DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki(notes) had to dart past the 3-point line to get open for an inbounds pass with just 4.5 seconds left in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. With a game-high 34 points in hand, the Dallas Mavericks star was undoubtedly expected to take the last shot with the Miami Heat up 88-86. But another reason the All-Star was expected to shoot was his teammates had shown little reason thus far in the Finals for him to have confidence in them to nail the big one.
Jason Terry(notes), Jason Kidd(notes) and Peja Stojakovic(notes) have all hit big shots in the past. But with time and a title of the essence, Nowitzki dribbled twice to the right on smothering Heat defender Udonis Haslem(notes), spun to the left and shot a well-guarded 16-foot fade-away jumper. Nowitzki's shot bounced off the back of the rim and didn't fall in Sunday's loss, putting the Mavs down 2-1 in the Finals.
As much as Nowitzki has dominated in these playoffs, even he needs more offensive help for the Mavericks to win the championship.
"If we're going to keep shooting in the low 40s, it's going to be tough to win," Nowitzki said. "Yeah, I have to keep making plays, keep being aggressive and look for my shot."
Said Terry: "Now we get to see who is going to step up, who's going to really go after this thing."
Nowitzki must be quietly envious of Miami's Dwyane Wade(notes). After being in a Nowitzki-like situation for years without an intimidating second scorer, Wade added two All-Stars that would be No. 1 scorers on most teams in LeBron James(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes). Even after Bosh had his offensive struggles in most of Game 3, James confidently threw a behind-the-back pass to him for the game-winning 16-foot jumper that gave Miami an 88-86 advantage with 39.6 seconds left. Wade (29), Bosh (18) and James (17) all scored well on the night. Miami even got 12 points from reserve Mario Chalmers(notes).
"I don't care if [Bosh] missed 15 in a row, he was wide-open and that's his sweet spot," James said. "He was able to knock it down. It's the trust we have in each other's ability, no matter what the point of the game it is."
Should Nowitzki trust his teammates the same way?
Nowitzki scored 15 of the Mavs' 22 points in the fourth quarter, including the last 12. He also scored the final nine in the Mavericks' come-from-behind 95-93 win in Game 2 and a game-high 27 in a Game 1 loss.
Terry scored only five of his 15 points off the bench in the second half Sunday. No one else scored more than 10 for the game. Mavericks not named Nowitzki combined for 17-of-49 shooting from the field and 11 turnovers. Other than J.J Barea's five points off the bench, none scored more than two in the fourth. The last non-Nowitzki score came on Tyson Chandler's(notes) put-back slam with 6:48 remaining.
"We're a team built on balance," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're a team where it may take seven guys scoring four points or more or five points or more or eight scoring three points or more. We never know for sure."
Said Kidd: "Somebody else has to step up and help [Nowitzki] on the offensive end. We're getting great looks, but they're just not going down. We have to continue to take those looks and hopefully they go down in Game 4."
If the Mavs are in dire need of help, the capable Terry must step up.
Along with "Jet," Terry has two other self-proclaimed nicknames in "Mr. Fourth Quarter" and "the MVP of the bench," which are showcased on a YouTube video often shown at home games. Terry's reel, however, didn't make the JumboTron on this night as he went scoreless on four field-goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, in the fourth. The 2009 NBA Sixth Man of the Year also missed a 3-pointer with 58.9 seconds left that could have given Dallas a momentous 89-86 lead.
"It would have been big," Terry said. "I make that shot all the time. It didn't go down tonight. They did a good job of contesting and making it a tougher shot than it should've been."
Terry is averaging 14.3 points on a dismal 38.2 percent shooting from the field and has missed eight of 12 3-pointers in the series. James, an All-NBA defender who is six inches taller than Terry, is making it tough for the 6-foot-2 guard.
The Maverick with three nicknames promises to live up to them the rest of the Finals.
"I'm looking forward to it," Terry said. "I know where my opportunities are going to come. It's going to be on me whether I'm going to take advantage of it or not. I put my money on myself."
Wade, James and Bosh certainly know how hard it is to succeed alone – it's the main reason they are all in Miami together now. In these Finals, Nowitzki can certainly relate.
"Hopefully, we can play a better all-around game and finally get some shots to go down here at home and see what happens Tuesday," Nowitzki said. "This is a tough loss, and it's basically a must-win situation."