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Heat make Game 3 comeback, inject hope into the series
Back in the Game

By Brad Friedman

MIAMI, June 13 -- After being beaten by a total of 24 points in the first two games of The Finals, few had faith the Miami Heat could mount a comeback.

Now they have a reason to believe.

Despite being down 13 points with 6:34 left in the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat put together a 22-7 run to achieve a seemingly impossible 98-96 victory in Game 3 of The Finals Tuesday night.

"I'm absolutely without a doubt a true believer," said Miami coach Pat Riley about his demeanor when the game appeared in the Mavs' control. "Even during the course of the fourth quarter. I know players, I've been around players 40 years, I know when they look around and they look up and they say, 'this doesn't look very good.' But you've just got to keep trying to get them to dig, to dig, to dig.

Wade chipped and chipped away at the lead.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

"And it takes us on to another day, and a good practice tomorrow and to get ready for them and try to square this thing up Game 4."

Heat guard Gary Payton hit Miami's eventual game-winning field goal on a 21-foot jump shot with 9.3 seconds left just before the shot clock expired. Payton struggled in the first two games, making only 1-of-8 field goals, yet was still able to swish his first and only shot of the night. Following the contest, Payton talked about the significance of the win, which the Heat hope to use as a source of inspiration for Games 4 and 5 in Miami.

"Being down 3-0 and having to win four straight is kind of a big task for us" he said. "Right now, going into Thursday's game and knowing we can tie the series up and change the momentum, and plus going into Sunday to have a game to try to go up, it's a big difference."

Dwyane Wade scored nine of his 42 points during a three-minute stretch to spark the fourth quarter comeback, which began following a Heat timeout after the Mavericks pushed the lead to 89-76. Miami used pick and rolls with Wade and Shaquille O'Neal to get the centers out of the paint and clear the lane for Wade. The All-Star guard routinely got in front of defenders for penetrating baskets, jumpers and trips to the line.

"Coach was calling the plays to get the ball in my hand," Wade said. "At that moment, looking up at the score thinking, 'No, I ain't going out like this.' You know, we didn't want to go down 3-0, man.

"You just try to do what you can to help your team get over the hump. I was getting the ball so I was attacking. As I did, the other guys stepped up and made plays, also."

Besides Payton's jumper, Wade got help from James Posey, who converted a key three-pointer at the five-minute mark to shrink the Mavericks' lead to seven. Ironically, it was also the Heat's ability to come through at the free throw line in the final two minutes that breathed life into their season.

O'Neal sank two free throws to narrow the gap to three points with 1:48 remaining and, after missing his first four free throws, Udonis Haslem sank two to give the Heat a one-point lead with 1:03 left in the game. Posey added one of two free throws less than 20 seconds later to help build that edge to two.

In Games 1 and 2, The Heat shot .529 from the charity stripe, with O'Neal missing 14 of his 16 attempts.

"I just went back to the way I used to shoot it when I was in high school," O'Neal said. "I got in trouble, say, about '94, '95, just by listening to people. And I was just trying to, you know, do things different. There's a whole saying that if you do things different, then it won't be good."

If that's the case then the Heat shouldn't do anything different in Game 4 than they did in the final 6:34 of the fourth quarter. They made this Finals a series again, all because they didn't believe what the rest of the basketball world was thinking.