- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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How it happened: A vintage Dirk Nowitzki performance at the site of the Mavericks’ greatest triumph wasn’t enough to lift Dallas to an upset win over the two-time defending champions.
Nowitzki was a marvel of scoring efficiency, torching the Heat for a season-high 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting, plus 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Just like in the 2011 Finals, Dirk delivered big down the stretch, scoring 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
Unlike those 2011 Finals, however, LeBron James performed like an MVP.
James lit up the Mavs for a season-high 39 points on 14-of-18 shooting. That included 10 points in the final six minutes, allowing the Heat to hold off a rally from the Mavs, who slashed a double-digit deficit down to one but never seized the lead in the second half.
The Mavs had a chance to tie after Dwyane Wade (17 points, eight assists) missed a pair of free throws with the Heat leading by three. But the Mavs responded with a poor offensive possession, resulting in Monta Ellis (20 points, 7-16 FG) missing an off-the-dribble 3-pointer as the shot clock ticked down.
Considering their 24 turnovers, it's fairly miraculous that the Mavs made the Heat sweat down the stretch. It certainly helped that the Mavs shot 50 percent from the floor and 12-of-28 from 3-point range, but Miami shot 54.1 percent from the floor, including a lot of easy buckets off turnovers.
What it means: The Mavs fell to 5-4 overall and 1-4 on the road. They are winless against the Heat, a losing streak that spans five games, since celebrating the 2011 championship in Miami. The Mavs have a short flight and quick turnaround before facing the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
Play of the game: James borrowed a trick basically invented by Nowitzki for a critical bucket late in the fourth quarter. After the Mavs slashed the Heat’s lead to one, James backed down Ellis and launched a one-legged, midrange fadeaway that hit nothing but net.
Stat of the night: Nowitzki last had at least 28 points on 12 or fewer field goal attempts on March 4, 2011. This is only the fourth time in his 16-year career he has scored so many points on so few field goal attempts.