DALLAS _ This time the Dallas Mavericks dug themselves a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
This time there was no coming all the way back and winning a game after falling behind by 10 or more points. The Mavs had successfully performed that trick four times during this year’s playoffs.
A fifth time was met with a disappointing 88-86 loss Sunday to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Heat, who regained home court advantage, lead this best-of-seven series, 2-1.
Game 4 is Tuesday at 8 p.m. back at American Airlines Center.
Dallas scrambled back from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to tie the game for the last time at 86-all on a basket by Dirk Nowitzki with 1:40 remaining. But a missed shot by Jason Terry, a turnover by Nowitzki and a game-winning 16-footer by Dallas native Chris Bosh with 39.6 seconds remaining put the Mavs back in a position where they’ll have to win another game in Miami in order to win this series.
“It’s seven games,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “Any notion that it was going to be easy would have been foolhardy by us or anybody else.’’
Nowitzki could have sent the game into overtime after the Mavs got the ball at midcourt with 4.4 seconds remaining. But his 18-footer clanked off the back of the rim and the Heat celebrated a victory which gave them control of this series.
“I thought we had opportunities,’’ said Nowitzki, who collected 34 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. “First if all we can’t always fall down behind.
“Obviously it takes a lot of energy for us to fight back. I thought we’re always reacting.’’
And because the Mavs were always reacting, they must find a way to win three of the next four games to win their first NBA title. Anything short of that would be a major disappointment.
That’s why it was imperative for the Mavs to build off last Thursday’s 95-93 victory in Game 2 – when they rallied from a 15-point deficit with 7:14 left in the game to steal a contest they didn’t have any business winning.
But the Mavs turned the ball over 14 times which led to 19 points for the Heat. They also only shot 40 percent from the field while missing 13 of their 21 three-pointers.
It was a nightmare of a game for the Mavs, who saw Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh combine for 64 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists and eight dunks.
“They made shots down the stretch,’’ said Jason Kidd, who had nine points, 10 assists, six rebounds and four turnovers. “Coming down the stretch you have to make plays against this team if you want to beat them.
“Make or missed shots, you can’t just give these guys easy layups on the other end. That’s what they’re doing to us right now.’’
The Mavs missed backup center Brendan Haywood, who sat out because of a hip flexor he suffered in Game 2. Haywood’s replacement, third-year veteran Ian Mahinmi, struggled with two points, one rebound and five fouls in eight minutes of action.
“Not having Haywood made it tougher for us because he’s a regular rotation guy,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought Mahinmi’s energy was good – at times maybe a little too energetic – but that was to be expected.
“We’ll see how Brendan is for Game 4, and that’s a day-and-a-half away now.’’
Wade had 29 points and 11 boards, Bosh finished with 18 points, and James scored 17 and distributed nine assists.
The Mavs were ineffective early on as they fell behind 29-22 after the first period. Dallas outscored Miami in each of the last three quarters.
But the damage was done when they kept reaching back and expending so much energy in the middle of each of those quarters just to stay afloat.
“It was disappointing to get off to the start that we did in the first and third quarters,’’ said Jason Terry, who finished with 15 points. “They really came out and were more aggressive on both ends of the floor.
“That’s what got them the lead, and we were playing from behind. You can’t continue to play from behind in the NBA Finals.’’
Since the Mavs had already beaten some long odds four times previously in these playoffs, they thought they could do it again.
“I believe we were going to do it,’’ Terry said. “The ball in our hands with four seconds to go, we’re either going to win or we’re going to overtime.
“That’s the way I feel. We got the shot we wanted, it just didn’t go in’’.
Shawn Marion held his own defensively against James, who was just 6-of-14 form the field. But Marion struggled himself offensively and tallied only 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
“Any time you play in a close game like this, you feel like you had an opportunity to win,’’ said center Tyson Chandler, who finished with five points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. “So it was a lost opportunity.
“They do a good job of forcing a lot of turnovers. They’re a very athletic group.’’
When Wade wasn’t burying jumpers or flying on for tomahawk dunks, he was whistling pass a defender on the baseline for a layup. It had to be a demoralizing sight for the Mavs.
“You can’t give this team so many fast break points, and the only way they’re getting fast break points is off of our turnovers,’’ Chandler said. “We’re doing a good job with half court defense.
“We’re giving them running starts. We’re giving them 11-point leads, 15-point leads. Them getting out on the break, we have to slow that down.’’
If the Mavs can’t “slow that down,’’ this series may end Thursday night in Dallas.
“Our energy level was good for the most part,’’ Terry said. “It’s the turnovers and the opportunities we’ve given them in transition for them to get out and run and dunk on us.
“When we set our half court defense, they struggle to score. That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do for 48 minutes. We haven’t done that, and that’s why we’re looking at a 2-1 deficit right now.’’
-- Dwain Price
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