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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Late run puts Mavs on brink of first title

AP

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki thrust both arms in the air, a sea of blue screaming around him and the Dallas Mavericks finally ahead in these ultra-close NBA Finals.

News photo
One to go: Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki puts up a jumper over Miami's Joel Anthony in the first quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. The Mavericks won 112-103 and lead the series 3-2. AP

Now it really is "now or never" for LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Nowitzki scored 29 points, driving for the go-ahead dunk with 2:45 remaining, and the Mavericks beat the Heat 112-103 on Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals.

Five years after going up 2-0 on the Heat, the Mavs finally got that elusive third victory, and can wrap up their first championship in Game 6 at Miami on Sunday night.

"We're a very resilient team, you know that," guard Jason Terry said. "We've been in tough battles all playoffs long. It's not going to stop. It's going to get even harder. But we're ready. We're determined, and this is our time."

James, who called this game "now or never," responded from his worst playoff performance with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Dwyane Wade battled through a sore left hip after a first-quarter collision to finish with 23 points.

Chris Bosh had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who get the final two games at home with history against them as they try to win a title in their first season together: In the 26 previous Finals that were tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner won 19 of them.

"We fought hard all season for home-court advantage. We're down 3-2," Bosh said. "We protect home court, we win the series, so we just have to keep that in mind."

The Mavs shot 60 percent through three quarters, briefly gave up the lead in the fourth, then controlled the final few minutes, just as they had in thrilling comebacks in Games 2 and 4.

This time, they got to play from ahead thanks to some sizzling shooting: 56.5 percent from the field, including 13 of 19 (68 percent) from 3-point range.

"We made more shots," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We did a lot of good things defensively, which led to good offense. . . . You never know when the games are going to go that way. The thing we've got to do is we've got to make sure our defense is consistent."

Terry scored 21 points and J.J. Barea had 17 for Dallas, which insisted at some point its shots would start falling even against the Heat's stingy defense. Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler both finished with 13 points.

Their offense was simply too good, despite a good bounceback for James.

James scored eight points, going just 3 of 11 in Game 4, the first time in 90 postseason games he didn't hit double figures. It's been a rough first Finals in Miami for James, who has been accused of everything from "shrinking" to "checking out" in the fourth quarters, when he had just nine points through the first four games.

Trying to pump himself up, James wrote "Now or Never!!" on his Twitter page early Thursday morning, later calling this the biggest game of his career.



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