DALLAS (AP) - Back in Dallas, the site of his greatest triumph, Dwyane Wade knew exactly what to do.
The NBA finals were up for grabs and he was determined to seize control.
Wade began setting the tone in practice the day before Game 3 and never let up. Soaring to the rim, chasing every loose ball and demanding the best from his teammates, Wade guided the Miami Heat to an 88-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night that puts them two wins from the championship. Game 4 is Tuesday.
``(I) took it upon myself as a leader to try to lead my guys by example,' he said. ``I was very aggressive going to the hole practicing. My teammates seen it. They can tell that I wanted this game, and I came in with the same mentality today.'
Wade led Miami with 29 points and 11 rebounds, yet there was so much more to his performance.
There were timely shots, such as scoring seven of Miami's final nine points, and smart plays on defense, such as flustering Dirk Nowitzki into passing instead of taking a potential go-ahead shot in the final half-minute.
The 2006 finals MVP also dished out harsh words and uplifting ones for LeBron James, Chris Bosh and anyone else he thought needed them.
Regardless of what Wade specifically said, his teammates fed off the passion and intensity behind them.
``At this point there's no room to hold anything back,' James said. ``As a competitor, you love when guys challenge you. He challenged me in the locker room at halftime. He challenged me on the court. ... I respect that.'
Miami was coming off a devastating loss in Game 2, having blown a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Heat again made things tough on their fans, letting a 14-point lead slip away then almost coughing up an 81-74 lead with 6:31 left.
Dirk Nowitzki, who scored the final nine points in Dallas' winning rally in Miami on Thursday night, topped himself by scoring 12 straight points down the stretch - six free throws, a layup, a dunk and a tough jumper that tied it at 86.
But on the Mavericks' final two possessions, Nowitzki threw a pass out of bounds and missed off the back iron as time ran out.
Bosh hit the winning shot with 39.6 seconds left, and Udonis Haslem provided terrific defense on Nowitzki on those final two tries as the Heat regained home-court advantage.
Recent NBA finals history adds to the importance of this win: the Game 3 winner in a tied series has won the championship all 11 times since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985.
Thus, Miami will head into Game 4 on Tuesday night with a chance to win it all on Dallas' floor; the Heat must win that game and the next, on Thursday night.
``If anyone can do it, I believe we can,' Wade said.
The Mavericks were looking to build off their big comeback win, especially back at home in front of a loud crowd all decked out in blue T-shirts that read, ``The Time Is Now.'
But they played sloppy most of the night, such as giving up 14 turnovers that turned into 19 Miami points.
And there was little help for Nowitzki.
He scored 34 points, the same as Dallas' next three best scorers combined. That trio - Jason Terry (15 points), Shawn Marion (10) and Jason Kidd (nine) - didn't have a single point in the fourth quarter. Terry missed four shots, Kidd two and Marion didn't even take any.
Nowitzki wound up scoring 15 of the Mavericks' 22 points in the fourth quarter. For the game, he made 11 baskets and his teammates made a total of 17.
``We have to have somebody step up besides Dirk,' said Kidd, who had 10 assists, but also four turnovers. ``We have to figure out how to get up front and play up front. The big thing is we've got to be able to make plays late in the game. Game 2 we made the plays, Game 3 we just didn't.'
Dallas was without backup center Brendan Haywood because of a hip injury. His absence meant more minutes for several frontcourt players, and it put Ian Mahinmi on the court for 8 minutes. He scored two points and committed five fouls.
The winning basket started with the ball in Wade's hands.
He passed to James near the top of the key while Haslem screened Nowitzki. That let Bosh get set 16 feet from the basket on the left baseline. He took the pass from James and swished it, quite a thrill for the Dallas native who'd been 0-8 in his hometown. It was even more impressive considering his left eyelid was swollen because of an accidental poke by Kidd in the first quarter, and he'd been misfiring all series, even when his vision was good.
``I don't care if he missed 15 in a row,' James said. ``He was wide open and that's his sweet spot. ... It's the trust we have in each other's ability, no matter what the point of the game is at.'
On Dallas' next possession, Nowitzki wanted to take a shot near the foul line but had Haslem swarming him and Wade charging at him. He jumped to shoot but twisted and threw toward Marion near the 3-point line on the right side. Marion had already taken off toward the basket, so the ball went into the front row instead.
After James missed a 3, Dallas had 4.4 seconds left to go for the tie or win. The inbounds pass went to Nowitzki and he was alone against Haslem just above the foul line.
Haslem anticipated what Nowitzki was going to do and walked the fine line between disrupting the shot while avoiding a foul.
``He's a great player, 7 feet, so he's going to shoot over me,' Haslem said. ``I've got to make it tough on him.'
When the buzzer went off, Haslem swung his arms and screamed in delight while a frenzied crowd of 20,340 sighed in agony.
``Emotional game, fought back, and to fall short at the end is tough,' Nowitzki said. ``But they need two more. Hopefully we can play a better all-around game and finally get some shots to go down.'
Wade and Bosh each scored seven points in the fourth quarter. Bosh finished with 18 points.
James came in talking about being more aggressive, but wasn't. He went more than 6 minutes before taking his first shot, but certainly made it worth the wait - a drive through the teeth of the defense for a powerful dunk. He also had a two-handed jam in the second half that put Miami up by 13.
He finished with 17 points and nine assists. He also had four turnovers, including a pair during the fourth quarter.
Mario Chalmers scored 12, including a 36-footer to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter.
NOTES: Miami has won two straight NBA finals games in Dallas, despite having lost its past nine regular-season games here. ... Who says games can't be decided early? The Heat outscored the Mavericks by seven points in the first quarter. The Mavs outscored the Heat in the second, third and fourth quarters. ... Bosh on his injured eye: ``We'll spit on it and put a Band-Aid on it and patch it up later.' ... Dallas fell to 8-2 at home this postseason. ... The Heat and Mavs have each won a road game this series, which should be no surprise. They tied for the best road record in the NBA this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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