Dallas Dwyane Wade kept soaring and scoring, doing everything he could to get the Miami Heat a crucial win toward an NBA title.
Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem provided the final push to seal the key victory.
Bosh made a 16-foot, go-ahead jumper from the baseline with 39.6 seconds left and Haslem pestered Dirk Nowitzki the rest of the way as the Heat held on for an 88-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night for a 2-1 lead in the NBA finals.
“This is a total win,” said Wade, who led Miami with 29 points and 11 rebounds. “You want to win the game on the defensive end of the floor and we got a stop.”
Recent history says this was a huge win for the Heat. The Game 3 winner in a tied finals has won the championship all 11 times since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985.
The Heat go into Game 4 on Tuesday night with a chance to do what they did in 2006: win it all on Dallas’ floor. They’ll need to win that game and the next, on Thursday night.
With all its star power, many expected Miami to be planning a victory parade by now, especially after a solid victory in Game 1. But the Heat blew a 15-point lead in the last quarter of Game 2, and nearly did it again this time, coughing up a 14-point lead.
Miami recovered to lead, 81-74, with 6:31 left. Everyone knew Nowitzki would drive Dallas’ rally, but it didn’t matter. He still scored 12 straight points — six free throws, a layup, a dunk and a tough jumper — tying it at 86.
Shawn Marion pestered LeBron James into a 24-second violation that left Wade pounding both fists on his head in frustration. Jason Terry missed a chance to put the Mavericks ahead, then Bosh nailed his clutch jumper from the left side, a huge thrill for the Dallas native who’d been 0-8 in his hometown.
The Mavericks of course went back to Nowitzki on its last two chances, and his streak ran out. He tried passing out of a Haslem-led double team and threw the ball into the stands, then hit the back iron on a jumper over Haslem as time ran out.
Haslem anticipated what Nowitzki was going to do and walked the fine line between disrupting the shot while avoiding a foul.
“He’s a great player, 7 feet, so he’s going to shoot over me,” Haslem said. “I’ve got to make it tough on him.”
When the buzzer went off, Haslem swung his arms and screamed in delight while a frenzied crowd of 20,340 sighed in agony.
“It was a good offensive play, and a good defensive play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And he happened to miss.”