Heat go on a game-ending 18-3 run from 12 points down to beat the Chicago Bulls and book Mavericks showdown.
|Wade drives a shot as his 22 points helped Miami take the lead in their bid for the NBA crown [GALLO/GETTY]|
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade paced the Miami attack as the big three combined for 65 points and the Heat beat Dallas 92-84 in the opening game of the NBA finals.
James finished with a team-high 24 points, Wade had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Bosh scored 19 points for the Heat, who are a perfect 9-0 at home in the post-season.
Dirk Nowitzki top-scored for the Mavericks but the post-season’s form player could not turn the tide.
“That’s who they have been their entire careers,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of James and Wade.
“Every playoff game for us goes down the stretch. The more time you are in it, the more confident you get.”
After a low-scoring, tightly-contested first half in which the lead changed hands nine times, the Heat’s star trio three seized control in the fourth quarter in front of the sold out crowd of 20,003 at the American Airlines Arena.
Combining Wade with James and Bosh as a triple threat in Miami is paying dividends in their first post-season together.
But it also made villains of the them in some people’s eyes, especially James who spurned his hometown Cleveland to join the Heat.
“I don’t think it really matters what you do, your schematics, who is defending him…it’s uncanny, because of his shooting ability, his skill level. So I don’t really know if we affected him that much”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Dirk Nowitzki
“We got guys who have closed games before but we just had to figure out how to do it together,” James said.
“It is my confidence. I’ve got to be a two way player, get my teammates involved. My shot was working from outside but more important I helped my team win.”
Mavericks veteran Nowitzki scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds but Dallas’ power forward was the first to admit he was far from his best.
While Nowitzki connected on seven-of-18 shots and all 12 of his free throws, the German appeared more subdued than usual.
“I had my opportunities there,” he said. “I had some good drives there in the first half. I’ve just got to finish. I missed a righty lay-up. I missed a lefty lay-up that rolled around.
“I have to keep attacking and take my opportunities when they’re there.”
Nowitzki, who has been with Dallas since 1998, lost his only other shot at the championship in the finals against Miami in 2006.
The Mavericks shot only 37.3 per cent as a team but the Heat were not much better, managing 38.8 per cent.
Miami’s Udonis Haslem has the assignment of guarding Nowitzki and said his job is to “try to make it tough” for the 32-year-old German.
“He’s a great player,” Haslem said. “He’s going to make his shots. You can’t get discouraged. You’ve got to keep going and keep chipping away at it.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he was unsure how to stop Nowitzki, who entered the game with a 28.4 average in the post-season.
Average at least
“I don’t think it really matters what you do, your schematics, who is defending him, he’s going to get his average at least every single game,” he said.
“It’s uncanny, because of his shooting ability, his skill level. So I don’t really know if we affected him that much.”
Several Heat players harassed Nowitzki each time he touched the ball, a familiar sight for the 10-time All-Star.
“Every team we’ve played is very aggressive on him,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle added.
“He’s a unique player. He’s got to be denied the ball virtually everywhere on the floor.
“Haslem is a guy that has the wherewithal to do that. And they’re going to play him aggressively. And we know that.
“We just got to keep playing our game. We have to keep getting him the ball and giving him opportunities to create.”
Game two is on Thursday in Miami.