Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Strong three-point shooting sparks Miami Heat

That’s five in a row for the Heat against the Mavericks in the NBA Finals. The Heat won four in a row against Dallas to win the 2006 Finals. Five years later, the Heat began the rematch with a 92-84 victory on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Heat is 9-0 at home this postseason and plays again at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday before traveling to Dallas for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 2011 Finals. After struggling against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals,

Dwyane Wade returned to his more familiar postseason form Tuesday. He had 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his first NBA Finals game since winning the 2006 Finals MVP. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 27 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Wade’s fifth assist of the night led to a dunk by Chris Bosh with 1:08 to play to give the Heat a 10-point lead. Assist No. 6 for Wade came less than a minute later when he found LeBron James for an alley-oop. James, who needs three more victories for his first NBA championship, screamed to the crowd and slammed his left fist against his chest. He scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Wade put the Heat ahead by nine points with 3:06 to play when he swished his second three-pointer of the game. Moments earlier, Wade blocked Shawn Marion’s midrange attempt to trigger a fast break. Wade’s three in transition was the Heat’s 11th of the game. Entering the Finals, conventional wisdom said the Mavericks’ stable of sharpshooters gave Dallas a distinct advantage from three-point range. That was not the case in Game 1. The Heat was 45.8 percent from three-point range compared to 40.9 percent for the Mavericks. James’ first exclamation point on the 1-0 Finals lead came after a powerful crossover against Shawn Marion. James followed with a driving dunk and was fouled by Marion. He converted the free throw to give the Heat an 85-75 lead with 2:48 to play. With three seven-footers in its rotation, Dallas entered Tuesday’s series opener with plans of dominating the glass. Instead, the shorter and quicker Eastern Conference champions consistently beat the Mavericks to loose balls and missed shots. Miami outrebounded Dallas 46-36, including 16 in offensive rebounds. Dallas had six. Mike Miller, playing with a protective sleeve over his left arm, pulled down a key offensive rebound with less than seven minutes in the game. The second-chance situation gave Udonis Haslem a clear path to the rim, which he converted into a three-point play to put the Heat ahead by six points with 6:36 to play. Haslem finished with seven points and six rebounds in 28 minutes. The Heat trailed the entire third quarter until James drained a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:09 left in the period. The shot gave the Heat a 60-59 lead after trailing by nine points early the second half. Dallas began the third quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 51-43 lead. Juwan Howard, who returned to the postseason rotation to play important minutes against the Mavs’ large frontcourt, made a pair of free throws with 32.1 seconds left in the third quarter, setting the stage for James’ buzzer-beating skills. Howard logged eight minutes Tuesday and had three rebounds. James has performed well in the clutch throughout the playoffs and did so again at the end of the quarter when he nailed a turnaround three-pointer with time expiring to give the Heat a four-point lead to begin the fourth quarter. James was 3-of-3 shooting from three-point range in the third quarter, which was the continuation of a trend for the Heat. The first 36 minutes of Game 1 offered one of Miami’s best three-point shooting efforts of the postseason (9 of 21 for 42.9 percent). James entered the fourth quarter 4 of 4 from behind the arc, and reserve Mario Chalmers went 3 of 3 from that distance in the second quarter. Miller made his second three-pointer of the game to begin the Heat’s fourth quarter scoring. It gave the Heat a 68-63 lead with 11 minutes to play. It was just enough of a cushion to hold off the Mavericks, who cut the Heat’s lead to three points with less than four minutes remaining but never got any closer.

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