MIAMI (AP) – The streak-busters of the NBA hail from Dallas.
And for whatever reason, unless there’s a championship at stake, the Miami Heat simply cannot beat the Mavericks.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 26 points, Jason Terry had all of his 19 in the final 11 minutes, and the Mavericks held LeBron James scoreless in the first half on the way to ending Miami’s 12-game winning streak with a 98-96 victory on Monday night.
It was Dallas’ 14th straight regular-season win over the Heat, and the Mavericks had been the most recent team to beat Miami this season, too. Dallas has snapped six opponent winning streaks of at least five games this season – including a pair of 12-gamers, against San Antonio on Nov. 26 and now Miami’s.
“I don’t make a huge deal out of the streak,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We are just trying to play solid basketball and win as many games as we can.”
Terry has spoken often about how losing to Miami in the 2006 NBA finals still upsets him.
So while shooting at the East end of the court – the one over which the Heat championship banner softly sways – he put on a fourth-quarter show.
His biggest blow was a 3-pointer with 1:25 left, putting Dallas up 89-85 after Nowitzki airballed a 3-pointer but Miami couldn’t get the rebound. Miami got within 91-90 on a three-point play by James, but that was the last gasp.
“Jet finally showed up in the fourth,” Nowitzki said. “That’s what he does. He’s our finisher. He’s our closer. He got hot.”
Miami was within one point four times in the final 6:27, but Dallas never relinquished the lead.
“Couple of crazy bounces … and they capitalized,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “That’s how the night went for us.”
Caron Butler scored 13 for Dallas, which won despite giving up a 17-0 run in the first half and a 13-0 run in the third quarter.
Dwyane Wade scored 22 points, while James and Bosh each scored 19 for Miami. By the time Wade hit a meaningless 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining, James was already tugging at his jersey and heading off the floor.
“All year, we’re going to continue to get better, to improve to get to the elite level,” Wade said. “We’re 30 games in. These elite teams, they’ve been playing together for a long time.”
Mario Chalmers had 13 points and James Jones added 10 for Miami. Shawn Marion finished with 13 rebounds and Tyson Chandler grabbed 10 for Dallas.
Terry simply took over in the final 12 minutes, shooting 6 of 10 from the field. His teammates shot 3 of 10, Nowitzki going 0 of 5.
Somehow, it was enough.
“Bottom line is they made bigger plays down the stretch more consistently than we did,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The first half had about as many story lines as it had minutes.
Dallas came out flying, running out to a 14-2 lead and looking every bit like the team that has dominated Miami since the start of the 2004-05 season, and the Mavericks’ zone defense was giving the Heat fits.
“They can get you off-balance,” James said. “Definitely.”
Miami trailed 23-10 when James and Bosh checked out of the game for the first time. When they returned, Miami led 27-23.
It was 17 unanswered for the Heat, Wade leading the charge, personally accounting for the first 15 points – scoring nine of them, and setting up 3-pointers by Jones and Chalmers, the last of which put Miami ahead for the first time early in the second quarter.
James played 12 minutes in the first half, going to the bench with 6:01 left until intermission with three fouls. A late Miami spurt, fueled by Mike Miller’s first appearance of the season, gave the Heat a 44-43 lead at halftime.
“Just shows the depth we have on this team,” James said.
Miller checked in for the first time with 3:52 left in the half, the crowd greeting him with one of its loudest ovations of the season. Miller missed all four of his shots, all from beyond the 3-point arc, but grabbed three rebounds on what’ll go down as a bizarre Heat possession.
Most NBA possessions last less than 24 seconds, with one or two shots. The Heat had one trip last 52 seconds – with eight shots.
Miller had a defensive rebound to start the possession, two more offensive rebounds to keep it alive, and after seven misses, Chalmers hit a 3 with 1:53 left for a 42-39 lead.
James got his first points with a 3-pointer early in the third – starting a 13-0 run that ended with the league’s two-time reigning MVP making another 3 to give Miami a 61-55 lead. James struck again at the buzzer to end the third, his jumper over Jason Kidd putting the Heat up by three, then scored the first points of the final period for a 70-65 lead.
Moments later, Terry made his first shot of the night, and the game changed. He said Carlisle noted at the half that Dallas trailed by one, and that Terry was “still at the hotel.”
In the end, Terry could appreciate the joke.
“I told him I thought the bus was at 8:45, 9:00,” Terry said. “But thanks for coming back and getting me.”ï»¿