied from 15 points down in the final 7 minutes to
beat Miami in Game 2, outscoring the Heat 22-5 to finish the game
and knot the series. Thanks to that win, Mavs’ fans still may see
another NBA championship celebration, only this time, by the
Western Conference champions and not a Heat team that hoisted a
trophy at Dallas after the 2006 finals.
”In the playoffs, it’s a win or a loss. However it comes by,
it’s a win or a loss,” Heat forward LeBron James said. ”We’ve
moved on from Game 2, seen the mistakes we’ve made. Seen some of
the great things we’ve done as well. It’s a win or loss. The series
is tied 1-1. We never get too high or too low in the series. We
haven’t gotten too high or low in the regular season as well.”
Game 3 is crucial for so many obvious reasons, like the Heat
wanting not to deal with another stumble and the Mavericks wanting
to keep momentum rolling and retain home-court advantage.
Statistically, there’s proof that it’s a Texas-sized swing game as
well. Since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format for the finals, teams
have now split the first two games 12 times. In the previous 11,
the winner of Game 3 has always gone on to win the
Big whoop, both teams said in response to that one.
”We just can’t let up. We’re not good enough to just relax,”
said Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas’ late-game
charge in Game 2 at Miami. ”We need to play with an edge at all
times in every game. So hopefully (Sunday), with the crowd behind
us, we’re going to have a great game. Just looking at this one
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was more succinct.
”I think both teams have bucked a lot of those numbers and odds
up to this point already,” he said. ”We’re a non-traditional
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the Heat were so loose
Players arrived at the arena around noon, most with headphones
on as they walked off the bus, bobbing heads in time with the music
and nodding to people as they walked by. James and Wade were
chatting and laughing, a few players checked out the turf that
would host an Arena Football League game later Saturday night and
some stretched their arms to tap the goalposts as they walked
across the floor where a basketball court will be Sunday.
The mood couldn’t have been more different from when they walked
off the floor in Miami on Thursday, stunned by what just
”We’re coming home, but we know that’s no guarantee of
anything,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ”We’ve lost at
home this year in the playoffs. Now Miami has as well. The venue
has significance, but it never guarantees anyone anything. … The
mistake that we’re not going to make is feel like coming home is
going to be something that helps get us over the hump. It’s not
going to be like that. Both these teams are too good of road
Including the playoffs, the Mavericks have won 34 road games
this season, tops in the NBA. Miami ranks second with 32.
The Heat also haven’t lost consecutive games since early March,
winning after all six of their most recent losses by an average of
11.7 points. And in their last 24 games away from home, they’re
All good signs for Miami now, given that if it doesn’t win one
of the next three in Dallas, the season will end here.
”We’ve been a pretty resilient bunch all year,” Heat forward
Udonis Haslem said. ”We’ve bounced back every time we’ve been
knocked down. I’m expecting the same thing with this
There’s stats the Mavs can point to as ones they like as well,
including one that seems particularly significant: Miami rarely
wins in Dallas, period.
Dallas has won 12 of the last 14 meetings between the teams at
home, six of those coming in single-digit games. Of course, one of
those two exceptions was the last time the Mavericks hosted a
finals game, June 20, 2006, when Jason Terry missed a potentially
game-tying 3-pointer, Wade got the rebound, threw the ball skyward
as time expired and Miami prevailed 95-92.
”We’re looking at Game 3. That’s the only thing on our mind
right now,” Terry said. ”We’re at home. What does that mean? It
means our building is going to be crazy. We’re going to play with a
lot of energy. Some of those shots we’re missing better go down.
That’s what home court is all about.”
The series is even.
So, too, was the level of confidence both sides were showing
Come late Sunday night, neither of those statements will keep
”I know I’m excited for the game tomorrow,” James said before
Miami’s workout session on Saturday. ”It hurt. We had time to let
it hurt us as much as it could yesterday after the game. But today
is a new day. And we’re back and focused. We’re a confident bunch.
Me personally, I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this
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