Mavericks finally have their moment


MIAMI – Emotions swelled and hugs were exchanged. Jason Terry flexed his biceps to show off his prescient tattoo of the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Heat left in shock and tears, their season in a searing spotlight over before they imagined it could be.

Alone in the locker room, after all the years and all pain, Dirk Nowitzki awarded himself with a moment alone, as if overcome with an accomplishment he had chased for 13 seasons in the NBA, only getting close enough to be tormented.

With a 105-95 run past the Miami Heat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and boundless expectations, a Dallas team driven by defeat and haunted by its 2006 Finals loss to the Heat rose to its first championship Sunday.

“The whole world was telling us we were the one-and-done boys,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “This team had so much heart.”

Nowitzki, a free agent that chose to stay in Dallas last summer while the Heat stars joined forces, struggled with the shot most of the night, but down the stretch, he hit the Heat with one more surge of scoring, finishing with 21 points and the series MVP.

“I still can’t believe it,” he said after giddily raising the trophy. “We played so long and waited so long for it. This team played so hard. I still can’t believe it.”

Though it might not qualify as a Heat choke, Miami faded badly down the stretch, with Wade and James unable to keep pace with the scoring that came from over the Mavericks rotation.

Nearly a year after the Decision and the wild, championship-level celebration on the same floor the next night, a team that James said was assembled to win many championships — ‘Not four, not five, not six…” – lost a third-consecutive Finals game, and a second on its home floor. As season like few others ended for a Heat team that became captivating, polarizing lightning rods, sometimes scintillating and yet somehow insufficient when they could not get James and Wade to be their best at the same time.

The Mavericks had no difficulty finding scoring all around Nowitzki. Though Nowitzki managed to get a few shots to go down in the first minutes of the second half after a 1 of 12 first half, the Mavericks had little difficulty holding off Miami with the Heat season on the line.

After Jason Terry scored 19 of his 27 points in the first half to keep Dallas in front, the Mavericks rose to the occasion as the Heat stars could not. From Brian Cardinal dishing out hard fouls at the rim to Ian Mahinmi beating the buzzer to end the third quarter, the Mavericks answered the Heat’s one-name superstars with no names.

Even in the fourth quarter, after Dallas went ahead by eight with 9:30 left, prompting Erik Spoelstra to go to an early time out to get James back on the floor, the Mavericks responded. With Wade dribbling off his foot and missing a 3-pointer, and James coming up empty on a jumper, Dallas’ Terry and Barea pushed the lead to it’s largest of the game, 12 points.

The Heat continued to give chase, cutting the lead to seven with nearly six minutes left. But as if he had saved the jumpers he had left, Nowitzki began knocking them down as he could not all night. He finished a drive. He hit from 18 feet. He put in a tough, contested fadeaway over Chris Bosh on the baseline, completing a long, three shot-possession with Dallas holding a 10-point lead with just 2:28 left.

By then, the Heat were powerless to stop the Mavericks’ charge, with Dallas holding off the celebration until the final seconds.

When they did let go, the Mavericks treated it as every bit worth the wait, with Nowitzki letting his emotions fill him with joy, and most of all, satisfaction.

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