By John Schuhmann
MIAMI, June 18 -- He was having his best game of the Finals. Maybe his best game of the playoffs: 25 points and 10 rebounds. They went to him early and often. Along with Jason Terry, he was carrying his team throughout Game 5.
Then, in the final minute of overtime, things went south.
With 54 seconds on the clock, he had a chance to give the Mavs a three-point lead, but he missed two free throws.
Then, before Dwyane Wade took his second free throw with 1.9 seconds on the clock, he saw his coach signalling for a timeout. He signalled for it himself. He started walking towards the bench. The referee granted the timeout, the last one the Mavs had. They wouldn't be able to advance the ball after the second free throw.
Avery Johnson was furious. He wanted the timeout after the second free throw. He argued with the officials vehemently.
"Josh Howard goes to Joe DeRosa and not only once, but twice asks for a timeout," referee Joe Crawford said. "Forced to call it, simple as that."
Howard didn't argue. He stood to the side with sullen look on his face. He knew he called the timeout. He knew he made a mistake, one that may have cost his team the game.
Instead of taking the ball out in the frontcourt, the Mavs needed to go the full 94 feet, and Devin Harris missed a desperation heave at the buzzer. Heat win. A 2-0 series lead has become a 3-2 series deficit.
There were 101 stories in this game: Dwyane Wade's performance, Jason Terry's performance, free throw disparity, Dirk Nowitzki still not shooting well, Dirk's fadeaway over Shaq, Jerry Stackhouse's suspension, Gary Payton's basket in overtime, rebounding, zone defense, and many more.
When we look back at Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals 10 years from now, what will we remember?
It will probably be Josh Howard signalling for that timeout. That's just the way things go sometimes. Of course, if Howard and the Mavs can come back and win the series, it won't be such a critical moment.
As Howard said, "We have to turn the page now."
One More Response Needed
They didn't respond well to their fourth-quarter collapse in Game 3, but the Mavs can't be too disappointed in their response to the Game 4 stinker and Jerry Stackhouse's suspension.
"Overall, I just thought we came out, we answered the call," Terry said. "We were facing adversity. I liked our energy, our focus."
They struggled a bit through the first 16 minutes of the game, but they closed the first half by making 11 of their last 13 shots to take an eight-point lead into the locker room. They responded to a run the Heat made at the end of the third by taking control back in the fourth.
They let it get away, so now they need one more response to force a Game 7.
"We know we can beat this team," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We showed it in Game 1 and Game 2. Like I said, this is a tough one to swallow for a night, but starting tomorrow, we should feel a lot better about ourselves again."
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