James helps Heat burn bright in Finals opener

By Steve Ginsburg

MIAMI (Reuters) - LeBron James took the opening step toward winning his first championship by leading the Miami Heat to a 92-84 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

"It feels good because it's the first game," James told reporters.

"And we played well as a team. We got a lot of work to do. We'll come in with the same mindset on Thursday, and looking forward to this challenge once again that's in front of us.

"It's one in the books. We're excited about this game. Tomorrow we prepare for Game Two, and obviously there's ways we can get better."

The two-time NBA most valuable player hit nine-of-16 shots but was at his best from long range, connecting on four-of-five from beyond the arc.

Dwyane Wade added 22 for the Heat, while collecting a team-leading 10 rebounds. Chris Bosh scored 19 for Miami, giving the so-called "Big Three" 65 of the team's 92 points.

Wade had seven points in the final quarter to prevent the Mavericks from stealing the opening game of the best-of-seven series.

"I've been working hard on my shot," Wade added. "I'm very confident. I was able to get a few to go. That's all it was. Just confidence.

"Guys gave me the ball, and put me in the position to do it. Just to try to come through for my team.

The Heat shot only 38.8 percent from the field but limited the Mavericks to just 37.3. Miami won the game on the glass, holding a 46-36 edge in rebounds.

"It's a long series and we'll adjust and do the things we need to do to get ourselves in a better position," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

"This is a very good basketball team we're playing. They were more opportunistic tonight than we were. That's been one of the traits of our run. We've been very opportunistic.

"Tonight we weren't as much."

Dallas's 10-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points hitting seven-of-18 shots from the floor and all 12 of his free throw attempts.

But the 32-year-old seven-footer (2.13m) admitted it was not his top effort.

"I had my opportunities," the German said. "I had some good drives there in the first half. I've just got to finish. I missed a righty lay-up. I missed a lefty lay-up that rolled around.

"I have to keep attacking and take my opportunities when they're there."

JAMES SHINES

James scored nine points in the third quarter, including a 25-foot, three-pointer at the buzzer with the Mavericks' Shawn Marion in his face, as Miami recovered from an eight-point deficit to take a 65-61 lead into the final period.

Miami led 77-73 with just under four minutes left but two foul shots by Chris Bosh and a 24-foot, three-point jumper by Wade hiked the advantage to nine points with 3:06 on the clock.

Two free throws by Nowitzki sliced the lead to 82-75 but James responded with a three-point play on the next possession to end any thoughts of a Dallas comeback.

Game Two is in Miami on Thursday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Dallas for the next three games, if necessary.

"We know to beat Miami we're going to have to bring it," he said. "We have to play our A game every night. We'll stay encouraged, we'll watch the tape and make some adjustments.

"We'll come out and be ready to go Thursday night."

(Editing by John O'Brien)