By Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade’s night began with a hug for his mom. It ended with an embrace from LeBron James.
Nearby, Chris Bosh held up three fingers.
No explanation necessary. The Miami Heat are three wins from the reason why the Big Three came together in the first place.
Wade scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, James scored 24 points for his first win in five NBA finals games, and the Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 in Game 1 of the title series on May 31 at Miami’s at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat held the Western Conference champions to their lowest point total of the playoffs after a dominant defensive showing down the stretch. It was Dallas’ fifth straight loss to Miami in finals games, dating to the Heat rally for the 2006 crown.
“Feels good because it’s the first game and we played well as a team,” James said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. … That’s one in the books. We’re excited about this game. Tomorrow we prepare for Game 2, and I see ways we can get better.”
Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points while tearing a tendon in the middle finger on his left, non-shooting, hand during the game and revealing afterward that he’ll likely wear a splint throughout the remainder of the series. He also grabbed eight rebounds for Dallas, which got 16 points and 10 rebounds from Shawn Marion, and 12 points from Jason Terry, most of those coming in an early flurry.
Defensively, Dallas held the Heat to 39 percent shooting, Miami’s second-worst showing of the playoffs. The problem was the Mavericks shot 37 percent — by far their worst night of the postseason offensively.
“You hold a team to 38 percent shooting and 92 points, for us, that’s usually a victory,” Marion said.
Sure enough, Dallas had been 7-2 when holding teams to those kind of numbers this season. Game 2 is set for May 26 in Miami.
“We’re a veteran team,” said Nowitzki, who had a postgame X-ray on the finger that was injured when he was stripping the ball from Bosh. “You can’t get down with a loss. You’ve got to come back strong on Thursday. …Obviously, we don’t want to go home down 0-2.”
Wade’s 3-pointer with 3:06 left put the Heat up 82-73, then the largest lead of the game for either team, but the Mavs shaved two points off it on the next possession when Nowitzki hit two free throws.
James gave the Heat their first double-digit lead of the finals a few seconds later when he dribbled upcourt against Marion, crossed his dribble over and got clear for a dunk while being fouled. The free throw made it 85-75, and most in the sellout, white-clad crowd began standing in anticipation.
But even then, it wasn’t over.
Nowitzki made two more free throws — he was 12-for-12 from the line for the game — with 1:36 left, cutting the Miami lead to six.
Bosh then got a dunk with 1:08 left that restored the 10-point lead and another dunk by James with 38.6 seconds left sealed the outcome.
Miami outrebounded Dallas 46-36 while Bosh scored 19 points and Mario Chalmers.
The Heat trailed by eight points early in the third quarter before pulling away, remaining unbeaten — now 9-0 — at home in these playoffs and snapping Dallas’ five-game road postseason winning streak.
Dallas led 17-16 after the first quarter, which was the lowest two-team output in the first quarter of Game 1 of a finals game during the shot clock era, according to STATS LLC.