Dwyane Wade, playing his best game of the playoffs, hit a contested three-pointer from the corner to give the Miami Heat an 88-73 lead over the Dallas Mavericks with 7:13 remaining in Game Two of the NBA Finals. The shot gave Wade 36 points on the game as the Mavericks called a timeout, apparently beaten.
They weren't. In the final seven minutes of the game Dallas outscored Miami 22-5 to escape with a thrilling 95-93 victory to even the series at 1-1. It was Miami's first home loss after 10 wins in this season's playoffs.
So what happened?
Dallas stopped turning the ball over. They had many unforced turnovers throughout the game, mainly on lazy passes or trying to pass into the middle of the Heat defense. The Mavericks turned the ball over 18 times in the game but only once in the last seven minutes. Since they didn't turn the ball over Miami could not get any transition baskets and had to rely on their half-court offense.
Miami started running their offense as if they already had the game won. They continually ran the shot clock down and settled for long jumpers. Seven of their last eleven shots were three-pointers, many were low percentage shots taken at the end of the shot clock. Three other shots were 15 feet or longer. Dallas defended very well, but the Heat did not take the ball to the basket in the most important part of the game.
Dirk Nowitzki woke up. Nowitzki was not shooting well, at one point he was 5-for-15, and did not appear to be playing aggressively. Then he scored the last nine points of the game for Dallas. His layup with 57 seconds left tied the game at 90. Then after a missed three-pointer from Wade, Nowitzki hit a three with 26 seconds left to give the Mavericks a three-point lead. After Mario Chalmers hit a wide open three from the corner (Jason Terry, where were you?) to tie the game at 93, Nowitzki won it. Rather than settling for a jumper, Dirk made a nice left-handed driving layup with 3.6 seconds left to put the Mavericks up 95-93. A desperation Wade three bounced off the back rim and Dallas has their improbable win.
Dallas received solid contributions from Shawn Marion (20 points), Jason Terry (16) and Tyson Chandler (13 points, 7 rebounds). While Dallas didn't handle the ball well most of the game, they did turn around their rebounding effort. They out-rebounded the Heat 41-30 including 11-6 on the offensive boards. If they continue that kind of effort they will be in every game.
Miami needs to win at least one game in Dallas to head the series back to Miami for the potential final two games. It looks like we have what most wanted, a hotly contested series.