Originally Published: June 5, 2011

1. LeBron, Wade Stand Out In Pivotal Game 3s

Windhorst By Brian Windhorst

DALLAS -- History and reality tell us Sunday's Game 3 of these NBA Finals probably is going to end up being vital.

That's a challenging situation for the Heat, who haven't won in Dallas since the last Finals game they played here in 2006. They are also now considered the underdogs after losing momentum by blowing a 15-point lead in Game 2.

But they also have something quite valuable on their side: Two players who have been dominant in these moments during their careers. Both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have remarkable track records in Game 3s of series that are tied 1-1.

Wade is playing in his 16th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the sixth time. In those other instances, Wade has regularly delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. In fact, the Heat are 5-0 with Wade in Game 3s in a tied series, including 1-0 this season when the Heat took command of the Eastern Conference finals with a Game 3 win over Chicago. Wade's averaged 29.4 points on 52 percent shooting in those situations.

James is playing in his 17th career playoff series and is tied at 1-1 for the fifth time. In those other instances, James has delivered huge performances in those crucial Game 3s. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 3-1 in those Game 3s. James averaged 35.5 points on 47 percent shooting in those situations.

"Obviously, we understand this is a very big game," Wade said Saturday. "We've been looking forward to it since after Game 2."

Even the most basic basketball statistics can be passed off as circumstantial. But there's one looming over this series like a summer Texas thunderstorm with regard to Game 3.

Since 1985, when the championship series went to a 2-3-2 format, ESPN Statistics and Information tells us that there's been 11 times a series has been tied 1-1 as the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks are. The winner of Game 3 has won the series all 11 times.

In a word: Whoa.

"That's not even a big enough sample," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about the number Saturday, clearly trying to take the onus off what unfolds Sunday night.

But actually it's a huge sample, 11 instances in the last 25 Finals. Regardless, there's no arguing the point that Sunday night is pivotal. Even before this stat was raised, the Heat understood the stakes. A loss doesn't end the series but it puts the losers in a hole that many teams before them haven't been able to get out of.

"It's a sense of urgency," James said. "That's the only was we know how to play, when we feel like we're desperate. It's the only way to approach [these] games."

Wade's signature Game 3 was probably in the 2006 conference finals, setting the stage for the Heat's upset of the top-seeded Detroit Pistons. Wade made 13 of 17 shots and scored 35 points as the Heat took control of that series.

James' best was against the Boston Celtics last season when he scored 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting to break a 1-1 series tie in Boston. The Cavs went on to lose the series but only after they lost a second home game. The Finals format, which has the next three games in Dallas, changes that margin for error. In the one pivotal Game 3 that James lost in his career, in the conference finals to the Orlando Magic in 2009, he delivered with 41 points and nine assists.

Those huge numbers aren't likely for Wade or James against the Mavs, their roles have changed playing with each other and their numbers have, too. When the Heat beat the Bulls in Game 3 just a few weeks ago, James had just 22 points but had one of his best all-around games of the postseason with 10 assists as he was able to repeatedly set up Chris Bosh, who had 34 points. Wade had just 17 points in that game but playing together the Heat were able to win it.

No matter the stats, Wade and James will arrive at American Airlines Center drawing on a strong personal history of coming through in these moments.

"We have a great opportunity [Sunday] night and our guys understand that," Spoelstra said.

Of course, the Mavericks don't exactly have slouches. They were in the same situation in the Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, coming home for Game 3 tied 1-1. Knowing the gravity of that game, Dirk Nowitzki delivered a 40-point performance to add to his personally impressive playoff résumé.

Last season, when the Mavs' series with the San Antonio Spurs was tied 1-1, Nowitzki had 35 points in a loss. The rest of career in these spots is a little scattered. He had 20 points in a Game 3 win to break a 1-1 tie with the Spurs in 2009. In 2007, he shot poorly in a Game 3 loss to the Golden State Warriors when the Mavs lost control of that series.

He's aware that with Wade and James, there's going to be another extreme challenge with the crucial game at hand.

"I think we can't let up, we're not good enough to just relax," Nowitzki said. "We need to play with an edge."

Dimes past: May 14 | 15 | 16 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | June 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

2. Bosh Looking To Regain Touch

By Tom Haberstroh
Heat Index


DALLAS -- It's probably not a good sign when you're in the middle of your first NBA Finals and you're thinking about the time you shot 1-for-18 in a game. But that's where Chris Bosh is right now.

Before the Heat's first practice in Dallas on Saturday, Bosh stood before the media and assured everyone that he will bounce back in Game 3 after shooting 26 percent in the first two games of the series.

How does he know that? In his mind, he has been here before. No, not in the Finals, but mentally, this is familiar territory. In late February against the Chicago Bulls, the Heat power forward endured one of the worst shooting nights in NBA history, missing 17 of his 18 shots from the floor. Those memories came rushing back after another off shooting night in Game 2.

"This is the Finals and I have to really use what I've learned in crucial situations," Bosh said Saturday. "I just have to trust in myself. I know I can play the game."

• To read the full story, click here »

3. The Marion Kind Of Success

By Jeff Caplan
ESPN Dallas


DALLAS -- As Shawn Marion piled up more points and rebounds in April than during any other stretch in his two seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki so marveled at him that he came up with a go-to line for the veritable elastic man long ago dubbed "The Matrix."

"He's turned back the clock on us," Nowitzki said more than once.

It's an interesting choice of words for the soon-to-be-33-year-old Nowitzki to use on the just-turned-33 Marion, who has one less season of NBA tread on his sneakers.

Nowitzki meant it as a compliment, but the interpretation was clear: This version of the Matrix is not the ridiculously malleable and multi-dimensional one that Nowitzki twice faced running-and-gunning in the playoffs with the Phoenix Suns.

• To read the full story, click here »


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