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Heat puts Mavericks through the grinder in 92-84 win in Game 1 of NBA Finals

Miami shoots only 39% but limits Dallas to 37%. LeBron James (24 points) and Dwyane Wade (22 points) lead the Heat to its fifth straight postseason win.

May 31, 2011|By Ira Winderman

Reporting from Miami — After five grueling games against the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat thought it was done with ground-and-pound basketball.

Instead, these NBA Finals, even against the previously high-scoring Dallas Mavericks, well could prove to be more of the same.

That certainly was the case Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, when the lowest-scoring first quarter in a Finals opening game in the shot-clock era yielded a grueling 92-84 Heat victory.

"It was a grind. It's tough," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's a very skilled offensive team. We didn't get into much of an offensive flow the entire game."

But with Dwyane Wade rekindling memories of his effort against the Mavericks in the 2006 Finals that gave the Heat the franchise's lone NBA title, and with LeBron James again working as the perfect complement, the Heat moved to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"That's kind of the way we've been winning games lately," Wade said. "We've just got to stay with it, can't get frustrated when not it's going in. Just have to keep going at it."

Persevere the Heat did.

What started with Dallas closing the opening period with a 17-16 lead ended with the Heat at 39% shooting and the Mavericks at 37%.

"For a while there," Spoelstra said, "it was tough for us to put points on the board."

Through it all, the Heat gained the initial advantage in a series that continues Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, before shifting to Dallas for the middle three games of the series.

Game 1 winners have gone on to win 11 of the last 14 NBA Finals, that .786 winning percentage identical to the series win percentage of Game 1 winners in the playoffs overall since 1996-97.

"Shots are going to be hard to come by," Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said. "Both teams are really locked in."

Rebounds also were hard to come by for Dallas, which was outrebounded 46-36, allowing 16 Heat offensive rebounds.

"They were more opportunistic than we were," Carlisle said.

Little came easily in this one for extended stretches, not for Wade in the first half, not for Heat power forward Chris Bosh for most of the game, and not for Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki to the degree he thrived in the Western Conference finals.

Wade, who shot three for 10 in the first half, eventually came around to close nine for 19 for 22 points. Bosh, whose best work came on the boards, with his nine rebounds helping the Heat close with its sizable edge, shot five for 18. And Nowitzki, while closing with 27 points, shot seven for 18.

The truest shooting stroke of the night was offered from distance by James, who converted three third-quarter three-point shots on as many attempts on the way to 24 points.

"We're two playmakers," Wade said of himself and James, "Guys that can get shots for ourselves and get them for our teammates.

"But this was a total team win; we got one."

Ultimately, a gritty game required a gritty performance by a gritty performer. Heat forward Udonis Haslem, having gone 2 1/2 games without a basket, came through on that front, with seven points and six rebounds.

A three-point play by Haslem with 6:36 to play staked the Heat to a 76-69 lead. Wade, who singlehandedly lifted the Heat to the 2006 championship over the Mavericks by averaging 34.7 points, then converted a jumper for a 77-70 Heat lead. Wade made a three-pointer with 3:06 to play for an 82-73 Heat lead. A driving dunk by James followed, effectively ending it.

The Mavericks led 44-43 at halftime.

The good news? The Heat entered 5-0 when trailing at halftime this postseason.

Both teams entered 12-3 in the postseason. At 8-0, the Heat entered as the league's only undefeated team at home this postseason. The Mavericks entered 5-2 on the road this postseason.

iwinderman@sun-sentinel.com

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