x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Heat are ready to fire back

LeBron James is confident his team can turn it around on the road to Dallas tonight, despite the last-gasp defeat in Game 2.

LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade, right, will be looking to down the Dallas Mavericks.
LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade, right, will be looking to down the Dallas Mavericks.

The Miami Heat insist their disheartening Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks will be forgotten by the time they take to the court tonight for Game 3 of the NBA finals.

Dallas overcame a 15-point deficit in the final seven minutes to stun the Heat 95-93 and even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

"It's not going to affect us," Miami's LeBron James told reporters. "We want to win the game. We feel like we have a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, that our defence will prevail. That's how much confidence we have in our defence.

"I don't feel like our confidence will be down going into Game 3. We'll be back to square one and figure out how to win the game."

Miami won the series opener 92-84 on Tuesday and with a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead on Thursday the party atmosphere at the arena rivalled that of nearby South Beach.

Thoughts of a series sweep evaporated and when the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki scored a driving layup with 3.6 seconds left as Dallas completed one of the most dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks in the NBA Finals.

James conceded it is a "different mindset" with the series tied heading to Dallas for the next three games rather than hitting the road with a 2-0 lead.

"It's a ball game now," said the two-time NBA MVP. "With the series tied 1-1, we're looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be a difficult challenge for us but we're looking forward to it.

"We're a confident bunch. We play great on the road. It's going to be a hostile environment. Their fans and team are going to bring everything they have. We have to come out with it all, play as close to 48 minutes as possible on both ends."

The comeback marked the fourth time during this year's play-offs that the Mavericks had recovered from a double-digit deficit to win. All of those rallies occurred on the road.

"We gave them, and they gave themselves, life," said Dwyane Wade, the Heat guard who scored 36 points in the game but none in the waning moments.

"We had opportunities to at least put a little doubt in their mind.

"They're a confident team. No matter what the outcome of this game, they were going to be confident. It's a different story when you're up 2-0.

"You know what? I have been a part of it. I understand once you don't close a team down, they get confidence and life. This is a big challenge for us."

The Mavericks were delighted with the win but were not taking anything for granted.

"It's good to be going home," Tyson Chandler, the Dallas centre, said. "I'm glad we have three games in our place. We just have to take care of business."

The exploits of Nowitzki, the Game 2 match winner, was even more impressive as he played with a torn tendon on his left middle finger to score the winning basket.

Nowitzki, who turns 33 on June 19, slipped past Miami's Chris Bosh with 3.6 seconds left to give Dallas the improbable win.

"You play if you are feeling pain," Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks coach, said. "You make yourself numb so you don't feel pain. You got to play and you got to be a warrior."

Nowitzki tore the tendon in Game 1 and is expected to wear a protective splint for the rest of the series.

On Thursday, he finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, and Carlisle compared the one-time league MVP to Hall of Famer Larry Bird, the former Boston Celtics player.

"I played with Bird for three years when he was the best player in the world," Carlisle said. "Guys like that don't feel pain."

Now the Heat are the only thing standing in the way of Nowitzki and his first NBA championship ring.

"Unbelievable. I don't know how his finger felt but I know he didn't care," his teammate Jason Terry said.

"He was going to do whatever it took for us to get the win."

"What a huge swing it was," Nowitzki said. "A huge comeback for us. We never gave up."

Asked by reporters what was said in the huddle he replied: "I am not going to share that with the media. There was a little cussing involved.

"We got lucky down the stretch. Hopefully we can carry this momentum in Game 3."