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Living in the moment: Mavs rally again

MIAMI – The Dallas Mavericks overcame a 12-point deficit against the Portland Trail Blazers on their way to a Game 6 series-clinching victory in the opening round. In their following game, they rallied from 16 points down to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of their West semifinal series. In Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, the Mavs once again dug themselves out of an enormous hole, rallying from a 15-point deficit to stun the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki makes the game-winning shot in Game 2 of the Finals.
(Getty Images)
Rally kings

Mavs have had four double-digit comebacks in 2011 playoffs, three in second half. All four have been on the road.

Game Points
deficit
Final
score
First rd.: @Portland, Gm. 6 12 103-96
Blazers led 31-19, 9:32 left in 2nd quarter
West semis: @Lakers, Gm. 1 16 96-94
Lakers led 60-44, 9:52 left in 3rd quarter
West finals: @OKC, Gm. 4 15 112-105 OT
Thunder led 99-84, 4:50 left in 4th quarter
NBA Finals: @Miami, Gm. 2 15 95-93
Heat led 88-73, 6:20 left in 4th quarter

So when the Mavericks sat in their huddle with just 7:14 left in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, staring at another 15-point deficit, they had no reason to hang their heads. They could do this, they told themselves, because they’d already done it.

“If you’re going to win a championship, you have to have the wherewithal to hang in there when things get tough,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “You have to keep believing. All year our guys have believed.”

The Mavericks once again did the improbable, stunning the Heat 95-93 in the largest fourth-quarter Finals comeback in 14 years.

The Heat opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run capped by Dwyane Wade’s(notes) 3-pointer to go ahead 88-73 with 7:14 remaining. Considering how well the Heat had played defensively, the Mavericks looked like they would be flying home in an 0-2 hole. But they also took notice of Wade celebrating with LeBron James(notes) after the big shot.

“Seeing them celebrate like that, it was really disheartening for us,” Terry said. “Then I took another glance at the score and at that time, there was a lot of time left. And so in the huddle, in that timeout, we looked at each other to a man and said, ‘Hey, we have one opportunity. Let’s make a run at this. Get some stops. Get some baskets. Get back feeling good about ourselves.’ ”

With the Heat owning such a big lead, it would seem to make sense to slow the offense and have veteran point guard Mike Bibby(notes), who had 14 points and four steals in his 97th playoff appearance, run the show. Instead, the Heat stayed with third-year point guard Mario Chalmers(notes). Bibby never played in the fourth. Wade and James took control of the offense – and also took the ball out of Chalmers' hands, settling for ill-advised isolation plays at the end of the shot clock. They combined to have four turnovers in the final quarter.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called his team’s offense in the fourth quarter “uncharacteristic.”

“We were running down the [shot] clock to the end,” Spoelstra said. “That’s not been a successful formula now for us the last three months.”

The Mavericks continued to chip away at the lead with help from Terry, who had eight points in the 17-2 run. The Heat’s only points came on a pair of free throws.

The Mavericks’ comeback appeared to be complete after Nowitzki made a 3-pointer to give Dallas a 93-90 lead with 57.6 seconds remaining. Chalmers answered with a three of his own after Terry left him alone. During the ensuing timeout, Nowitzki had some choice words for his longtime teammate.

“I’m sure there was a little cussing involved,” Nowitzki said. “If you’re down 15 and you make an amazing run like that, and you’re up three, you can’t give up a wide-open 3. It just can’t happen.”

Said Terry: “In the timeout Dirk is like, ‘What were you thinking?’ And really, honestly, it was my mistake. And I take all the blame for it.”

After screaming at Terry, Nowitzki promised he would clean up for him.

Nowitzki kept his word. He spun by Chris Bosh(notes) for a layup to put the Mavericks back in front. Wade’s long 3 at the final buzzer hit the back of the rim, leaving the Mavs to celebrate as he crumbled to the floor. The loss was the Heat’s first at home in these playoffs.

“We got lucky down the stretch,” Nowitzki said.

If that’s the case, they’ve gotten lucky a lot this postseason.