By NBA TV's Rick Kamla


Kamla
MIAMI, June 14, 2006 -- At the 8:34 mark of the fourth quarter and Miami down 83-71, the crowd at the Triple A actually booed its beloved Heat. At the 6:25 mark of the fourth quarter and Miami down 89-76 (its biggest deficit), the crowd at the Triple A was too frustrated to boo. At the :09.3 mark and Miami up 97-95, the boos and frustration gave way to unbridled ecstasy.

Freaks, the Heat didn’t just win Game 3, they miraculously returned from the dead to keep their title hopes alive.

I have had the honor and privilege of being in the arena for Derek Fisher’s shot with four-tenths left, Tayshaun Prince’s block on Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant’s game-winner against Detroit in the 2004 Finals and Robert Horry’s game-winning three in Game 5 of the 2005 Finals, and I will now add Miami’s miracle in Game 3 of the 2006 Finals to that list of religious playoff experiences.

Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals was truly a classic. I only hope the following prose does it justice ...

BEST CHESSMOVE

Payton's only bucket of the game couldn't have come at a better time for the Heat.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Congratulations to Pat Riley for earning best chessmove honors for the first time in the series. With 1:02 left in the game and the Heat up 94-93, Riley substituted Shaquille O’Neal for Gary Payton, who hit the game-winning 21-footer with 9.3 ticks left.

It was Payton’s only basket of the game, and his third and fourth points of the Finals. The Glove is 23rd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 21,455 regular season points, but those were the biggest points of his Hall of Fame career.

TURNING POINT

Coming out of a timeout with the Heat down 13, Dwyane Wade hit a banker with 6:15 left that started the epic comeback. Wade subsequently scored nine points over the next 2:40, drawing the Heat to within three at the 3:35 mark. That seemingly harmless bank shot sparked a 19-4 Heat run in which Wade scored 11 of his 15 fourth-quarter points.

WARRIOR OF THE GAME

For the second straight game it’s Udonis Haslem, who was having trouble lifting his injured left shoulder a couple hours before the game. I asked Riley about Haslem’s playing status before the game and he said he couldn’t sit Haslem even if he wanted to.

Haslem was diving on the floor for loose balls, playing gritty defense on Dirk Nowitzki, and generally mixing it up all night, finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds, and three steals. And after missing his first four free throw attempts, Haslem toed the line with 62 seconds left and canned a pair to give Miami a 94-93 lead.

My broadcast partner Fred Carter asked Udonis how he felt after the game and he said, “Coach, it’s hurting, but I’ll be ready on Thursday.”

GAME 3 HERO

Wade’s 42 points tied his career playoff high, his 13 rebounds set a new career playoff high, and his hustle plays down the stretch were the difference.

With 49 seconds left, Wade closed hard on Jason Terry, who missed a potential go-ahead 15-footer. With 3.4 seconds left, Wade rebounded Nowitzki’s errant free-throw attempt. With one second left, Wade intercepted Dirk’s in-bound pass to Josh Howard to seal the victory.

Larry Bird once said about Michael Jordan, “It must be God disguised as Michael Jordan.” Well, last night I saw Jordan disguised as Wade. His 42 and 13 in a death game will go down as one of the greatest individual performances in Finals history.

UNSUNG HERO

Were my eyes deceiving me, or did I see Shaq dive to the floor twice in the same game? Do you think the Godfather wanted this game? Shaq wanted Game 3 more than I want my ashes spread over Red Rocks Amphitheater when my days are done.

Coming off his worst effort in 190 career playoff games, Shaq had 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and a steal in Game 3. Plus, he shot six-of-nine from the field and four-of-six from the line, including back-to-back free throws with 1:47 left that drew Miami within three.

ANTI-HERO

I thought about going with Dirk as the Anti-Hero for missing the potentially game-tying free throw with three-plus seconds left, but the dude did have 30 points and seven rebounds in 44 minutes.

As such, I am tagging Jerry Stackhouse with the Anti-Hero label for missing eight of nine shots en route to four points – his lowest total since Game 2 against Memphis.

Stack called himself a “streak shooter” after scoring 19 in Game 2. Indeed. He shot four-of-11 in Game 1, six-of-11 in Game 2, and one-of-nine in Game 3. Miami would be wise to brace for a Stackhouse bounce back in Game 4.

THE STAT

Miami’s 98-96 win snapped the Mavericks’ seven-game winning streak over the Heat dating back to the 2003-04 season.

Also, the Mavs lost for the first time all season when Howard scores 20 or more points. Coming into Game 3, the Mavs were 25-0 when Josh lives in the 20s, but they could not win despite his 21 points on eight-of-13 shooting from the floor.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

When asked how he made those clutch free throws, Shaq said: “I went back to doing what I did as a youngster, when I was a good player.”

Wow, was that self-deprecation from The Big Fella? What’s next, Antoine Walker putting the team before ‘Toine? In case you aren’t scoring at home, Walker has launched 21 threes to Shaq’s 25 field-goal attempts through three games.

KAM-MENTARY

-- I realize the Mavericks are a great come-from-behind team, as they proved in Games 5 and 6 against the Suns. But what they pulled off in the third quarter of Game 3 was fair-to-partly impossible. Despite being down nine at the half, Dallas rallied back to take a nine-point lead at the end of three, outscoring Miami 34-16 in the third.

-- If Miami wants to win Game 4, it needs to cut down on the mistakes made in Game 3. How the Heat won despite 14 missed free throws and 20 turnovers is harder to fathom than people paying money to watch Clay Aiken sing.

-- At the 10:41 mark of the third quarter D-Wade injured his left knee and hobbled around for much of the quarter before digging offshore-oil-well deep to rock the fourth. Given Wade’s knee, Haslem’s shoulder, and how hard the Heat had to work to win Game 3, I question whether they will have the health or the stamina to keep Uncle Mo in their corner in Game 4.

-- The rest of the series goes like this ... Dallas wins Game 4 to prove to everyone that they are still very much in control of this series. Miami wins Game 5 because D Wade refuses to be closed out at home. Dallas wins Game 6 to bring the first championship to Dallas since the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999.