Mavs Eek Out Victory Over Heat

With a few seconds left and the Miami Heat down only one point, Dwyane Wade saw teammate Mario Chalmers snatch a rebound and asked for the ball.

He would've settled for a timeout.

Instead, the rookie raced down the court and charged into Dallas forward Josh Howard with 2.3 seconds left. The Mavericks padded the lead with a free throw in the final ticks to pull out a 98-96 victory Wednesday night in a game that often was as intense as the 2006 NBA finals matchup between these clubs.

Dallas trailed by 11 late in the third quarter, but surged ahead early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Dirk Nowitzki. The lead changed hands 10 more times after that, with the Mavs going up for good on a scooping shot by Nowitzki that was ruled in because of goaltending. A series of bad possessions ruined it for Miami, with Chalmers' goof the final blow.

"He tried to bait me to go to his right and I just stayed with him and beat him to the spot," Howard said. "He ran over me and I got the call."

Nowitzki scored 30 points and Howard had 20 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists in his second game since missing 11 straight with an ankle problem. On the game-saving play, he landed on his left wrist, which also has bothered him this season, but later laughed about it as he slipped a gaudy piece of jewelry over it.

"This watch is making it feel a lot better," Howard said, smiling.

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Miami coach Erik Spoelstra -- a rookie, just like Chalmers -- blamed himself for not calling the timeout. Chalmers said he thought he just wanted to make a quick move to the basket.

"There was a lot of miscommunication going on," said Wade, who had 23 points and six assists, but wasn't able to pull off any late-game heroics, in part because of stiff defense by Jason Kidd.

"It was in between calling timeout, but we also had numbers. Some people wanted to call timeout, some others thought we had numbers, and they called an offensive foul. Tough call at that time. It went fast. If we could do it over it'd be different."

The Mavericks beat the Heat for the 10th straight time, although that's only the regular season. Miami climbed from an 0-2 deficit to win the next four and claim the '06 title.

Dallas hasn't won a playoff series since, going out in the first round both times. The Mavs own the eighth seed in the West right now but are hoping to move up. This was their second straight win and improved them to 10-1 at home since the All-Star break. This also was the start of four of five games at home.

What they like most, however, is seeing Howard back.

"That makes us whole," Jason Terry said.

Miami is fifth in the East -- and slipping. The Heat lost for the fourth time in five games. It's also a third straight road loss, with this starting a run of four-of-five on the road.

"We've got to keep fighting," Wade said. "We knew we'd be struggling at times. Everybody wants to jump over the hurdle but you've got to walk before you run."

Chalmers scored 18 points and Michael Beasley 17. Daequan Cook scored 13 and Jermaine O'Neal had 12, although he shot 4-of-15.

In the final 2:35, Beasley missed a pair of free throws and a jumper, and Chalmers missed a layup. Beasley redeemed himself by making a pair of free throws to put Miami within 97-96 with 33 seconds left.

Kidd missed a shot on the ensuing possession and Chalmers grabbed the rebound. He went up the court, ignoring or simply not seeing Wade's plea, then rammed into Howard just inside the 3-point line. Miami fouled Terry, but he missed one of two free throws with 1.3 seconds left, reviving the Heat's comeback hopes.

However, Wade wasn't able to even get off a last-second shot.

Kidd had only three points and four rebounds, but 11 assists. Terry scored 14 and Brandon Bass had 10, many on booming dunks.

The first half was tense, with neither team leading by five. Guys were diving for loose balls and challenging every shot as if this was a postseason game.

Miami began to pull away in the third quarter as Dallas went more than 6 months without a field goal. Even after Nowitzki ended the drought, the Heat still kept stretching the lead, getting up 62-51.

But the Mavericks soon rallied, with a 3-pointer from Nowitzki sending them into the final period trailing just 73-71.

Notes:@ Heat G Luther Head had his broken left hand examined by a specialist Wednesday. "We'll get a more definitive word on how that's going," Spoelstra said. ... Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called time one defensive possession into the second half. ... Fans cheered wildly when Beasley shot an airball on a wide-open 3-pointer. Minutes later, fans gave a loud groan when Dallas' Erick Dampier got nothing but air on about an 8-footer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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