The Miami Heat couldn't quite pull off another fade in the NBA Finals. Rejoice, South Beach. Cheers, Fort Lauderdale. And before excitedly dropping that mojito on the marble-tile floor, understand that everybody else in the country wanted to see Dallas win Game 3 on Sunday. Nothing personal. But nobody likes to see a team drop down to a stunningly low two players under contract before building back up with a brief live-on-ESPN joint announcement by Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade,
followed a day later by the "The Decision." There was little joy from Maine to San Diego after the Heat took a 2-1 series lead with an 88-86 victory Sunday. The Mavericks tried just about everything. There were pre-recorded scoreboard declarations that "The Time is Now" from Dallas sports luminaries Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman, not to mention Mike Modano. (He used to play for the Dallas Stars. That's a hockey team.) But the time was now for the Heat, which guaranteed itself a return trip to Miami . . . if necessary. The scoreboard also offered a video montage of the Mavericks scoring on the Lakers, along with the phrases, "They said the Mavericks were soft. They said 'The Champs' would beat us down. This year is different." Not really. Not yet. The Mavericks have never won an NBA title since entering the league in 1980. It hasn't stopped them from hanging banners from the high-up girders at American Airlines Center — Midwest Division champions in 1987, Western Conference winners in 2006, Southwest Division champs in 2007 and 2010. Yay. There's more bad news for the psyche of basketball fans. The last 11 times the Finals were tied at 1-1, the winner of Game 3 ended up holding a championship parade. The Lakers' chances at a fiesta on Figueroa died a few weeks ago, but somebody needs to ask a few questions of alleged Lakers fan George Lopez, who stood near his courtside seat during the excitement of a Mavericks third-quarter rally. Somewhere, Kobe Bryant is shaking his head. Dirk Nowiztki wasn't happy either after Game 3, blandly intoning into a microphone that it was a "very tough loss" after a pair of his late-game blunders cost Dallas dearly. He threw the ball away with 30.2 seconds to play after unexpectedly finding himself in a double team. Then he missed a 16-footer at the final buzzer. LeBron James wasn't much better in the fourth quarter, scoring only two points. He did not, however, like being challenged by a reporter for "shrinking" away from the chance at fourth-quarter prowess. "You should watch the film again and see what I did defensively," James said. "You'll ask me a better question tomorrow." Wade was there to support James, scoring 29 points and taking 11 rebounds. Bosh was there too, eventually shaking off a poor shooting night by hitting a 16-footer from the left side to break an 86-86 tie with 39.6 seconds to play. About the only thing the Mavericks could pocket was the ability to slice into any Miami lead. Dallas fought back from a 14-point deficit in the second quarter, then a 13-point deficit in the third quarter. Small victories, but the only ones the Mavericks could celebrate after Game 3. Showing some transcontinental unity, a Dallas fan's sign implored the Mavericks to "Do it for Cleveland!"