NBA's Miami Heat Win Game 1 Over Dallas Mavericks

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The Miami Heat won Game 1 of the NBA championship series Tuesday night. The Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 in Miami to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

The Miami Heat have opened up to the best-of-seven NBA finals with a win over the Dallas Mavericks. If last night's 92-to-84 game were a short story, it would be a few paragraphs about defense, ending in a string of exclamation marks.

NPR's Mike Pesca was in Miami and filed a story of his own.

MIKE PESCA: A few months ago, a statistically-minded individual working at a cubicle owned by the Elias Sports Bureau, unearthed a stat that seemed to define the Miami Heat.

In 14 tries, they had only made one potential game-winning shot with less than 10 seconds left in the game. After the stat was gleefully seized upon by Heat detractors, Miami slipped to 1-for-15, then 1-for-16. Every time another last-second shot was missed, it was noted. The team finished the season 1-for-19.

This fact was supposed to confirm the narrative that the Heat were talented, but they weren't clutch. Only here's the Heat most prominent opponent of describing his rivals last night.

Mr. DIRK NOWITZKI (Forward, Dallas Mavericks): Well, you know, they have two very good closers, two of the best in the game.

PESCA: Dirk Nowitzki knows how to win basketball games and knows that they're not necessarily won on the very last play; that the backbreaker more often comes with two or three minutes left, than with two or three seconds.

Last night, Nowitzki scored a game-high 27 points, which given his outstanding level of play means he was more or less contained. In fact, last night the Heat and Mavericks locked each other up for all of the first half and much of the second, until a LeBron James three-pointer in the last shot of the third quarter put the Heat up by four.

Miami extended the lead a bit, but couldn't really pull away until this sequence at about three and a half minutes left.

(Soundbite of cheering)

790 THE TICKET: Inside to Marion,(unintelligible) Marion out on the wing. Shot blocked by Wade. And out of bounds, Miami has got the ball. Oh, Wade did not quit on The Matrix.

PESCA: Shawn Marion's nickname, as 790 The Ticket told you, is The Matrix and that tells you a few things. For one, Marion is a multi-dimensional player. For another, he was named after a movie that came out in 1999. But Marion has been a late career revelation for the Mavs. You could call him The Matrix Reloaded, except Marion is actually good.

He finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Therefore, Wade's late rejection of the skillful, taller player was immense, as was the ensuing play.

790 THE TICKET: Wade, left side, Kidd all over him. Wade, for three. Got it.

(Soundbite of cheering)

790 THE TICKET: That was Dwayne Wade from downtown...

PESCA: The Heat pushed their lead to nine and from that point on the Mavericks never seriously threatened. After the game, Heat Coach Eric Spoelstra talked of the Wade block that keyed his three-pointer.

Mr. ERIC SPOELSTRA (Coach, Miami Heat): Two-way player, and sometimes it's not about the schemes. Sometimes it's about transcending that with your effort, your athleticism and your ability. And he was able to do that tonight.

PESCA: The 6-foot-four Wade is without doubt more adept at blocking shots than any small player in NBA history. Wade's fellow smallish guard, Mario Chalmers explains how his teammate does it.

Mr. MARIO CHALMERS (Point Guard, Miami Heat): Athletically blessed. Yeah, he has a jumping ability like a big man and I think that's what helped him. Yeah, I get a lot of blocks. He has great timing.

PESCA: Chalmers it was the turning point of the game, a game won with intensity, athleticism and execution; not with the last-second clutch shot.

The Heat haven't reversed that seemingly damning trend of being unable to make go-ahead shots in the last 10 seconds. But they've been great during the other 47 minutes and 50 seconds, and now have a one-game to none lead in the finals.

Another bad sign for the Mavericks is that Dirk Nowitzki has torn a ligament in his non-shooting hand. Judging by the aggressive style we saw in game one, that won't represent the last bandage applied during this series.

Mike Pesca, NPR news, Miami.

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