An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
Flashback: Dwyane's World in NBA Finals
Day 17 of our 30-team NBA playoff flashback profiles the Miami Heat. The Heat franchise has one NBA title, and has 15 playoff appearances since the 1991-92 season.
Date: June 18, 2006
Situation: The No. 2 Miami Heat and the No. 4 Dallas Mavericks are tied, 2-2, heading to Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Context: A year after falling to the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat were back in full force. Dwyane Wade (27.2 points, 6.7 assists) and Shaquille O’Neal (20.0 points, 9.2 rebounds) led a veteran team that also included Antoine Walker, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton. The team’s head coach also had big NBA mileage, Pat Riley taking over the team from Stan Van Gundy after an 11-10 start, guiding Miami to a 52-30 record. The Heat never faced an elimination game on the way to the NBA Finals, beating the Bulls in six, Nets in five, then exacting revenge in an Eastern Conference finals rematch with the Pistons, beating Detroit in six games. Against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Miami fell into a hole quick, scoring less than 90 points in both of the first two games, losing Game 1 by 10 and Game 2 by 14. Back at home, though, the Heat pushed back; they squeezed by the Mavs, 98-96, in Game 3, then romped Dallas by 24 to knot the series at 2-2.
Recap: It was the Dwyane Wade show in Miami, a closely-contested Game 5 that saw neither team lead by more than eight throughout. Trailing 51-43 at the half, the Heat pushed back with a 27-point third quarter to pull within one. In the fourth, Wade took over, Miami running its offense through their dynamic guard. With 10.1 seconds left, down two, Wade drove to lane and hit a short runner to tie the game, 93-93, and send it to overtime. Like in regulation, the extra frame came down to a final possession. The Heat trailed, 100-99, when Wade was fouled by Dirk Nowitzki — a non-factor for most of the game — earning two free throws. Wade connected on both. Unfortunately for the Mavs, Josh Howard had burned Dallas’ final timeout in between the two shots, instead of after the two, meaning Dallas had to take the ball out under their own basket instead of at halfcourt. (Howard later denied calling the timeout.) As a result, Devin Harris was forced to heave a halfcourt prayer that didn’t fall, giving the Heat a 3-2 series edge. Miami won in overtime, 101-100.
Top players: Dwyane Wade, who averaged just under 35 points per game in the Finals, scored 43, including 21-for-25 from the line. Shaquille O’Neal (18 points) and James Posey (10) were the only other two Miami players in double figures. Jason Terry led Dallas with 35 points. Dirk Nowitzki finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. As a team, the Mavs shot 21-for-25 from the free throw line, the same as Wade.
After the game: Miami’s edge in free throw attempts (49-25) and fouls called (26 to Dallas’ 38) was a point of contention heading to Game 6. And again in Game 6, it was Miami attempting far more free throws; the Heat shot 23-for-37 from the line — Dwyane Wade was 16-for-21 — while Dallas hit on 19-for-23 from the stripe. The disparity in free throws made a difference, as the Heat squeezed by Dallas on the road, 95-92, for the franchise’s first NBA Championship. A beat up Miami team finished 44-38 the next year, and was swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. The Heat didn’t make it out of the first round again until 2010-11, when Wade teamed with LeBron James and Chris Bosh to make another Finals trip, a rematch with the Mavericks. This time, it was the Mavs coming out on top, beating the “Heatles” in six games.
Check back tomorrow for the Hawks.
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