Published November 20, 2014
It may have been the simplest play the Miami Heat ran all night.
Had it not decided the game — and given Miami control of the NBA finals — it wouldn't have made any highlight reel, generated any interest, ever been replayed. A pick-and-roll, followed by two passes to rotate the ball over to the opposite side of the court. A screen to create space. An easy open jumper.
"Fundamental basketball," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "at its best."
And with that, the Heat are two wins away from being crowned the NBA's best.
Chris Bosh's jumper from the left baseline with 39.6 seconds left after a nifty snap pass by LeBron James broke the ninth and final tie of the game, giving the Heat an 88-86 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the NBA finals on Sunday night.
The Heat reclaimed home-court advantage in the series, with a 2-1 edge heading into Game 4 on Tuesday.
"We felt this was a must-win," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said after scoring 29 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. "We had to put it upon ourselves to try to take home court back in a sense, and by any means necessary."
The Heat wasted a chance to take command of the series in Game 2, frittering away a 15-point lead in the final 7:14.
On Sunday, the Miami lead was once 14, albeit in the second quarter. The Heat led by seven midway through the fourth. Could Dallas come back again?
Dirk Nowitzki missed a shot that would have tied it on Dallas' last possession, and the Mavericks dropped their second straight finals home game, although the two were separated by 1,811 days. Miami's last win in Dallas was June 20, 2006, when the Heat clinched an NBA title with a Game 6 victory.
Until Sunday, Dallas has been a house of horrors for every player on the Heat roster. None of the 15 had a winning record in the city as an opponent. Juwan Howard was 8-10 in road games at Dallas. Mike Bibby was 10-18. Eddie House was 5-8.
And they were the good ones.
James was 2-6 in Dallas as a pro. Haslem was 1-9 and Wade was 1-6 — their lone win coming in that 2006 title-clincher. Jamaal Magloire was 0-9, Mike Miller was 1-14 and Erick Dampier was 2-11 as an opponent, though it bears noting the Mavericks were 184-59 in home games when he played for Dallas.
But Bosh, winless in all eight of his previous trips to Dallas as a pro, was finally a hero in his hometown.
"I knew I was going to have an open shot," Bosh said. "I know I have to shoot it. I just wanted to have good form, follow through. And I'm lucky."
Bear in mind, he said that with an eyeball that was more the size of a tennis ball.
Bosh's night started with a tumble, him falling to the court in agony after getting hit in the left eye by Mavs guard Jason Kidd. He got treated quickly on the Miami bench and stayed in the game, though his eye swelled quickly.
He said it didn't impair his vision. The stat sheet suggested it may have.
Bosh was 6 for 17 in the game — and 15 for 51 in the series — before his game-winner. Bosh told teammate Udonis Haslem moments before the basket that if Wade or James penetrated, he wanted someone to screen Nowitzki and get him open.
That's close enough to what happened. And Bosh delivered.
"It went just how we thought it would," Haslem said. "He stepped up with confidence and knocked it down. He's a great shooter. He's a tough, tough shooter. He knocks down shots. He has a feathery touch. I've got confidence every time he shoots the ball that it's going in."
Wade dribbled right, threw the ball over a double team to James in the high post as Haslem slipped toward Nowitzki to give Bosh room to step back to a spot on the left baseline. James never even turned around or dribbled, shoveling a backward pass to Bosh, who caught the ball and shot as Haslem kept Nowitzki pinned.
"I don't care if he missed 15 in a row," James said. "He was wide open and that's his sweet spot."
Sweet result, too.
Bosh said he expected his shot to run exactly as it did, right down to James flipping the ball from the side instead of turning and facing the Mavs' defense before making a move.
"It was the right play," Bosh said. "We trust each other. Our guys have been doing a fantastic job of showing that trust, especially in crunch time situations. This is as big as it gets and when you can trust somebody to hit them real quick, I think that's great."
Nowitzki called it a mental breakdown, though he lauded the job Haslem did on the pick that freed Bosh. Nowitzki had a chance to atone for that basket later, but missed as Haslem — who was a thorn in his side throughout the 2006 finals — defended him nicely at the end.
"We definitely messed it up," Nowitzki said.
Bosh had felt the same way after all eight of his previous appearances in Dallas as an NBA opponent.
Never has a 1-8 record looked so good to him as it does now.
"It started with Dwyane," Spoelstra said. "He threw it to LeBron, LeBron threw it to Chris. ... When you see an open man, you hit an open man. And like I said, we made a few of those plays down the stretch. It was good to see him knock that one down."
It goes back to what the Heat had talked about since Day 1 of training camp.
That word has been part of Spoelstra's daily vernacular all season. Trust in the process, the system, your teammates, the moment. Never had that meant more than when Bosh made that shot on Sunday night.
"At this point," James said, "there's no room to hold anything back."
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