Heat fade in 4th, lose home-court edge

Associated Press

MIAMI — From up by 15 points with 7 minutes left, to losing home-court advantage in the NBA finals.

In a season of challenges for the Miami Heat, here comes the biggest task — recovering after blowing a chance to take a two-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks.

Ahead 88-73 after Dwyane Wade made a 3-pointer with 7:14 left, Miami had the home fans roaring. Dirk Nowitzki’s game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds remaining left them silenced, and now all Dallas needs to do to win the NBA title is win three games on its home court, starting with Game 3 on Sunday night.

Final score: Mavs 95, Heat 93, and the Heat left in sheer disbelief. After that 3-pointer by Wade, Dallas closed the game on a 22-5 run.

Struggling to win close games was one of Miami’s biggest challenges all season. The Heat went 5-14 in games decided by five points or less in the regular season, but in the playoffs, fourth-quarter closeouts had become one of Miami’s calling cards.

The Heat had outscored teams in the fourth quarter of their last five playoff games.

Not on Thursday: Dallas outscored Miami 24-18 in the last 12 minutes, which was bad enough. How the Mavericks did it made it seem even worse for the Heat, who missed 10 of their last 11 shots.

That’s right, the Heat shot 53 percent in the first 41 minutes, and 9 percent the rest of the way. Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer with 25 seconds left tied the game, but Nowitzki drove down the lane for the winner on Dallas’ final possession.

Wade tried a desperation 3-pointer at the end, bouncing away as he tumbled to the court, one of his rare missteps in a night where he finished with 36 points.

It’s the 12th time since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 finals format that teams split the opening two games. Teams holding home-court advantage recovered to win eight of the previous 11 series, including last year when the Lakers topped the Celtics in seven games.

Leave a Reply