By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jun 6 2011 12:20PM
DALLAS -- It was only fitting that Game 3 of the 2011 NBA Finals came down to a final possession with the ball in Dirk Nowitzki's hands. This was an instant classic, fitting the occasion of a pivotal game between two teams who have been playing their best basketball at the right time of year.
It was a game of runs, with the Miami Heat seemingly taking control several times. But they needed one more bucket and three stops in the game's final minute to hold off the Dallas Mavericks for an 88-86 victory and to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Heat took back home-court advantage, but they still have a lot of work to do to capture their second NBA championship. History says that the winner of Game 3 in a 2-3-2 Finals that's tied 1-1 is 11-0. But as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Saturday, both of these teams have bucked plenty of trends in this postseason.
Nowitzki not only carried the Mavs offensively on Sunday, scoring 34 of their 86 points, but his team also fell apart defensively when he came off the floor. Nowitzki was a game-high plus-12 in Game 3, with the Mavs getting outscored 21-7 in the 6:02 that he sat on the bench.
The Mavs have been outscored by eight points total in the series, but Nowitzki is a plus-23 over the three games, the only player on either team better than a plus-11.
Shawn Marion seems to like having Nowitzki around. Marion is shooting 16-for-27 (59 percent) in the series with Nowitzki on the floor and just 3-for-11 (27 percent) with Nowitzki on the bench. Marion is an opportunistic scorer and the Nowitzki effect was similar (56 percent vs. 49 percent) in the regular season.
The Mavs' lineup of Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Marion, Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler was strong (plus-8) once again in Game 3. That unit is now a plus-33 for the series, having outscored the Heat 104-71 in 43 minutes total.
Dwyane Wade had his jumper going in Game 3, connecting on four of his eight shots from 10 feet and beyond on Sunday, including two of the Heat's final three buckets of the game. And while he has only attempted nine free throws in Miami's two wins, he continues to do most of his work in the paint.
Wade was 8-for-11 from within five feet of the basket in Game 3, and is now 20-for-27 from within that range in the series. LeBron James is 12-for-17 from within five feet, and the rest of the Heat are 14-for-36.
Wade got some help from screens that his teammates set for him, but 10 of his 12 field goals were unassisted. Meanwhile, 18 of the Heat's other 22 field goals came via assists, including Chris Bosh's game winner, which came on a play in which Wade was the primary ball-handler, but James was the assist man. James had nine assists to four different players in Game 3, but none were to Wade.
For the series, just eight of Wade's 34 field goals have come via an assist, and just one via James, who has 18 total.
Udonis Haslem defended Nowitzki as one possibly could on the final three possessions of Game 3, forcing him to give up the ball to Terry, throw the ball away, and miss the game-tying jumper. But overall, Haslem's presence hasn't affected Nowitzki much in the series.
In Game 3, Nowitzki was 7-for-14 from the field with seven trips to the line in 29 minutes with Haslem on the floor.
The Heat had 13 turnovers in Game 3. The Mavs had 14. On first glance, that's pretty even. But not all turnovers are the same and the Heat actually had a big advantage in the turnover game on Sunday.
Of Miami's 13 turnovers, only three were live ball situations (Dallas steals). But of Dallas' 14 turnovers, eight were live ball situations (Miami steals), which is when the Heat are most dangerous.
The Heat scored 13 points off of their eight steals, with three of the six scores coming within four seconds of the turnover. They scored just six points on the six possessions after a Dallas dead-ball turnover.
For the series, 28 of the Mavs' 45 turnovers have been live balls. Only 17 of the Heat's 37 turnovers have been live balls. And when games come down to the final possession, having a few extra bounces go your way makes a big difference.
• The Heat are now 21-3 when Wade grabs at least nine rebounds. He had 11 on Sunday.
• Mario Chalmers hit at least four 3-pointers just twice in 70 regular season games. He's already done it twice in 18 postseason games. In the Heat's two wins in this series, Chalmers is 7-for-13 from 3-point range. In their Game 2 loss, he was 1-for-6.
• Before Sunday, the Mavs were 25-5 (4-0 in the postseason) when Kidd recorded at least 10 assists. He had 10 in the Game 3 loss.
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