The Dallas Mavericks are the 2011 NBA champions.
Photograph by: Mike Segar, Reuters
MIAMI — LeBron James brought his talents to South Beach last summer, but it was Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks that celebrated there at season's end.
The Mavericks captured their first NBA championship on Sunday, hitting 11 three-pointers in Game 6 to finish off the Miami Heat, 105-95.
Nowitzki had an uncharacteristic off night, going for 9-of-27 from the field, but netted 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to ice the Heat for good and culminate his MVP performance.
Jason Terry stepped up with a game-high 27 points for Dallas, which won the final three games of the series to become the first team since 1985 — when the NBA Finals went to the 2-3-2 format — to lose Game 3 of a tied series and go on to win the title.
Nowitzki and Terry were the only holdovers from the club that lost to Miami in the 2006 Finals.
"I still can't believe it. We worked so hard and so long for it," Nowitzki said in the postgame ceremony after he was handed the MVP trophy by Celtics great Bill Russell. "This is unbelievable. Mavs nation deserves it. It's been an amazing ride."
James paced the Heat with 21 points, Chris Bosh scored 19 with eight rebounds and Dwyane Wade totaled 17 points, eight boards and six assists.
But the vaunted triumvirate had no answer for Nowitzki, especially in the fourth quarter.
Despite their star hitting just 4-of-19 from the field over the first 36 minutes, the Mavs brought an 81-72 cushion into the final 12.
The margin ballooned to 89-77 when J.J. Barea, plugged into the starting lineup for the third straight game, put in his 14th and 15th points on an uncontested finger roll with 8:12 showing.
Mario Chalmers briefly gave the Heat life with a three-point play, and Bosh added one of his own a little later to pull Miami within 94-87.
The Heat played sloppily from that point on though, turning the ball over on consecutive possessions and rushing ill-advised three-pointers.
Nowitzki put in a pair of jumpers from the left wing around a Wade fadeaway down the stretch, and after Eddie House missed a three, Terry's jumper gave Dallas a healthy 101-89 edge with just under two minutes to go.
A James three-pointer cut the deficit to nine, but he and Wade each missed from long range the next two times down, and Nowitzki fittingly put in the clinching bucket on a left-handed lay-in similar to his winner in Game 2.
When the horn sounded, Nowitzki immediately went into the locker room to celebrate in private, though Mavs owner Mark Cuban was plenty demonstrative on the sideline.
"It feels so good for Dirk, for Jason Kidd, for Jason Terry and for Shawn Marion," said Cuban, who had been notably silent during the playoffs. "This team has so much heart and so much determination. I love every one of them."
Free throws, one of their strengths throughout the postseason, hurt the Heat on Sunday as they went just 20-of-33 from the stripe. Dallas also scored 27 points off 17 Miami turnovers to clinch the series.
James, hammered in the media for his ineffectiveness in the fourth quarter of this series, connected on his first four shots from the floor, two coming during a 12-1 run that gave Miami a 20-11 lead near the midway point of the opening stanza.
Despite Nowitzki sitting on the bench in foul trouble, the Mavs answered with a 17-2 spurt that was highlighted by a trio of three-pointers, the last coming from DeShawn Stevenson after a James turnover in the backcourt.
Dallas led 32-27 after 12 minutes, and Stevenson drained two more from behind the arc early in the second for a 40-28 cushion, Dallas' biggest lead of the series to that point.
Considering the closeness of the seesaw matchup, Miami fittingly scored the next 14 points to regain the lead, as House bookended the quick flurry with three pointers.
There was a bit of a scuffle after Dallas tried to stymie the rally with a timeout, as Stevenson shoved Udonis Haslem near midcourt. A face-to-face shouting match ensued as players off both benches tried to calm the situation, and Stevenson, Haslem and Chalmers were each hit with a technical after the referees reviewed the tape.
Terry scored Dallas' final 10 points of the half, which ended with the visitors holding a 53-51 edge.
Miami took a brief lead in the third before Dallas ripped off eight consecutive points to go up 63-56 on Shawn Marion's bank shot just over three minutes in.
The lead never changed hands the rest of the way.
Ian Mahinmi, playing in place of the injured Brendan Haywood, got an offensive rebound in the final minute and beat the buzzer with a jumper from the left elbow for an 81-72 Mavs advantage.
"Dallas earned it. They should be congratulated," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "When it was time for them to make tough plays in crunch time they did . . . we came up short. We got beaten by a team that played better than us."
© Copyright (c) The Sports Network