Dallas 90, Miami 80
Terry Leads Mavericks Past Heat in Finals Opener
DALLAS, June 8 (Ticker) - For nearly the entire game, Jason Terry couldn't miss. Once he did, the Dallas Mavericks put their determined defense to work.
Terry scored 32 points to cover for his cold-shooting teammates and the Mavericks allowed just 12 points in the fourth quarter and made a smashing NBA Finals debut with a 90-80 victory over the Miami Heat.
Regaining the touch that disappeared during the Western Conference finals, Terry made 13-of-18 shots, including 4-of-7 from the arc. He completely rescued the Mavericks in the first half, when he scored 20 points to help erase an 11-point deficit.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," Terry said. "There was no point where I ever looked up at the scoreboard. I'm just continuing to take shots."
"We saw the real Jason Terry and we need this Jason Terry," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "This Jason Terry makes us a pretty special basketball team."
After not taking a shot in the third quarter, Terry provided the separation the Mavericks needed by scoring eight straight points in a span of 77 seconds. His jumper and consecutive 3-pointers gave Dallas its largest lead at 82-72 with 7:54 to play.
"For my team to be successful, I have to be out there in attack mode at all times and that's what I was able to do tonight," Terry said.
But it was a shot Terry should have made moments later that created some anxious moments. He made a steal and coasted in for a breakaway layup - that he somehow left short.
"I thought it was Wade or somebody (behind me)," Terry said. "I got a little too excited, was running a little too fast and got ahead of myself."
Two dunks by O'Neal, a layup by Antoine Walker and a free throw by Wade had the Heat within one possession at 82-79. But Walker missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 3:37 left, and Miami's offense evaporated.
Terry added two free throws in a closing 8-1 surge by Dallas, which won despite receiving zero points from Nowitzki and Howard in the fourth quarter. Miami made 5-of-20 shots with four turnovers in the final period.
"We didn't make any outside shots," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "All five baskets we got in the fourth quarter were in the paint."
Nowitzki scored 16 points on 4-of-14 shooting and Howard managed 10 on 3-of-14, committing five turnovers. Neither forward ever really got his game going.
"Me and Josh couldn't really get anything going," Nowitzki said. "They played us tough, they contested our shots and if you would have told me Josh and myself would go 7-for-28 and we win this game, I wouldn't have believed it."
O'Neal never got going, either. The three-time Finals MVP scored 17 points but took just 11 shots as his teammates inexplicably went away from him. He became a passer when double-teamed by the Mavericks also didn't help himself by missing his first eight free throws until finally making one in the last minute.
"Throughout my career, I know that if I want my team to win a championship, I have to step up to the line and hit them, and I will," O'Neal said. "Probably just thinking about them a little too much."
"We know we have to get the ball to Shaq more," Wade said.
Game 2 is Sunday in Dallas. The Mavericks are 7-2 at home in the postseason.
Jerry Stackhouse scored 13 points off the bench for the Mavericks, who won despite being outrebounded for the first time in the postseason. Dallas was beaten on the boards, 45-43, ending its record streak of 17 straight playoff games with better board scores.
"It's been the first time in a long time that we've lost the rebound game, so we're going to have to be stronger and tougher on the boards as a team," Johnson said.
Wade scored 28 points but needed 25 shots. Walker added 17 points for the Heat, who got two points from their bench.
"Early on, it was going to be a long night for us the way he was getting to the basket, making layup after layup," Terry said. "Credit our guys for contesting his shots and being a little more aggressive on him in the second half."
The first fourth seed to reach the Finals, Dallas appeared to have the early jitters while Miami was able to run its offense.
In an attempt to slow down Wade, Johnson started Adrian Griffin, who had no impact. Wade had four driving layups in the first six minutes, then added two jumpers as if to prove to the Mavericks he could make an outside shot.
Nowitzki's disastrous first half included throwing away an inbounds pass that Walker turned into a 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer for a 31-23 lead. He drained another to open the second quarter, giving Miami its largest lead.
With Nowitzki harassed by Haslem and Howard struggling, Terry rallied the Mavericks, who began to creep back when Wade sat down. Terry - who was 9-of-11 from the field - had a runner, a jumper and a fast-break layup to tie the game before Nowitzki sank a fadeaway for a 46-44 halftime lead.
"Jason bailed us all out," Stackhouse said.
"Jason Terry had a fabulous game," O'Neal said. "We have to try and slow him down."
After making just two baskets in the first half, Nowitzki made two 3-pointers in a 62-second span to give Dallas a 64-59 advantage with 4:12 left in the third quarter. A pair of dunks by Wade closed it to 70-68 entering the final period.