MIAMI (AP)—Draped in white paper streamers that rained down from the ceiling, the Miami Heat hugged and danced their way off the floor following a win to remember.
Not far away, the Dallas Mavericks and their feisty owner were kicking, screaming and fighting mad.
These NBA finals certainly haven’t been lacking for any drama. And they’re not over yet, either.
Dwyane Wade scored 43 points, the last on a free throw with 1.9 seconds left in overtime after Dallas’ Josh Howard asked for an untimely timeout, and the Heat won their third straight game in this homey and heated series, 101-100 over the Mavericks on Sunday for a 3-2 lead.
Wade’s latest virtuoso performance—he’s averaging 40.3 points in the past three games—sent the evenly matched teams to Dallas for Game 6 on Tuesday night. Game 7, if necessary, will be Thursday night.
When the Mavericks’ final shot—because of Howard’s error, all they could manage was a half-court heave by Devin Harris—went over the backboard, AmericanAirlines Arena, hosting its final game of the season, erupted in cheers and some chaos.
“We can smell it,” Wade said. “Dallas plays well at home but we are a confident bunch so we’ll see what happens.”
As the Heat were celebrating the biggest win in franchise history, Dallas owner Mark Cuban stormed onto the floor, complaining about a non-call against Wade a few other plays in the final seconds.
Cuban, wearing a blue jersey bearing the name of suspended Dallas reserve Jerry Stackhouse, stood with his hands on his hips in disbelief as the Mavericks headed to the locker room to begin getting ready for Game 6.
All the Mavericks were hot, especically Dirk Nowitzki, who first punted the ball into the stands and then kicked a stationary bike in a hallway before turning his anger on anything in his way.
Afterward, Dallas coach Avery Johnson, already in a foul mood because of Stackhouse’s suspension, was combative with the media and spent several awkward minutes avoiding questions about the now infamous timeout.
“You tell me,” Johnson barked at a reporter, asking about the timeout. “What was your impression? I want you to give everybody an honest answer. We have people from Israel and Minnesota and Chicago, all over, Dallas, Germany.”
Wade made 21 of 25 free throws, matching Dallas’ total, and came through again when the Heat needed their shooting star most.
After Nowitzki’s jumper with 9.1 seconds to go gave the Mavericks 100-99 lead, Wade took an inbounds pass wove and dribbled his way seemingly all over South Florida—the Mavericks thought he pushed off and committed a backcourt violation—before he fouled on a drive to the basket by Nowitzki.
Wade made the first, and the officials awarded Dallas a timeout even though Johnson was arguing that he didn’t want one until Wade’s second attempt. The crew of Joe DeRosa, Joey Crawford and Bennett Salvatore huddled and decided the Mavs had asked for a timeout and gave them their last one.
“We gave the signal, ‘Second free throw, timeout.’ One of our players was saying timeout. I said, ‘Yeah, after the second one,”’ Johnson said.
“Pretty much most people who have ever been involved in the NBA for 20, 30 years, know we wouldn’t want one anyway with only one timeout,” he said. “So we were pretty dumbfounded that that couldn’t get relayed.”
Crawford, the crew chief, speaking for the officials, said: “Josh Howard goes to Joe DeRosa and not only once, but twice asks for timeout. Forced to call it, simple as that.”
The timeout took away Dallas’ ability to inbounds the ball at halfcourt, costing them 45 precious feet. Wade then knocked down his second free throw, and when Harris’ shot was way off, this series had its latest controversy.
“Avery was trying to tell his guys after two, but one of them called it,” Heat forward Antoine Walker said. “And once you call it you can’t take it back.”
After the Mavericks left the floor, Cuban continued to scream at DeRosa, then went to the scorer’s table and stared at NBA commissioner David Stern and other league officials. He was on the court another 10 minutes before walking away, shaking his head with each step.
The Mavericks have already had a player suspended, and if the oft-fined Cuban isn’t careful, he’ll be next.
The Heat, who finished 10-1 at their home in these playoffs, are now one win away from that victory parade down Biscayne Boulevard that Shaquille O’Neal promised when he first came to Miami.
O’Neal had 18 points and 12 rebounds, but he was just 2-for-12 from the free-throw line. For the second straight game, Gary Payton made a huge shot for Miami, a two-handed scoop with 29.8 seconds left that put the Heat up 99-98.
Jason Terry had 35 points for the Mavericks, who after winning the first two games at home, have dropped three straight and now have to regroup following an emotionally draining loss. Howard added 25 and Nowitzki had 20, but another crucial free threw late in regulation.
“We got embarrassed here,” Nowitzki said. “They suspended one of our players, so obviously we were pretty mad. We responded. We were in the game. We had our chances. Now we go and we’ll see what happens.”
For the second time in three games, Wade was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points on every shot in his personal playbook. His 18-foot jumper gave the Heat a 91-89 lead with 1:08 left, but Nowitzki, who had just missed Dallas’ first free throw after 18 in a row, knocked down a 14-footer.
Wade finally missed on his next attempt, and Dallas capitalized as Nowitzki drew O’Neal on a double team and made a nice pass down low to Erick Dampier, whose dunk gave the Mavericks a 93-91 lead with 10.1 seconds to go.
Wade wasn’t done, not even close.
He drove the right side, got his body tight with Adrian Griffin, and pushed off just enough to get space and banked in a 10-footer with 2.8 seconds to go to tie it 93-93 and rock the arena once again.
“He’s the best right now, that’s all you can say,” O’Neal said. “He’s the best.”
Dallas had a final chance in regulation, but Terry, triple-teamed by Wade, O’Neal and James Posey misfired from just beyond the line before the horn sounded and a Game 5 that had it all had at least another five minutes.
Johnson, the NBA’s coach of the year, had spent the previous 48 hours challenging the Mavericks’ intensity. He switched the team’s hotel, grumbled about the inconsistent officiating and ranted over Stackhouse’s ban.
He’s got a whole new beef now.
Wade broke Bob Pettit’s record for free throws made. Pettit made 19 for St. Louis in 1958 against Boston. … Nowitzki’s birthday didn’t get off to a good starter as he turned 28 shortly before the final buzzer. … Saxophonist Clarence Clemons played the national anthem. … If Miami wins the series, it would mark the fourth time the NCAA and NBA champions came from the same state. Florida won its first national title in March. The last state to claim both champs was Michigan in 1989 when Detroit won the NBA crown and the Wolverines were college basketball’s best team. California twice had both winners (UCLA and Golden State in 1975, and the Los Angeles Lakers and UCLA in 1972).