The Miami Heat started 2013's first game a lot like 2012, with poor defense and rebounding leading to the Dallas Mavericks jumping out to a 30-22 lead after the first quarter. After runs from both teams, the Mavericks held a 100-94 lead after Dirk Nowitzki made a 3-pointer with 3:37 left in regulation. Dallas had a three-point lead with a minute left, but Dwyane Wade knocked the ball out of Nowitzki's hands and found Ray Allen for a layup. With 14.5 seconds left, LeBron James found Shane Battier open in the corner for a 3 to put the Heat up 103-101. But Nowitzki made a one-legged jumper to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Miami dominated the overtime period, scoring the first seven points and holding on for a 119-109 win. Miami has now defeated Dallas four consecutive times, blowing them out in the first three contests since the Mavericks won the 2011 NBA championship. Only Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain as rotation players from that Finals match-up.
James finished with 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-11 shooting from the foul line (his only two misses there came during a crucial fourth-quarter trip), 12 rebounds and nine assists. He made a reverse dunk after grabbing a lob pass from Wade at half-court in the first half. James also defended Nowitzki in the fourth quarter and overtime. Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony -- the two players who primarily guarded Nowitzki during the 2011 NBA Finals -- barely defended him Wednesday night. Shane Battier spent a lot of time on the former Finals MVP, committing five fouls in 28 minutes.
Wade finished with 27 points, a season-high 10 rebounds, five assists and two crucial steals in overtime. He shot only 9-of-21 from the field -- Miami overall struggled in the paint during the first half -- but played aggressively, especially when the Heat needed to buy James a few extra minutes to rest. Chris Bosh shot an efficient 7-of-10 from the field and made a few of his patented 15-foot jumpers, and probably should have gotten a few more shots. Ray Allen made three 3s, including the first field goal of overtime and another one with four minutes left. Despite his recent struggled, Allen has played up to the role of the fourth option these last two games. Miami played the final minutes of this game without a point guard, and Allen served as the occasional ball-handler.
Dallas initially out-rebounded Miami 18-8, but the Heat closed the gap to one by the end of the game. The 22 combined rebounds from James and Wade certainly helped, but so did Allen grabbing six boards. Udonis Haslem grabbed six boards in 20 minutes and even made two jumpers in the third quarter to punish Dallas for going to a zone defense. Unless Haslem can hit his once-reliable jumper consistently, though, he clogs the lane for Miami and prevents another 3-point shooter from entering the game.
This game had some to like and some to dislike. Dallas had too many rebounds early, and Nowitzki and Mayo had a few easy shots to build the Mavericks a fourth-quarter lead. But the Heat also executed very well in crunch time, patiently probing the defense and finding open shooters. The Heat will host the Chicago Bulls Jan. 4 at 8 p.m.