By Diego Quezada
After Dirk Nowitzki scored the Dallas Mavericks’ last nine points in the Western Conference champion’s Game 2 win over the Miami Heat, the 2007-08 MVP had a chance to send Game 3 into overtime. Miami held an 88-86 lead with just 4.4 seconds left on the clock.
Jason Kidd passed the ball to Nowitzki, who saw Udonis Haslem – not Chris Bosh – in front of him this time. Nowitzki went to his fall-away jumper, but Haslem exhibited strong defensive instincts when he held his ground and did not jump. The shot bounced off the back iron, and the Heat took a controlling 2-1 series lead over the Mavs. When the two Finals teams split the first two games, the winner of Game 3 is a perfect 11-0 since the NBA moved to a 2-3-2 format.
With the score at 86-86 with 57 seconds remaining, Erik Spoelstra called a timeout. The Heat executed a great play, starting with a Dwyane Wade/LeBron James pick-and-roll. After Wade passed the ball to James, two Mavericks defenders crowded the two-time MVP. James delivered a nice pass to a wide-open Chris Bosh, who knocked down the jumper to give the Heat the lead. Udonis Haslem set a solid screen on Nowitzki to prevent him from closing out to Bosh.
Despite suffering a hit to his eye in the first quarter, Bosh hung in the game and made the biggest basket of his career. He passed up a few open looks early in the game, but showed no hesitation on that last basket. Bosh finished with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 shooting from the foul line.
The entire second half consisted of the two teams matching each other blow-for-blow, making small runs that always resulted in responses from the other team. Wade closed this game for the Heat, making several big shots to keep Miami ahead for much of the fourth quarter. He made a 3 over Kidd to give the Heat a six-point lead with four-and-a-half minutes to go and later made a jumper to make it 86-84. Wade was back in his 2006 NBA Finals form, scoring 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the field, grabbing 11 boards, blocking a shot and committing no turnovers.
The referees called LeBron James for traveling and a double-dribble in the fourth, something that doesn’t happen often. The Mavericks attempted 27 free throws while the Heat just went to the line 15 times. The referees made some questionable calls, but a championship team overcomes bad officiating.
James finished with 17 points and nine assists. He and Wade both came into the game with aggressive attitudes, taking the ball to the rim and not worrying if they didn’t get the foul calls. The 6-foot-8 forward from Akron, Ohio even put seldom-used Mavs reserve Ian Mahinmi on a poster in the first quarter with a vicious throw down.
After finishing several games with the Big Three, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, Spoelstra has used Mario Chalmers in place of Miller for all three of these Finals games. Chalmers answered the bell tonight, scoring 12 points off the bench. He made a half-court shot at the first-quarter buzzer and made another crucial 3 in the fourth quarter to put the Heat up seven. Haslem added six points, four rebounds and some great defense on Nowitzki.
The Heat will try to take a commanding 3-1 lead in Game 4 Tuesday at 9 p.m.
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