Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Updated: June 3, 11:26 AM ET
Mavericks' duo pull off the incredible

By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com

MIAMI -- The pain from that miserable night five years ago might never leave their minds. The stain on the reputations of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry might never be erased.

Actually, scratch all that. Never say never, especially when it comes to the lone Dallas Mavericks left from the 2006 Finals flop.

Thursday was the kind of night that can change everything, starting with this series and perhaps a couple of legacies. The NBA's odd couple returned to the scene of the '06 crime and pulled off an even more amazing comeback.

Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki's unorthodox shooting style has confounded defenders for years.

After the Miami Heat's premature celebration, a Dwyane Wade-and-LeBron James dance routine right in front of the visitors bench following a 3-pointer that seemingly buried the Mavs in a 15-point hole with 7:13 remaining, Dallas' dynamic closing duo went to work.

The rally started with a flurry of eight points by Terry -- half his total for the night -- in a span of a little more than three minutes. Nowitzki finished the job, scoring nine of his 24 points in the final 2:44, including the game-winning finger roll with his injured left hand with three ticks left on the clock. They combined to go 7-of-8 from the floor in those seven unforgettable minutes.

It was all over after Wade, the hero of the Heat's series-shifting Game 3 comeback against the Mavs in the 2006 Finals, missed a 28-foot prayer at the buzzer.

The AmericanAirlines Arena scoreboard read Mavs 95, Heat 93 at the end of Thursday night's Game 2. A series that had seemed over only seven minutes earlier was suddenly tied after Dallas' 22-5 game-ending run, fueled by the Mavs' longest-tenured pair combining for 17 points.

"Each Finals, there's going to be a turning point," said Terry, who was within arm's reach of the Heat's celebrating superstars and admitted he had to restrain himself from doing something foolish. "There's going to be a moment, so to speak. And tonight the moment was ours."

What a magnificent moment it was. No team had overcome a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to win a Finals game since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls did it to finish off the Portland Trail Blazers in 1992.

This beat the Heat's rally from 13 down in the final 6:42 five years ago by a bucket. How fitting.

One more Dallas playoff demon -- the biggest and baddest of 'em all -- goes down. That's been a theme of this magical Mavs playoff run. They busted out of the first-round funk. They won with Danny Crawford officiating. They reversed the trend of playoff road misery. They pulled off epic comebacks in Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

And then they topped it all with this stunner.

The Mavs -- in particular the two '06 survivors -- once again pulled off the improbable, keeping their championship hopes alive instead of being put in pipe-dream status. The Mavs made Miami feel the pain of falling apart down the stretch when it felt like the Finals were in the Heat's grasp. "As much as '06 is still on mine and Jet's mind, during the game you don't think about anything like that," Nowitzki said. "You're caught in the moment as a player out there. You compete right there. You take every possession like it's the last in the Finals.

"You don't really think about anything else but trying to get this win."

In typical Jet-and-Dirk fashion, there was a little at-each-others'-throats drama during the final minute. They've formed a relationship over the years in which it's routine for them to scream at each other one moment and chest-bump the next, so the final few possessions were pretty much a perfect snapshot of their partnership.

Nowitzki had already come through in heroic fashion, capping the comeback by drilling a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Mavs a 93-90 lead with 26 seconds remaining. All Dallas had to do to close out the win was make sure Miami didn't get a good look at a 3.

Terry picked a poor time to add to his list of playoff defensive mental meltdowns. He got caught in awful position just two ticks later to allow James to find Mario Chalmers wide open in the corner for a game-tying 3. And Nowitzki let his teammate know all about it during the ensuing timeout.

"I'm not going to share that with the media," Nowitzki said with a sheepish smile when asked about the one-sided conversation. "I'm sure there was a little cussing involved."

Terry, who owned up to the mistake, had already spilled the beans: "A lot of curse words."

But Nowitzki didn't just get mad. He got even with Miami.

Nowitzki took advantage of some questionable strategic decisions by the Heat, who opted not to use their foul to give and didn't double Dirk, letting him work one-on-one against Chris Bosh. The Mavs ran a trusty isolation play for the 7-footer, who faced up near the top of the key on the left side of the floor, drove to his left despite that torn tendon in his middle finger and scored the deciding points by finishing with a lefty finger roll.

"Big fella told me he had my back. And he did," Terry said. "He came down and got the game-winning bucket."

How sweet must that have felt for the only Mavs remaining on the roster from the meltdown in Miami five long, painful years ago?

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.