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Comeback or meltdown: Who has Game 3 edge?

6/5/2011

Dirk Nowitzki made it perfectly clear after the Dallas Mavericks' amazing Game 2 comeback what has to happen in Game 3.

"You cannot get a split and get a huge emotional win in Game 2," Nowitzki said, "and then go home and lose Game 3."

The Mavs are 2-1 in Game 3s this postseason and 1-0 at home, needing a late rally to subdue the Los Angeles Lakers and set up the sweep.

History suggests Game 3 is critical. Since the Finals went to the 2-3-2 format, a series has gone into Game 3 tied 11 times and 11 times the winner has gone on to win the title.

But, will momentum and emotion play a role in tonight's game or is Game 2 long forgotten by both teams? If the Mavs remember the ferocity in which the Oklahoma City Thunder played Game 5 at American Airlines Center after the epic meltdown at OKC, they won't claim any psychological advantage or otherwise. Dallas needed another late run to get past the Thunder and win the West title.

"Game 2 is over," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday morning. "We’ve got to wash that out and understand that we’re going to have to play a great game in our building."

Miami's two superstars, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, helped to shoot Miami out of a sure-fire victory in Miami. Neither has suggested a hangover will be in effect and both have impeccable Game 3 resumes to lean on.

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst of the Heat Index, pulled these Game 3 facts:

*Wade is playing in his 16th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the sixth time. In those other instances, Wade has regularly delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. In fact, the Heat are 5-0 with Wade in Game 3s in a tied series, including 1-0 this season when the Heat took command of the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 3 win over Chicago. Wade's averaged 29.4 points on 52 percent shooting in those situations.

*James is playing in his 17th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the fifth time. In those other instances, James has delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 3-1 in those Game 3s. James averaged 35.5 points on 47 percent shooting in those situations.

"Obviously, we understand this is a very big game," Wade said Saturday. "We've been looking forward to it since after Game 2."