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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:40 AM ET, 6/14/06

Breaking down Game 3

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
We have a series, it turns out ...

Why the Heat won: Dwyane Wade decided that he wasn't done playing basketball yet. Wade's 42 points (tying his playoff high) and career-high 12 rebounds were enough to topple a Dallas team that seemed ready to put away the Heat with six minutes to go. Other factors obviously played a part -- Shaquille O'Neal was primed to contribute early and nailed a pair of huge free throws down the stretch, Udonis Haslem was an inspiration in the second half and the Heat found a second wind on defense in the fourth quarter -- but it was Wade who carried Miami to its first-ever Finals win. Wade hit 14-of-26 from the floor, from all over the floor, got to the line 18 times (making 13) and only turned the ball over once despite having the leather in his hands for most of his 43 minutes.

Why the Mavericks lost: Stopping Wade would have helped, but outside of playing long-armed Marquis Daniels a little more than four minutes, it's hard to tell exactly what the Mavs could have done in the face of a determined Heat All-Star guard. Dallas' biggest issue came on the glass; it was outrebounded 30-16 in the first half as the Heat took a nine-point lead. Though the Mavs nearly broke even in the second (Miami won 19-18), their inability to keep Haslem off the offensive glass in the third quarter may have been the difference between putting away the Heat and letting them stay close enough for a transcendent Mini-Michael Jordan to win the game on his own.

Why the Heat can be confident: They have Wade, bum knee or not, and still have the ability to head back to the drawing board to try to make improvements around the fringes. The Heat jumped all over Dallas' 2-3 zone for a flurry of offensive rebounds (16 in the game, eight from Haslem), their help defense (with Shaq ball-hawking like Bobby bloody Jones on a couple of plays) in the fourth quarter was superb and they did a terrific job of denying Dirk Nowitzki (save for one pretty big play) in the final five minutes of the game.

Why the Mavs shouldn't fret: At the end of the night, that "one pretty big play" allowed Nowitzki to drive almost all the way to the basket before getting fouled, and he still had a chance to tie the game with 3.4 seconds left. Wade had five fouls at that point, and it was anyone's guess as to how long Miami's defensive intensity (or legs, really) would keep up had there been overtime. Alas, Nowitzki missed, Dallas lost by two, and the Mavs still have four games (with two left in Dallas) to win two and their first title. If the rebounding evens out a little, and the 69 percent free-throw shooting (Nowitzki and Devin Harris combined to miss four freebies) perks up a bit, Dallas still has a good chance to take the whole thing in Florida.

Trading Fours

-- Why Pat Riley's love affair with Antoine Walker continues unabated, I'll never understand. Walker's 35 minutes were a step down from his 42-minute averages from the games in Dallas, but his 6-of-17 shooting (0-for-5 from deep) puts him at 24-of-71 (34 percent) against the Mavericks on the season, and Dallas is starting to pick on 'Toine on defense. Josh Howard scored 11 of his 21 on Walker in one 10-minute stretch in the third, only stopping once Riley brought James Posey into the game and moved Walker to power forward. Remember, the options don't have to end with Posey. Shandon Anderson (defense) and Jason Kapono (shooting) have combined to play about a minute and a half thus far in the Finals.

-- The Mavs nearly won another one while showcasing a heretofore unseen style of conquest. They forced Miami into 20 turnovers, and not the unforced variety we saw at times in Texas. Erick Dampier alone picked up three steals in just 29 minutes (after averaging one for every 71.4 minutes he played in the regular season), and Howard (who didn't record a swipe) was a menace in the passing lanes.

-- Dampier was rightfully lauded as a huge factor in Dallas' near-win on the ABC telecast, with 14 points and nine rebounds in those 29 minutes. Dampier gets points for keeping his shoulders set and hands ready for all sorts of improvisational sets from the Dallas guards, and his ability to gather and score (6-of-7 shooting) should force Miami into paying more attention to the Dallas reserve in Game 4. This, in turn, should allow for Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse (1-of-9 in Game 3) to have better looks at the basket.

-- In the end, the real key for me was Michael McDonald's soulful rendition of the national anthem. Mike McDizzle's husky tenor kept the fire for a Heat team in need of inspiration, as even Riley could be seen mouthing "that's my boy!" to Derek Anderson just after the blue-eyed soulster nailed the final stanza. McDonald is keeping it smooth all summer, if you're interested.


Posted: 3:33 AM   by Anonymous
dallas slowed the tempo down when they had a big lead and played right into miami's hands. they should's pushed when they had numbers and drove every time they had dwayne wade in front of them to get the last cheap foul. he had 5 fouls for like the rest of the fourth quarter. Dallas played scared and didn't want to lose rather than go for the throat .
Posted: 5:30 AM   by Anonymous
Miami showed some heart in this one! Alas...I dont think it'll be enough. Dallas will win the series...most likely in six. I'm a Heat fan (Phoenix is #1 though!) but I think Dallas is younger, faster and far more talented. They'll win and "frankinstein" body double Mark Cuban will get his trophey.
Posted: 11:02 AM   by J.E. Skeets
The Heat looked good last night, but their "NBA's hottest dance team" most certainly did NOT!
Posted: 11:04 AM   by Anonymous
You have to lose to learn how to win sometimes. By game 3 the Heat had studyed their weaknesses from the previous two and worked hard after their typical first quarter explosion to pull this one off.
D-Wade with a huge night and 42 points, 13 boards. Shaq with his clutch free throws, Walker putting it down, looking like his Boston days.
And of course the Glove and his first and most important shot last night ....the clincher. Hey did anyone see the look on Mark Cuban's face as GP hit that? HA! Priceless.
The Heat came together last night. It was a long time coming to. There's no place like home to get it started.
Posted: 11:56 AM   by Anonymous
If only the Heat did not have to play against the refs again this year we could win this series it's too bad we don't have impartial refs to work with
Posted: 12:28 PM   by Anonymous
Totally agree with that 1st comment. We're forever seeing teams lose largely because they essentially quit playing THIER game once they're ahead in the fourth. Who cares if you embarrass the other team? They're professionals and should be able to handle it. Bottom line is: once you've got a team down you should never take your foot off thier throat...
Posted: 9:38 AM   by Allowishes
Is it me or is Mark Cuban finally getting on your nerves. I applaud Cuban for a lot of things. I love the fact that he is a young, and excuse the pun, a maverick owner. But even for him he has gone to far and is really alienating a lot of fans. For one his criticism of Pat Riely on Letterman was just uncalled for and asinine. When was the last time Cuba=n coached a NBA team? How about a championship team in LA or Detroit? Or a high pressure job in NY. Pat Riley did what he had to do in NY to win, and if I remember correctly came within a Patrick Ewing missed lay-up to win the whole thing. So Mark Cuban after you coach a team or two to the championship you have nothing to say about Pat Riely’s or any coaches’ style of play. Or and while we’re on the subject. What’s with the website you are financing? Mark Cuban is financing a new Web site that will investigate stock fraud and corporate wrongdoing. The billionaire also said he'll buy and sell stocks based on information before the site publishes it. Can you believe the audacity of this? Like the guy doesn’t have enough money. Hey Mark how about doing something beneficial with your money, besides using it to make more money and to give yourself an advantage over everyone else? Makes me sick. It also makes me proud to be a Miami fan. Miami in 7 baby!