DALLAS – Dwyane Wade knows in the NBA finals, collapses can carry over.
He was in the Dirk Nowitzki role five years ago, summoning a desperate charge to rescue a team that was down but refused to go out. A furious fourth-quarter rally saved the Heat from a 3-0 deficit and they never looked back, winning four straight to beat Dallas.
The finals hadn’t seen anything like that again until Thursday night, and this time Wade was on the wrong end of it. The Heat were almost halfway to another championship celebration when the game suddenly swung in the Mavericks’ favor.
Will the series, too?
“I understand once you don’t close a team down, they get confidence and life,” Wade said. “This is a big challenge for us. We’re going to have to live up to the challenge, the hole we dug for ourselves, and we’re going to see what we’re made of as a team.”
That means he, LeBron James and the rest of the Heat must prove they have the poise the 2006 Mavericks lacked.
“We made it a lot harder on ourselves,” Wade said. “We’re going to see what we’re made of as a team. Now we have three straight games on the road, but I wouldn’t want to be in this position with any other team.”
Game 3 is Sunday night in Dallas, giving the Heat two days to think about their seven bad minutes. They made only one field goal after taking a 15-point lead, allowing the Mavericks to pull out a 95-93 victory on Nowitzki’s layup with 3.6 seconds left.
Nowitzki, unaffected by a torn tendon in the middle finger of his left hand, scored the final nine Dallas points, including the tiebreaking basket using that hand.
In series tied at one game apiece, the winner of Game 3 is 11-0 since the finals switched to the current 2-3-2 format. Just last year, Boston won Game 2 in Los Angeles to take home-court advantage, lost Game 3 at home, and ended up losing the series in seven games.
“I’m glad we have three games in our place,” center Tyson Chandler said. “We just have to take care of business.”
Victory seemed so assured for the Mavs midway through the 2006 series that plans for the championship victory parade began to leak out before the series moved to Miami after two games.
Nowitzki, one of two holdovers from that team, had to live with questions about the collapse ever since, overshadowing an MVP award and all his other accomplishments. But he’s writing a new legacy along with his team this postseason, becoming better known for playing from behind.
After coming back from at least 15 down for the third time this postseason, the Mavericks have become a team that’s just as dangerous playing from behind.
But the Heat say they welcome the adversity. After all, they were just 9-8 after losing in their last trip to Dallas, so they’re used to overcoming it.
“It’s a ballgame now,” James said. “With the series tied 1-1, we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a difficult challenge for us but we’re looking forward to it. We’re a confident bunch. We play great on the road. It’s going to be a hostile environment. Their fans and team are going to bring everything they have. We have to come out with it all.”
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