Dallas, TX (Sports Network) – The biggest shot of Game 3 came from a different big man.
Chris Bosh buried the go-ahead jumper with 39.6 seconds left Sunday, and the Miami Heat survived another late shot from Dirk Nowitzki to beat Dallas, 88-86, and take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals.
After Dwyane Wade had scored seven straight points for the Heat, Bosh worked his way into a wide-open position on the low left side to set up his shot.
Guarded closely, LeBron James gave the ball up, settling for the go-ahead assist instead of the go-ahead points.
“It was the right play. We’ve been making the right plays,” said Bosh. “We trust each other. This is as big as it gets and when you can trust someone like that, I think it’s great.”
“I saw C.B. wide-open,” said James. “I don’t care if he’s missed 15 (shots) in a row. That’s his sweet spot.”
Following a timeout, Nowitzki got the inbounds pass above the three-point arc and dribbled Udonis Haslem down to the foul line, stepping back for a fadeaway that bounced high off the rim as time expired.
“We found ways to make plays on both ends of the court, to grind this game out,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
The Heat rebounded from a demoralizing loss in Game 2, when Nowitzki scored his team’s final nine points to lead the Mavericks back from a 15-point deficit in the final six-plus minutes, making the winning layup with his injured left hand in the final seconds.
“You can’t lose a game like that and come and lose Game 3,” said Wade. “And we made enough plays to win the ballgame.”
Still playing with a small splint on his left middle finger, Nowitzki poured in 34 points Sunday, including 12 in a row to end the game as the Mavs continued to look for their 7-foot jump shooter on the offensive side.
“Dirk is doing his part,” said Mavs guard Jason Kidd, “but everybody has to pitch in.”
Nowitzki hit a 13-foot fadeaway floater over Haslem to tie the game at 86-86. His final missed shot was his 21st of the game. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“We’d like to make it easier on him,” said Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, who played Nowitzki nearly 42 minutes. “But tonight was tough. Tonight was not one of those nights.”
Wade scored 29 points to lead the Heat, while Bosh added 18 and James scored 17. Miami shot 43.6 percent and won despite being outrebounded 42-36, including a 12-9 deficit on the offensive glass. Wade also led the Heat in rebounds with 11.
Jason Terry had 15 points off the bench for Dallas, but scored just five after halftime. Shawn Marion chipped in 10 points, while Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler pulled down 11 rebounds apiece. Kidd had 10 assists and nine points in the loss.
The Mavs went on a 17-3 run in the third quarter, taking a 59-58 lead on Terry’s 17-footer. But James and Mario Chalmers hit back-to-back threes to stop the bleeding and the Heat carried a 67-64 lead into the fourth.
Among Nowitzki’s 12 straight points was a backdoor dunk after Kidd found him near the baseline with a good pass. Wade hit a 20-footer at the other end for the last of his seven straight points, making it 86-84 and setting up Nowitzki’s game-tying floater.
“This series is turning out to be a series of endurance,” said Spoelstra.
Game 4 is Tuesday in Dallas — and if history is any indicator, the Mavs may have played themselves into trouble.
Since the NBA went to a 2-3-2 series format, the winner of Game 3 after a split in the first two games has gone on to win the title all 11 times.
The Mavs won every quarter except the first Sunday in a game that was more back-and-forth than a metronome.
About that first quarter: Chalmers buried a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer to give Miami a 29-22 lead, throwing up the shot just a couple steps past midcourt.
Replays showed Chalmers’ foot on the halfcourt line around the time he received the pass, a possible backcourt violation.
“That’s a great play for them,” said Carlisle, “and it’s a tough one for us.”
The series is a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, when Wade and the Heat beat Nowitzki’s Mavericks in six games after falling behind 0-2 in the series. It was the only other time either franchise made the Finals.
Dallas played without backup center Brendan Haywood, who was ruled out because of the right hip flexor injury he sustained in Game 2. Carlisle stressed that it would be important for Chandler, the starting center, to stay out of foul trouble with Haywood sidelined. Chandler finished with just two personal fouls, both in the second half.
Both teams endured long runs in the game. The Heat used a 12-0 run in the second quarter to snap a tie before the Mavs countered with seven straight points. Wade scored the next four points on a layup and dunk and the Heat built their lead to a game-high 14 on a pair of James free throws with 3:03 left in the first half.
Dallas countered with an 11-2 run to end the half trailing 47-42, capped by a Kidd free throw. Kidd pump-faked Wade into the air near the three-point line on the left side, and Wade came down on Kidd’s shoulder before tumbling into the seats.
“We’re always reacting. Obviously, it takes a lot of energy for us to fight back,” said Nowitzki. “We have to be a little sharper at the beginning and not let them get their rhythm.”