Miami had become accustomed to blowing out the Dallas Mavericks ever since the 2011 Finals. Not this time.
It felt like old times on Wednesday between these two teams that share so much history. Still, there was no question in overtime which team is still a contender and which team is struggling through a rebuilding year. The Heat scored the first seven points in the extra period and defeated the Mavericks 119-109 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
LeBron James had another dazzling performance. He finished one assist shy of a triple-double, scoring 32 points to go along with 12 rebounds and nine assists. For the Heat (22-8), it was the team’s second consecutive victory in overtime. James has played 90 minutes in his last two games.
“LeBron was really big and deep and showing his world-class conditioning level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
James missed a well-defended 21-footer at the end of regulation, but Ray Allen quickly broke the 103-103 tie with a three-pointer to begin overtime. James followed with a 17-foot bank shot over Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade blew the game open with a steal-and-dunk to give the Heat a 110-103 lead.
Wade finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Bosh had 17 points, going 7 of 10 from the field, but once again was limited to four rebounds. Allen had 15 points off the bench, going 5 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from three-point range.
“We do have it,” Wade said of an extra level of intensity and focus in tight games. “It’s good to have to be able to go to when we need it.”
A three-pointer by Shane Battier with 1:13 left in overtime started the celebration early. It was Battier who gave the Heat a 103-101 lead with 14.5 seconds left in regulation. Those two clutch shots were his only field goals of the game.
“Execution going down the stretch was very good,” Spoelstra said. “We were missing so many three-pointers in the first half, but … we still had the trust to find Shane for two big ones.”
Battier’s two clutch shots were his only field goals of the game.
“I channeled my Buddhist teachings from college,” Battier said. “I was completely detached. I was so pissed off from missing those other shots. Finally, I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m just going to shoot it. And sometimes that’s what you have to do. I was pretty upset.”
The Mavericks (13-20) remain a shell of its former glory but received an encouraging performance from Nowitzki, who recently returned from knee surgery. Nowitzki, the MVP of the 2011 Finals, had 19 points off the bench in 29 minutes.
Nowitzki signaled his return to relevance with a three-pointer to give the Mavericks a 100-94 lead with 3:36 left. He then tied the game at 103-103 with 3.9 seconds remaining with one of his signature one-legged fade-away jumpers.
Still, Nowitzki showed some signs of rust late in the game. He missed the first of two free throws with 1:13 remaining that could have given Dallas a three-point lead. On the Mavericks’ next possession, Nowitzki was stripped by Wade, who led a fast break that ended with a layup by Allen that cut the Mavericks’ lead to a point with 41.5 seconds left.
“Dwyane came out of nowhere with catlike quickness,” Spoelstra said. “He had an extra step today.”
Wade’s counterpart, Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo, led Dallas with 30 points. He was 4 of 10 from three-point range but had six turnovers. As a team, Dallas as 10 of 28 from distance the Heat was 10 of 26.
LeBron James picked up a pair of awards on Wednesday, one of them a nod to last year and the other meant to honor his current run of excellence.
At halftime, Heat president Pat Riley presented James with a trophy for being named USA Basketball’s Player of the Year. James led Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in the London Games a few months after winning his first NBA championship. Only James and Michael Jordan have won an NBA Title, been named league MVP, Finals MVP and won a gold medal in the same year.
Meanwhile, the NBA named James Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the second month in a row. James, a three-time Player of the Week honoree this season, averaged 27.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.0 steals in December while shooting 55.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.