MIAMI _ The Dallas Mavericks seemed all but dead and were drowning in a sea of Miami Heat dunks.
Heck, after Dwyane Wade buried a three-pointer to put the Heat up by 15 points with 7:14 remaining, LeBron James and Wade were celebrating right in front of the Mavs’ bench. It was if they were rubbing it in the Mavs’ faces.
And the Mavs watched. And they got mad. And they went to work.
In one of the more stunning reversals of fortunes in Mavs and NBA Finals history, Dallas ended Thursday’s game on an unbelievable 22-5 run to shock the Heat, 95-93, at AmericanAirlinesArena.
Dallas’ improbable victory left this best-of-seven series tied 1-1 as the Mavs got the split they wanted and has wrestled home court advantage away from Miami.
Game 3 is Sunday at 7 p.m. at American Airlines Center, and Games 4 and 5 are also in Dallas on Tuesday and June 9, respectively.
As the Mavs put themselves in position to win this series without ever leaving Dallas again, the picture that’s planted firmly in their minds and helped propelled them to victory was that of Wade and James celebrating right in front of their bench. The Mavs saw it as a sign of disrespect.
“We noticed it,’’ said center Tyson Chandler, who collected 13 points and seven rebounds. “It was definitely frustrating when you’ve got a guy showboating in front of your bench with seven minutes left.
“I think it angered a lot of us. You say the game is not over. I don’t care what they say, the game is not over.’’
In the Mavs’ huddle, coach Rick Carlisle told his team to go out and prove that the game wasn’t over.
And they did.
With Dirk Nowitzki scoring the Mavs’ final nine points – including a spinning left-handed layup with 3.6 seconds left -- Dallas was able to rally and win a game that looked totally lost after that celebration dance James and Wade performed in front of the Mavs’ bench.
“Right at that moment (of the Heat’s celebration) it was a turning point in the game,’’ said guard Jason Terry, who had 16 points and five assists. “Obviously we come out of that timeout and if we don't score, then we're pretty much dead.
“We looked at each guy in the huddle to a man. Me specifically looked at Dirk and said, there’s no way we're going out like this.’’
As it turned out, it was the Heat who went up in flames as the Mavs turned on the afterburners and boldly stole Game 2.
“It’s too much time left in this game,’’ said Terry, who had eight points in the winning rally. “And for us to go out in a blowout‑type fashion with them dunking on us, shooting threes on us, it would have been disheartening.
“We continued to keep faith in ourselves. We went out and grinded it out and got it done.’’
A mind-boggling 20-2 run gave Dallas a 93-90 lead when Nowitzki poured in a wide-open three-pointer with 26.7 seconds left. But that was short-lived when Mario Chalmers nailed a three to tie it at 93-all with 24.5 seconds remaining.
The Mavs called timeout, then worked the clock, and the ball ended up in Nowitzki’s hand.
While overcoming a torn tendon in his left middle finger, Nowitzki wheeled and strutted to the basket and converted a left-handed layup with 3.6 seconds left. The Heat was out of timeouts, and Wade’s desperation three-pointer missed its mark and set off a wild celebration in front of the Mavs’ bench – this time by the Mavs.
“I think in this league you have to play until the end,’’ said Nowitzki, who converted 10 of 22 shots. “You can be down 20, you have to keep plugging.
“You never know what’s going to happen in this league. And we kept on fighting.’’
The outcome was similar to what the Mavs faced earlier in the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the second-round series in Los Angeles, the Mavs trailed the Lakers by 16 points with 10:39 left in the third period and came back and won.
In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavs were behind by 15 points with 4:48 left in the game before rolling up their sleeves and coming away with a victory.
“This is a different game, this is a different series,’’ said Shawn Marion, who had 20 points and eight rebounds. “But we always believed that we could come back regardless of the score.
“The game is over when the final buzzer rings.’’
And when the final buzzer rang Thursday, the Mavs had done something probably not many thought they could do.
Wade scored 36 points and had five dunks, James had 20 points, eight rebounds and three dunks, and Chris Bosh finished with 12 points and eight boards.
Dallas won the rebound battle, 41-30, including an 11-6 edge on offensive rebounds. That helped the Mavs outscore Miami on second-chance points, 15-8, and gave them some confidence down the stretch.
“You can just sense it in us we weren't going to give up, we were going to be resilient,’’ Terry said. “If you look back at the game we turned the ball over giving them so many run‑outs, so many dunks, so many opportunities that it didn't allow us to set our half‑court defense.
“But for seven minutes there in the fourth quarter we really buckled down offensively, we started to take care of the ball, we started to get shots at the basket. And then defensively we stayed in front of them, we gave them one shot at it. That's what kept us in the game.’’
The game was tied 28-28 after the first half, and the Heat used a 9-0 rally to tie the game at 51-all at the half. Miami also had a 13-0 run to go up 88-73 with 7:14 remaining in the game, as overall, the Heat turned 20 Mavs turnovers into 31 points.
But the Mavs did the reverse of what happens when these two teams met in Game 3 of the 2006 Finals. In that game, Dallas led by 13 with 6:30 left before squandering away the lead and the game, and ultimately the series.
“Well, if we lose this game, then we're looking at the exact same situation,’’ Terry said. “We did not. We got the win.
“Each experience, each Finals there's going to be a turning point, there’s going to be a moment, so to speak. And tonight the moment was ours.’’
-- Dwain Price
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