DALLAS — Dwyane Wade kept soaring and scoring, doing everything he could to get the Miami Heat a crucial win towards an NBA title.
Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem provided the final push to seal the key victory.
Bosh made a 16-foot, go-ahead jumper from the baseline with 39.6 seconds left, and Haslem pestered Dirk Nowitzki the rest of the way as the Heat held on for an 88-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night for a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
“This is a total win,” said Wade, who led Miami with 29 points and 11 rebounds. “You want to win the game on the defensive end of the floor and we got a stop.”
Recent history says this is a huge win for the Heat. The Game 3 winner in a tied Finals has won the championship all 11 times since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985.
The Heat go into Game 4 on Tuesday night with a chance to do what they did in 2006: win it all on Dallas’ floor. They’ll need to win that game and the next, on Thursday night.
With all its star power, many expected Miami to be planning a victory parade by now, especially after a solid victory in Game 1. But the Heat blew a 15-point lead in the last quarter of Game 2, and nearly did it again this time, coughing up a 14-point lead.
Miami recovered to lead 81-74 with 6:31 left. Everyone knew Nowitzki would drive Dallas’ rally, but it didn’t matter. He still scored 12 straight points — six free throws, a layup, a dunk and a tough jumper — tying it at 86.
Shawn Marion pestered LeBron James into a 24-second violation that left Wade pounding both fists on his head in frustration. Jason Terry missed a chance to put the Mavericks ahead, then Bosh nailed his clutch jumper from the left side, a huge thrill for the Dallas native who’d been 0-8 in his hometown.
The Mavericks of course went back to Nowitzki on its last two chances, and his streak ran out. He tried passing out of a Haslem-led double team and threw the ball into the stands, then hit the back iron on a jumper over Haslem as time ran out.
Haslem anticipated what Nowitzki was going to do and walked the fine line between disrupting the shot while avoiding a foul.
“He’s a great player, 7 feet, so he’s going to shoot over me,” Haslem said. “I’ve got to make it tough on him.”
When the buzzer went off, Haslem swung his arms and screamed in delight while a frenzied crowd of 20,340 sighed in agony.
“It was a good offensive play, and a good defensive play,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And he happened to miss.”
Wade and Bosh each scored seven points in the fourth quarter. Bosh, who played through a a swollen left eyelid caused by a poke during the first quarter, finished with 18 points.
James added 17 points and nine assists. He also had four turnovers, including a pair during the fourth quarter — not counting the shot-clock violation — that helped bring Dallas back.
Nowitzki scored 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, but didn’t get much help. Terry scored 15 and Shawn Marion had 10. Both were shut out in the fourth quarter. The only other scorers were backup point guard J.J. Barea early in the quarter and Tyson Chandler dunking off a rebound.
“We have to have somebody step up besides Dirk,” said Jason Kidd, who had nine points and 10 assists, but also four turnovers.
Dallas was without backup center Brendan Haywood because of a hip injury.