MIAMI — Dwyane Wade's night began with a hug for his mom. It ended with an embrace from LeBron James.
James scored 24 points for his first win in five finals-game appearances, Wade added 22 points and 10 rebounds and the Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks 92-84 in Game 1 of the title series on Tuesday night.
The Heat trailed by eight points early in the third quarter before pulling away, remaining unbeaten at home in these playoffs and snapping Dallas' five-game road winning streak.
Chris Bosh scored 19 points — holding up three fingers when it was over, a clear nod to the three wins Miami needs for a title — and Mario Chalmers added 12 for the Heat. Game 2 is Thursday night in Miami.
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Wade's three-pointer with 3:06 left put the Heat up 82-73, then the largest lead of the game for either team. The Mavs shaved two points off it on the next possession when Nowitzki hit two free throws, but James gave the Heat its first double-digit lead a few seconds later.
He dribbled upcourt against Shawn 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.
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.
A momentary blip.
Wade grabbed a key defensive rebound, dribbled away from three Dallas pursuers and found Bosh for a dunk with 1:08 left that restored the 10-point lead. Another dunk by James came with 38.6 seconds left, sealing it.
Game over, and the Heat fans knew it, breaking into their now-traditional tossing of their white seat covers.
"I just was aggressive," Wade said. "We understand that this is the kind of game we wanted to play. We had them where we wanted them in the sense of points. You know they wasn't scoring a lot on us and offensively we just executed and guys made plays."
Miami outrebounded Dallas 46-36.
Nowitzki scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Dallas, which got 16 from Marion and 12 from Jason Terry. It was Dallas' fifth straight loss to Miami in finals games, dating to the Heat rally for the 2006 crown.
Dallas had 51 points after 26 minutes. The Mavericks scored 18 points in the next 18 minutes, 33 over the remainder of the game, as Miami's defense found another gear.
"That's kind of the way we've been winning games, of late," Wade said. "You've got stay with it. You can't get frustrated because the ball's not going in. There's other ways you can dominate the game and we was able to do that tonight. I thought we did a great job in the second half of rebounding the ball, limiting them to one shot as much as possible."
So, as was the case so many times this season, the Heat took the difficult route.
Miami coach Eric Spoelstra misspoke before the game, saying it had been "425 days" since the Heat opened training camp. He meant 245, but some would say this season may have seemed 180 days longer after all that's happened along the way.
There was James' "The Decision" where he left Cleveland for Miami, something that still has him considered to be a villain in plenty of NBA cities. There was the 9-8 start, capped by a loss and long players-only meeting in Dallas. The Heat was swept by Chicago in the regular season, lost three of four to Boston, then fittingly vanquished both in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Mavs have an uncanny run of dominance over the Heat — which, for whatever reason, only seems to apply in regular-season games.
Take away the 2006 NBA finals, and Dallas came into Game 1 having beaten Miami 14 straight times. The only team that has lost to any team more times consecutively is Minnesota, which finished with the NBA's worst record this season. The Timberwolves have lost 16 straight to San Antonio and Portland, and 15 straight to the Los Angeles Lakers.
None of that seemed relevant Tuesday, nor did the Miami win over Dallas for the title five years ago, either.
DALLAS (84): Marion 6-12 4-5 16, Nowitzki 7-18 12-12 27, Chandler 3-4 3-5 9, Kidd 3-8 0-0 9, Stevenson 2-3 0-0 6, Terry 3-10 3-4 12, Stojakovic 0-3 0-0 0, Barea 1-8 0-0 2, Haywood 0-1 3-6 3. Totals 25-67 25-32 84
MIAMI (92): James 9-16 2-2 24, Bosh 5-18 9-12 19, Anthony 0-1 0-0 0, Bibby 0-4 0-0 0, Wade 9-19 2-5 22, Chalmers 3-8 3-4 12, Haslem 3-8 1-1 7, Howard 0-1 2-2 2, Miller 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 31-80 19-26 92
Dallas17 27 17 23—84 Miami 16 27 22 27—92
3-Point Goals—Dallas 9-22 (Kidd 3-7, Terry 3-7, Stevenson 2-3, Nowitzki 1-2, Stojakovic 0-3), Miami 11-24 (James 4-5, Chalmers 3-7, Miller 2-4, Wade 2-4, Bibby 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Dallas 46 (Marion 10), Miami 59 (Wade 10). Assists—Dallas 18 (Kidd 6), Miami 20 (Wade 6). Total Fouls—Dallas 22, Miami 21. A—20,003 (19,600).