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James' passing, 32 points lead Heat to 119-109 OT win over Mavericks

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- The pass to an open teammate -- such a simple concept -- can be a controversial thing when you are the consensus best basketball player on the planet.

If his teammate makes the open shot, LeBron James is a genius. If he misses, James is scorned by those who believe the best player should take the big shot every time, even if double-teamed.

Wednesday night, James' pass to Shane Battier with 15 seconds left in regulation worked, helping the Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks, 119-109, in overtime.

What made the play remarkable was that Battier was scoreless at the time, missing all three of his previous three-point tries.

"I channeled my Buddhist teachings from college," Battier said. "I was completely detached. I was so (ticked) from missing shots. Finally, I said: 'I don't care. I'm just going to shoot it.'

"Sometimes, that's what you have to do."

James finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. He has scored at least 20 points in all 30 games this season, the most 20-plus-point games by an NBA player to begin the season since George Gervin went 45 games in 1981-82.

Dwyane Wade added 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as the Heat improved to 22-8, the best record in the Eastern Conference. And while the Heat stands just one game over .500 on the road, they are dominant at home (15-2).

The Mavericks (13-20) have lost seven of their past eight games. Guard O.J. Mayo led the Mavs with 30 points and six assists.

Mayo was big down the stretch, scoring 12 of his points after the third quarter. It was his fourth game of the season with 30 or more points.

All-star Dirk Nowitzki played his sixth game of the season -- all of them off the bench -- and scored a season-high 19 points. He missed the first 27 games this season after knee surgery and has yet to return to his previous form, although his performance against Miami was a positive sign.

"Dirk's doing better every game," Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's progressing, and that's a promising situation."

Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer with 3:44 left in regulation to give the Mavs a 100-94 lead. But the Heat rallied to take a 103-101 lead on Battier's three-pointer.

"What I liked about that play," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "is that we were missing so many wide-open threes in the first three quarters, but we still found the trust to hit Shane."

That set up a fall-away jumper in the lane by Nowitzki, which tied the score with three seconds left. When James missed a jumper at the buzzer, overtime was required.

The Heat cruised from there, which left the Mavs 0-6 in OT this season.

"It shouldn't have gone to overtime," Carlisle said. "We were up six with a couple of minutes left, and our inability to keep them out of the lane was our downfall."

Nowitzki said the Mavs need more time to become a cohesive unit.

"The last couple of years, we knew each other so well," Nowitzki said. "We had J-Kidd (Jason Kidd, now with the Knicks), who was one of the smartest out there.

"We blew a couple of (defensive) coverages. LeBron gets to the basket twice. D-Wade gets to the basket once. It was just too easy for them."

Wade made 8 of 9 on the foul line. That's noteworthy because he was coming off a game in which he made just 2 of 10 foul shots against Orlando. It was a rare slump at the line for a career 77 percent shooter.

In that game, Miami also allowed Magic center Nikola Vucevic to grab 29 rebounds, the most ever by a Heat opponent. On Wednesday, the Heat did a better job on the boards, losing the battle by only one, 47-46.

The Heat also made 10 of 26 3-point attempts against the Mavs. For the season, the Heat ranks second in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (39.9).

Only nine teams have shot over 40 percent on 3-pointers for an entire season. The record is held by Charlotte, which shot 42.8 percent in 1996-1997.

NOTES: James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December, when he averaged 27.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Also Wednesday, he was named the USA Basketball Player of the Year, his first such honor. The award has been around since 1980, and only Michael Jordan and Alonzo Mourning have won it twice. ... Forward Brandan Wright, the Mavs' eighth-leading scorer (8.0 points per game), sat out Wednesday due to a leg injury. ... For the season, the Heat is next to last in the league in rebounds and 22nd in rebound differential (minus-2.2). The last team to be outrebounded in a season and still win an NBA title was the Houston Rockets in 1995. "We've proven we can rebound," Spoelstra said, "but we have to be a group-rebounding team. When one guy takes a mini-vacation, it hurts us." ... Only two Mavericks remain with the team that beat the Heat for the NBA title in 2011 -- 34-year-olds Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. ... Next up for the Heat are home games Friday (Chicago Bulls) and Sunday (Washington Wizards) before Miami starts a six-game road trip. ... The Mavs are off for a couple of days before playing host to New Orleans on Saturday.
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