Mavericks Pull Away and Close in on Title


DALLAS — In the fifth installment of a taut, twisting series that is seemingly redefining legacies by the hour, Jason Terry extended himself, extended his arms, soared around the court and carried the Dallas Mavericks to their biggest victory in franchise history.

On a night that offense finally prevailed in the N.B.A. finals, Terry was the Mavericks’ clutch-time savior Thursday, fueling a fantastic late run that propelled them to a 112-103 victory over the Miami Heat and a 3-2 lead in the series.

The Mavericks now stand one win away from the first championship in franchise history, but will have to claim it in Miami, where Game 6 will be played on Sunday (and Game 7, if necessary, on Tuesday).

The final buzzer brought raucous cheers in the stands, but just satisfied smiles on the court. If the Mavericks were cautious, it is because they have come close before, blowing a 2-0 lead against Miami in the 2006 finals.

“We couldn’t celebrate tonight, even though it was a big win for us,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who could certify his Hall of Fame career with his next victory. “The series is not over.”

Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 29 points, but it was Terry’s late 3-point shooting and playmaking that knocked Miami out. Eight of his 21 points came in the final 3 minutes 23 seconds, all with LeBron James shadowing him. Terry hit two 3-pointers — and dished to Jason Kidd for another — in a 15-3 run to close the game.

“It’s my job,” said Terry, whose nickname is Jet and who celebrates big shots by flying around the court, arms outstretched. “All season long, ever since I’ve been a Maverick, I’ve been the guy in the fourth quarter they depended on to either make plays or make shots. So I really relish in that role.”

James and Dwyane Wade generally enjoy that role as well, but they came up surprisingly short again. James bounced back from poor Game 4 with a triple-double — 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists — but he missed 11 of his 19 shots, had 4 turnovers and went silent down the stretch. Wade had 23 points and 8 assists, despite a bruised left hip that seemed to limit his explosiveness.

There was no minimizing the significance of the night, not for the Mavericks, who arguably had to win to have any chance in the series, and certainly not for James, who for two days had been pilloried and psychoanalyzed after a disengaged 8-point performance on Tuesday. Only a dominant showing and a victory would quell the chatter.

“This is a big game, probably the biggest game of my life,” James had said earlier in the day, but he had trouble meeting the challenge.

Although he had four assists in the fourth quarter, James scored just 2 points, continuing a series-long trend of disappearing down the stretch. Wade had 10 points in the final quarter, despite his injury.

Dallas became the first team to win consecutive games in this series, and the Heat now faces elimination for the first time in this postseason.

“We look at it the other way,” said Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra. “We’re going home. And we wouldn’t have it any other way than the hard way. This is an opportunity for us.”

James mostly played the facilitator role in the fourth quarter, and mostly to great effect — hitting Wade for a pair of fast-break layups and dishing to Udonis Haslem for a dunk as the Heat wiped out a 7-point deficit.

After taking a 99-95 lead on Wade’s 3-pointer, the Heat watched its offense disintegrate. The Mavericks scored 8 unanswered points — 3-pointers by Terry and Kidd, sandwiched around Nowitzki’s driving baseline dunk — for a 105-100 lead with 1:26 to play. James tried to save the game, but he missed shots from 20 feet and the arc and committed an offensive foul when he drove into Tyson Chandler. Wade also had a costly turnover, losing the ball to Shawn Marion.

Asked if he was struggling with the pressure, James said: “No, I don’t think so. I don’t believe so. I know I’m not.”

Wade was circumspect about his injury, refusing to discuss it or indicate how much of a factor it was. But he sat out the first 7:27 of the second half, and Spoelstra said he was not sure Wade would return.

“Once you’re on the court, you’re on the court,” Wade said. “I don’t have no excuses.”

At least one historical trend now favors the Mavericks. In 26 previous finals that were tied at 2-2, the Game 5 winner has claimed the title on 19 occasions. (The trend was defied as recently as last year, when the Boston Celtics won Game 5 but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.)
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