DALLAS _ Jason Terry had been bottled up by LeBron James for most of these NBA Finals.
Not any more.
With Terry scoring eight points during a game-ending 17-4 rally, the Dallas Mavericks moved within one win of securing their first NBA title with Thursday’s 112-103 victory over the Miami Heat.
The Mavs lead the best-of-seven NBA Finals series 3-2. In the previous 26 times the NBA Finals have been deadlocked at 2-2, the Game 5 winner went on to win the championship 19 times.
Game 6 is Sunday at 7 p.m. in Miami, and a seventh game, if necessary, will be played in Miami on Tuesday.
Terry is one of the Mavs’ top scorers, but he had practically been silent in the fourth quarter by the long and athletic James. But as the Mavs became the first team in this series to win two consecutive games, it was Terry who gave them the biggest boost when they needed it the most.
“All season long, ever since I've been a Maverick, I've been the guy in the fourth quarter they depended on to either make plays or make shots,’’ said Terry, who scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting. “So I really relish in that role.
“Regardless of what's going on throughout three quarters of the game, in the fourth quarter I know I'm depended on to come through. Thank God I was able to do that again tonight.’’
Terry’s three-pointer tied the game at 100-all, and another three-pointer over the outstretched arms of James sealed the deal and pushed Dallas ahead 108-101 with 33.3 seconds left.
“The clock was winding down,’’ Terry said. “It's just like being out there on the playground back home in Seattle.
“Emulating your idols in The Finals situation, game on the line. Raise up, knock it down.’’
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with a game-high 29 points. He also had four points down the wire, including a baseline-driving dunk with 2:43 left that gave Dallas the lead for good at 102-100.
When it was all said and done, Nowitzki knew how important it was for the Mavs to win Game 5.
“I mean that was a big win for us, obviously,’’ he said. “We didn't want to go to Miami and give them basically two shots to close us out, so we kept plugging there in the fourth.
“And now we have to go down there and basically approach Sunday's game as Game 7. You don't want to give this great team any hope or anything.’’
In the highest-scoring game of the series – it’s the first time either team has eclipsed the 100-point barrier – the Mavs won their final home game of the season. They also went 2-1 in this 2-3-2 format and put themselves in an excellent position to close this series by simply winning one of two games in Miami.
As far as Terry is concerned, he also chipped in with six assists and kept the Heat off-balanced throughout his 30 minutes on the court.
“He played great,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “During periods where Dirk was out of the game, we were going to him and he was delivering.
“Those are tough stretches of minutes for us because it's just tough when Dirk is out of the game. But it's the total game that we've all been preaching to Jet really since the playoffs began, and tonight he did a terrific job.’’
Also for the Mavs, JJ Barea bulldozed his way for 17 points and five assists in 25 minutes, Tyson Chandler had 13 points and seven boards, and Jason Kidd collected 13 points, six assists and a huge three-pointer that increased the Mavs’ cushion to 105-100 with 1:26 left.
The Mavs shot a sizzling 56.5 percent from the field and were an equally-hot 13-of-19 from three-point range.
“You get hot, you get on a roll and you can have a night like that,’’ Carlisle said. “They don't happen very often.
“The last time we had a shooting night like this was Game 4 against the Lakers.’’
Dwyane Wade, who fought off a left hip contusion, led Miami with 23 points and eight assists. Chris Bosh added 19 points and 10 rebounds, Marion Chalmers tallied 15, and Udonis Haslem added 10 points.
Meanwhile, James had one of the quietest triple-doubles ever as he finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. But he just only 8-of-19 from the field, committed four turnovers, and missed a late jumper with the score tied and a where did-that-come-from three-pointer with Miami down two points with under two minutes remaining.
“D-Wade gave it to me, I had enough room and I shot it,’’ James said of his failed three-pointer. “Shots I’ve made before.
“I just didn’t make it.’’
Dallas jumped to an early 13-6 lead only to see the Heat – on the strength of a buzzer-beating 40-footer by Chalmers – lead 31-30 after the opening period.
The offensive numbers kept registering for both teams as the Mavs assumed a 60-57 lead at the midway point.
A Chandler dunk off a feed from Kidd helped the Dallas lead balloon to 80-71 late in the third quarter. From there, Miami kept inching closer and closer until it used a 9-0 run to open up a 99-95 lead with 4:38 left following a three-pointer by Wade.
All that was left was for the Mavs to continue a trend that has become their calling card in these playoffs. That is, when all appears lost, the Mavs simply roll up their sleeves and go to work.
Now, that hard work has gotten them one win away form a goal that has eluded every team this franchise has put on the floor.
“Well, we've got to just continue to work the process,’’ Carlisle said. “And for us the process is being in a stance, being tied together, being really tight defensively, because they're great players and put unbelievable pressure on you.
“We understand where we're at, but we also understand what got us here. And that is making sure we stay in the moment.’’
As a while, the Mavs are not ordering any championship rings. And they’re certainly not making any plans for a parade.
“I think we're happy with our performance, but there's always room to get better,’’ Kidd said. “So defensively, you know, in that fourth quarter we gave up too many lay‑ups to them, and they took the lead.
“But the big thing is we know it's hard to win on the road. And we have to find a way to win on the road come Sunday and see what happens.’’
For Terry and the Mavs, four wins would be the crown. Not three wins.
“It's the first one to win four,’’ Terry said. “We have our opportunity in Game 6.
“We must go out, play aggressively and take advantage of our opportunity.’’
-- Dwain Price
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