Heat Hold Off Mavericks For 88-86 Win In Game 3

The Miami Heat held on to beat the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night — taking a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals. Miami beat Dallas 88-86.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The drama keeps coming in the NBA Finals. Last night in Dallas, the Miami Heat held off the Dallas Mavericks for a down-to-the-wire, 88-to-86 victory. It gives the Heat a two games to one lead in this best-of-seven series. NPR's Tom Goldman has this report.

TOM GOLDMAN: If you buy the theory that playing on your court, in front of your fans, gives you a distinct advantage, then the Mavs were looking pretty good. Stealing game two in Miami after being down 15 points in the fourth quarter, meant Dallas was coming back for the next three games at American Airlines Center in Big D needing three wins to claim the title.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle warned against that kind of math, saying beware the home court advantage, especially since Miami was one of the most adept teams in the NBA at winning in an opponent's arena. Before last night's game it seemed like the Heat had moved in.

Mr. LEBRON JAMES (Professional Basketball Player): (Rapping) ...they used to call me jizzle with a stamp in the middle, with a stamp in the middle...

GOLDMAN: Lebron James may as well have been in his own bathroom as he dressed for the game - with music cranking from headphones sitting in his locker. And as TV cameramen, and OK, a radio reporter, recorded James being James. Such is the weird world of mega-stardom. We're recording, he's oblivious.

Mr. JAMES: (Singing) ...on that next, traded in that gold for that platinum Rolex, seconds on my record...

GOLDMAN: Off he sauntered to the training room - apparently a man of his word. After the game two loss, James said, essentially, bad game. But no residue, onto the next.

Unidentified Man (Announcer): Let's go Mavs.

(Soundbite of cheers)

GOLDMAN: Despite the hostile environment, James and the Heat played, not so much like they forgot game two, but more like they learned from it. Last night, Miami attacked on offense, early and often, driving to the basket instead of settling for outside jump shots, something the Heat didn't do during their game two collapse.

Miami jumped out to a first quarter lead, it grew to 14 points, but the Mavs cut it to five by half time. The pattern repeated in the second half - Miami would zip ahead - the Mavs would catch up - then great Miami defense and timely offense, and another zip. Here's Dallas head coach, Carlisle.

Mr. RICK CARLISLE (Head Coach, Dallas Mavericks): The fact that we were diggin' out of holes all night, you know, it was difficult to overcome.

GOLDMAN: Dallas power forward Dirk Nowitzki, as usual, did his part - 34 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots. But for Dallas, it was the Dirk and pretty much no one else show. The rest of the Mavs shot a paltry 35 percent.

For Miami? A symbolic winning play - Dwayne Wade passed to Lebron James, who passed to Chris Bosh for the clinching jump shot with 39 seconds left. The big three were big, with important contributions from several role players. Wade, in particular, set the tone with his aggressive forays to the basket - and his aggressive leadership, which included chewing out teammates when he felt they needed chewing, including best player on the planet, Lebron James.

Mr. JAMES: You know, he challenged me in the locker room at halftime; he challenged me on the court, and you know, as a competitor, like I said, I respect that.

GOLDMAN: What did Wade say?

Mr. JAMES: Uh, something that, uh, I don't know if my kids asleep right now, so I can't say.

GOLDMAN: It's midnight you can say it.

Mr. JAMES: No, my kids stay up late. You don't know my kids.

Mr. DWAYNE WADE (Professional Basketball Player): They watch ESPN tomorrow.

Mr. JAMES: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GOLDMAN: What was it about though Lebron? Dwayne, was it about the offense? Was it about being stagnant or roughly what was it about?

Mr. WADE: It was about winnin'.

GOLDMAN: OK.

Mr. JAMES: It was about winnin'.

GOLDMAN: And it did the trick. Game four is tomorrow - who knows what thrills, or lectures, await.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Dallas.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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