NBA Finals: Heat Pull Away Late To Win Game One, 92-84

The Miami Heat started off with stifling defense on Dallas, and forced a turnover on their first trip down the floor. But on their second try, Dirk Nowitzki scored the first basket for the Dallas Mavericks. Did we really think it would be any different? He got to the free throw line with just a few minutes off the clock, but then let Chris Bosh score on him on the other end. The Mavericks clearly had Finals jitters, because they were missing buckets inside that should have gone in. Fortunately, the same seemed to be true for the Heat. Defense was winning out with the score just 10-5 and 5:30 to go in the first.

After a time out, Jason Terry came in off the bench and with some good passing, fed Jason Kidd for his second three-pointer. Both teams were missing at the line, but where the Mavericks were getting beat was inside the paint, despite being bigger. Their other problem, as it has been for quite some time, was taking care of the basketball. With two minutes left in the game, however, they were able to force some turnovers on the Heat and, with Jason Terry sinking a three, found a way to climb within one point. When LeBron James fouled Terry hard on a dunk attempt, Jet's free throws gave the Mavs the edge for the first time. The first quarter concluded with the Mavericks up 17-16, and both teams shooting 28.6%.

Partway through the second quarter, the score stayed close with the teams still playing really tight defense. The Mavericks briefly maintained the edge thanks to the Jet hitting another three, and they began capitalizing off of Heat turnovers. Dallas was still having a hard time scoring in the paint, but they were stymieing the Heat's fast break offense, which kept the pace manageable. With just a few minutes left in the half, however, the Heat started to find their shooting touch, and a couple of missed closeouts led to easy, open buckets for Wade and Bosh.

With just under three minutes left in the half, Dirk Nowitzki hit a three point shot and absolutely silenced the crowd. On the next possession, he hit a Euro Lean back and put the Mavericks back up by one. A semi-dunk from Shawn Marion followed shortly thereafter, but a Heat basket tied it back up. Tyson Chandler threw down an alley-oop from Kidd, and with the extra point from the foul he gave the Mavs a three-point advantage with a minute left to play. Both teams found their rhythm offensively just as the half drew to a close, but Dallas held their ground and went into the locker room up 44-43.

The second half started off with a bang, so to speak, with the Mavericks going on a 7-0 run in the first two minutes, aided by DeShawn Stevenson's first three (and points) of the game. The Heat wouldn't stay down for long, though, and they came roaring back with a run of their own. The Mavericks didn't let off the gas on either end, and they kept their lead despite missing a few easy shots. Brendan Haywood started finding his place on the floor, grabbing rebounds and getting trips to the line. In true Haywood fashion, he made a few, he missed a few.

Somewhere in the third quarter, the Mavericks started to catch up with the Heat in paint points, but they couldn't extend the lead. A layup by Marion rimmed out, and LeBron James came right back down the court with a three to put the Heat back in front. From the sound of the arena you'd think the Heat built a 10 point lead, when in fact they only finished the quarter up four, and only because James hit a buzzer-beater three.

There were so many shots that, under normal circumstances, wouldn't have even been an afterthought, but tonight the Mavericks could not get them to fall. Their trips to the line proved to be absolutely vital, though missed chances there would hurt them as well. I will not suggest that the referees were calling a bad game, but there were some calls I would have liked to see a few more times in slow motion.

With under five minutes to play, the Mavericks were still in a position to win the game, if they could only get their shots to fall. Looking back, I'm sure they'll smack themselves for missing so many free throws, but at least they were getting some calls. Fouls or no fouls, however, the Mavericks were allowing far too many easy buckets, and the three-point shooting team was getting out-shot from beyond the arc.

The final moments were not pretty for the visiting team. The Heat were having their way in the paint, making showy dunks left and right. A missed three by Kidd followed by an uncontested dunk from Chris Bosh sent the arena into a frenzy, and the fans literally started throwing towels. If there's anything to be gained from this loss for the Mavericks, it's that you can not let up, not even for a moment, on this Heat team. They will embarrass you.

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