Game 3 proves Mavs can't rely on comebacks
DALLAS — Maybe the Miami Heat have
some justifiable concerns about struggling to hold on to late leads. But justifiably
concerned is a much better place to be than where the Dallas Mavericks are —
down 2-1 in the NBA Finals.
"It was difficult," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle after the
Mavs' 88-86 loss in Sunday's Game 3 of the NBA Finals, "playing from
behind all the time tonight."
But it wasn't just this night which provides the Heat the upper hand in
the best-of-seven series. The Mavs have habitually entered the fourth quarter this
postseason trailing their opponent, perhaps becoming too reliant on their
ability to recover from 15- and 16-point late-game holes in the process. This
skill served them well with their Game 2 win at Miami. But all of that creates
little margin of error for Dallas, which trailed by 14 points in the second
quarter and by as many as 13 in the third Sunday night. Like Game 2, they
fought back to the end. But unlike Game 2, Dirk Nowitzki’s a game-tying shot in
the final seconds banged off the heel of the rim.
Dirk makes that final shot "nine times out of 10," said
teammate Jason Terry of Nowitzki’s 17-foot One-Legged Euro Lean-Back.
"This was the time he didn't."
Nowitzki scored 34 to get the individual edge over Dwyane Wade and his
29 for Miami. But the focus will be on his miss — and on his turnover on the
previous possession. On a positive note is the Dallas and Shawn Marion are
doing on LeBron James, who insists that "no one man can guard me" but
was nevertheless limited to 17 points Sunday.
After a poor first half, Chris Bosh totaled 7-of-18 shooting, including
what turned out to be the game-winner on a baseline jumper on Miami's last
possession. And Mario Chalmers grossly outplayed his opposite number at backup
point guard, J.J. Barea. Chalmers was the single guy on Miami's bench who did
anything — but the thing he did was make four 3-pointers. And it was one of
those 3s that set the tone for the Mavs’ final run.
After Chalmers hit his final 3-pointer of the game, pushing the Heat to
a 79-72 lead with 7:18 to play, seemingly everyone in the arena — and many across
the country who are familiar with Dallas' resiliency this spring — sensed there
would be another run.
But with that expected run came the unexpected — a lack of crisp
decision-making by the Mavs down the stretch, with turnovers giving Miami the
ball in the middle of the floor and putting them into transition to ultimately
keep the Mavericks just far enough out of reach.
"They are the best in the league at that," said Carlisle of
turning the steal into often-spectacular conversions at the other end.
Nowitzki worked his way to the line and into the score sheet (he scored
all of Dallas’ 12 points over the last 5:36), including a backdoor dunk that
made it 84-all with 2:27 left — that play coming after a stifling Dallas
defensive sequence forced Miami into one of two late-game shot-clock violations
and a bit of a griping match involving LeBron and Wade.
A Terry missed jumper (maybe ill-advised as he tried to shoot over
James) led to Bosh's chance to hit his own baseline shot. Nowitzki said the
Mavs botched their defensive assignment to free Bosh.
A Miami double-team on Dirk forced a turnover — but once again the
Dallas defense controlled James, who missed a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to
play to give Dallas one more shot.
Nowitzki was unable to work inside for a layup the way he did for the as
was the case in Game 2 winner. But he agreed with Terry in that he wound up
with "a good look."
In looking ahead to Game 4, the Mavs would be wise to give a good look
to the past. Since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 scheduling format in 1985, series
had been tied after two games 11 times prior to this series. The team that won
Game 3 won the series in each of the previous 11 times.
The Mavs know about that; it's why Dirk labeled Game 4 a
"must-win." But Carlisle and the Mavs must remain focused on a more
"I don't know the number of times we climbed out of holes,"
Rick said of the commonplace deficits. "But it's just always going to make
the game harder."