By Diego Quezada
Throughout the regular season, several critics said that the Miami Heat’s inability to win close games would lead to their demise in the playoffs. After seeing Miami beat the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, they went silent. They will surely be back now.
The Heat took a 96-95 advantage on a Udonis Haslem dunk with five minutes and 16 seconds left to go in the game. Dwyane Wade made a 3 to increase the lead, but Miami struggled to find any sort of offense the rest of the way. Dirk Nowitzki’s dunk gave Dallas a two-point edge, and LeBron James was called for an offensive charge foul on the other end of the floor. James settled for a 3-pointer on the Heat’s next possession, and Jason Kidd hit a wide-open 3 moments later to give the Mavericks some breathing room. The Mavericks won in a 112-103 decision, taking a 3-2 series lead.
The two-time MVP finished with a triple-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He only had two points in the fourth quarter, but did a good job of finding open players. James recorded four assists in the final stanza of play, frequently finding teammates for layups. Erik Spoelstra may not have bought into the theory that James’ supposed shrinkage in the fourth quarter was due to him logging heavy minutes, and played him nearly 46 minutes.
Then again, Spoelstra may not have had a choice. Wade suffered a hip injury on a drive to the basket in the first quarter and went into the locker-room shortly thereafter. The 2006 NBA Finals MVP returned but stayed in the locker-room for the start of the second half. Despite the injury, Wade was effective, scoring 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 10-of-12 shooting from the foul line to go along with eight assists.
Chris Bosh had a solid game, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds. The Three Amigos each committed four turnovers, though, and Bosh missed a free throw late in the fourth quarter.
Scoring was not a problem for either team, and the Heat received help from their bench. Mario Chalmers scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, connecting on another buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the first quarter. Haslem, who turned 31 Thursday, added 10 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. Mike Miller made two 3s very early in the third quarter subbing in for Wade and finished with nine points.
Spoelstra can point to a lot as to why the Heat lost this crucial Game 5. Miami did not defend the pick-and-roll well, and Tyson Chandler got to the rim for several dunks. J.J. Barea was a menace for the Heat, creating offense with his penetration and even draining four 3s. But the Heat had fourth-quarter leads in each of these three losses and blew them all.
With that being said, Miami stole home-court advantage back in Game 3. All this team has to do is win two home games. If this “band of brothers” can’t do that, they don’t deserve to be champions.
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