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Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Mavericks top Heat to capture first title
MIAMI — The Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki claimed their long-awaited first NBA title by winning Game 6 of the finals in Miami 105-95 on Sunday night, celebrating on the Heat's home floor to avenge what happened five years ago.
The Mavericks won four of the series' last five games this time, a turnaround that could not have been sweeter after the Heat won the 2006 title in Game 6 at Dallas.
"I really still can't believe it," said German star Nowitzki, who had 21 points and was voted Most Valuable Player of the finals series.
"Tonight," Jason Terry said after leading Dallas with 27 points, "we got vindication."
LeBron James did not. Not even close, and a year unlike any other ended the way they all have so far — with him still waiting for an NBA title.
He scored 21 points for Miami, shook a few hands afterward, and departed before most of the Mavs tugged on their championship hats and T-shirts. Chris Bosh had 19, Mario Chalmers 18 and Wade 17 for the Heat.
"We worked so hard and so long for it," Nowitzki said. "The team has had an unbelievable ride."
The Mavericks took control in the second half of the game after some wild momentum shifts in the opening two quarters. Miami took its last lead of the game just 64 seconds into the second half, lost it 16 seconds later and chased the Mavericks the rest of the way.
Nowitzki sealed the win with 2:27 left, hitting a jumper near the Miami bench to put Dallas up 99-89. He then walked to the Mavs' side slowly, right fist clenched above his head.
"This is a true team," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "This is an old bunch. We don't run fast or jump high. These guys had each other's backs. We played the right way. We trusted the pass. This is a phenomenal thing for the city of Dallas."
Carlisle joined a highly elite group with the win — those with NBA titles as both a player and a head coach. He was a part of the Boston Celtics team that won the championship over the Houston Rockets in 1986.
Only 10 other men are on that list, including Lakers coach Phil Jackson and Heat president Pat Riley — who led Miami past Dallas in 2006 as coach and was the mastermind of what the Heat did last summer by getting James, Wade and Bosh on the same team with an eye on becoming a dynasty.
But after 72 wins this season, including playoffs, the Heat lost their last game. And that means this year was a disappointment — except to just about everyone else in the NBA, or so it would seem.
"It goes without saying," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You're never really prepared for a moment like this. . . . Neither team deserved this championship more than the other, but Dallas earned it."
For the second time, James went to the finals, only to see the other team celebrate. San Antonio won in Cleveland in 2007, and this time he saw the Mavs celebrate on his new floor.
"It was a failure in '07 when we lost to the Spurs when I was in Cleveland," James said. "It's a failure now."
The Heat raced out to an early 20-11 lead in the game, with James making his first four shots. But the advantage was quickly erased as Dallas went to the zone defense that befuddled Miami again.
Dallas then went on a 21-4 run over 5? minutes, making 9 of 12 shots. Much of that came with Nowitzki on the bench with two fouls, the first time he's received more than one in the opening quarter of a playoff game this season.
DeShawn Stevenson made a pair of 3-pointers within a span of 24 seconds to give Dallas a 40-28 lead with 9:42 left in the half.
But Miami scored the next 14 points to reclaim the lead at 42-40, a run broken only after Stevenson, Udonis Haslem and Chalmers got technical fouls with 6:25 left in the half following a midcourt altercation.
The Heat had chances to take command of the game in the second half and wasted them all. They missed 13 of their 33 free throws, let the Mavericks score 27 points off turnovers and simply couldn't get a rebound in the final minutes.
Nowitzki finished 9-for-27, and the Mavs still won. He was 1-for-12 in the first half, and they were still ahead, 53-51, thanks largely to Terry's 19 points.
When the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead in Dallas during the '06 finals, plans for their victory parade were announced. But the Mavs didn't win another game.
Now, that parade will finally happen with Dallas getting its first title more than 30 years after the team was founded in 1980. Kidd, at 38 years old, also got his first championship, as did Nowitzki at 32 and Terry at 33.