MIAMI -- It started with a pose from Dwyane Wade.
"He followed through and left the hand up," Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said of Wade's 3-pointer that gave the Heat an 88-73 lead with 7:14 left. "The big thing was he made the shot and at that point we were down 15. For us, we had nothing to lose. We had to keep playing. Everybody who played tonight stayed together and encouraged one another to keep playing it out, and we found ourselves in the ballgame."
The speed and efficiency of the Mavs' comeback was stunning, considering what they were facing. A 2-0 series deficit was staring the Western Conference champs in the face before a 22-5 run was capped by Dirk Nowitzki's left-handed, game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds left for a 95-93 victory.
The finishing kick could very well end up defining the Finals and the season for the Mavericks. It wasn't out of the ordinary, especially this postseason. The Mavs have rallied to win facing double-digit deficits once in each of the four rounds so far. All on the road.
They did it from 12 down at Portland in Game 6 to close out the series. The Lakers series opened with a 16-point comeback to quickly steal the homecourt edge. Dallas rallied from 15 down in the fourth quarter at Oklahoma City in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead that effectively eliminated the Thunder.
But none was bigger than what took place Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Much was made of LeBron James and Wade celebrating in front of the Dallas bench after taking the 15-point lead, but the Mavs shutting the Heat's best two players down afterward proved to be the difference.
James and Wade missed all seven of their shots, including five 3-pointers, and combined for just two points (James free throws) over the final seven minutes. Having those two try to put the game away from outside the arc on a night when they repeatedly got to the rim aided the comeback.
"At that point we want to stay in front of them, get a hand up and hope they missed," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "They missed a couple of shots, and it allowed us to keep our momentum going."
Miami missed 10 of its last 11 attempts, getting only a wide-open 3-pointer from Mario Chalmers to fall with 24.5 seconds left. Nowitzki, of course, followed Chalmers' game-tying shot with driving layup to clinch the road split.
"We got stops and we maybe gave up two offensive rebounds in that last seven minutes," Kidd said. "Guys just stayed together. Even with that last 3-pointer that Chalmers made, everybody just looked forward and said, 'Let's find a way to win the game.' "
The run began on the defensive end, but the Mavs really didn't have much margin for error with the ball. Every possession was crucial, and the Mavs were nearly perfect.
The Mavs scored on seven straight possessions from the point Jason Terry nailed a 16-footer with 6:18 left, ending with Nowitzki's 18-footer with 2:44 left. Dallas secured six defensive rebounds during that stretch. Suddenly, the Heat's seemingly insurmountable lead was down to 90-88.
"We always believed that we could come back regardless of the score," Shawn Marion said.
Nowitzki's layup tied the score with 57.6 seconds left. Miami called timeout before Wade misfired on another 3-pointer. Nowitzki nailed his only 3-pointer of the night with 26.7 seconds remaining, putting the Mavs up 93-90.
Chalmers would knot it up before Nowitzki's final heroics. The franchise's all-time leading scorer scored the Mavs' last nine points. Jason Terry added eight during the decisive Finals-turning spurt.