MIAMI, FLA. You don’t win 57 regular-season games, sweep Phil Jackson into retirement and win five straight road playoff games without having some serious staying power.
The Mavericks showed that on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Western Conference champs found themselves tied at the half of Game 2 in these NBA Finals.
And for most of the second half, it appeared all that Dallas staying power wouldn’t be enough to overcome what the Heat are generating these days.
Instead, the Mavericks pulled off another miracle, rushing back from a 15-point deficit to steal a 95-93 win.
Dirk Nowitzki’s driving layup over Chris Bosh with 3.6 seconds left spelled the difference.
The stylish German 7-footer, playing with a torn tendon on his left middle finger, kept firing from impossible angles.
Shawn Marion, who briefly passed through the Heat locker room during the Great Remake, kept slashing and attacking.
J.J. Barea, the tiny point guard who prepped at Miami Christian, kept darting into the lane to set up his teammates.
Even down 15 with seven minutes to play, the Mavericks kept pushing.
They closed it to four with three minutes left.
They tied on a Nowitzki layup with just under a minute to play. They went ahead on a Nowitzki three.
Even after Mario Chalmers answered with an impossible three-pointer from the corner, the Mavericks weren’t done.
Nowitzki made sure of that.
The series now moves to Dallas, where the Mavericks could seize control by winning Game 3 on Sunday night.
Before this one, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used some interesting phraseology when referring to the Mavericks’ bounceback powers.
“We expect a response from Dallas,” he said.
No mention of “championship response,” as had been the case during the Celtics series two rounds ago, because, well, the Mavs don’t have any rings.
Not just in Dallas, mind you, but everywhere else as well.
Combined, the graying Mavs have 118 seasons of NBA experience without a single championship to show for it.
Oh, they have a couple of future Hall of Famers in Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, at 38 the oldest starting point guard in Finals history.
However, neither man has been crowned yet.
After the amazing events of Thursday night, this might be the year.
Game 2 brought some different looks after both teams failed to crack the 40-percent mark from the field in the opener.
Bosh spent some time guarding Nowitzki after avoiding him completely in the opener.
Kidd tried to guard James — with an emphasis on “tried.”
The teams combined to shoot just over 50 percent through three quarters after Tuesday’s exercise in ugly.
The Mavericks also mostly delivered on coach Rick Carlisle’s pregame promise to fix things after the Heat dominated the offensive glass for 16 rebounds in the opener.
This time the Heat had just one offensive rebound in the first quarter, but it was poster-worthy: LeBron grabbing an errant Mike Bibby three-pointer off the rim and tomahawking it home in one angry motion.
It didn’t help that Bibby, who came in shooting just 25 percent in the playoffs, knocked down four three-pointers.
If Bibby was going to make his share, too, how are the Mavericks — or any team — supposed to compete?
Somehow, the Mavericks found a way.
All of which called to mind the following scene two hours before Thursday’s tip.
As the pregame crowd poured out of the Bayside parking deck, a stroller-pushing father with his wife and three young kids spotted a ticket scalper.
“What are they showing?” Stroller Dad said.
“NBA Finals,” the businessman responded. “Dwyane Wade, LeBron James — the best.”
Stroller Dad shrugged and just kept walking.
Poor guy had no idea.