- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2011

MIAMI (AP) - Once again, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade basked in the roar of the crowd in their home arena, only to be accused of celebrating prematurely.

Again they pleaded innocent.

The Miami Heat’s display of jubilation midway through the fourth quarter Thursday angered the Dallas Mavericks, who then rallied from a 15-point deficit for a stunning victory in Game 2 of the NBA finals. The comeback evened the series at 1-all, with the next three games in Dallas, beginning Sunday.

The Heat denied going overboard with enthusiasm when Wade sank a 3-pointer in front of the Mavericks bench for an 88-73 lead with 7:14 left. James and Wade even denied they celebrated.

“A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles,” Wade said. “There was no celebration. It was a shot made going into a timeout. Every team does something.”

Said James: “As far as celebration, that word has been used with us all year. But we knew how much time was left in the game still.”

The Heat’s superstar trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh heard plenty of criticism when they took center stage in an arena spectacle last July after forming their partnership. And when Miami eliminated Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls’ Joakim Noah said the Heat were “Hollywood as hell.”

But Thursday’s Hollywood ending was not what the Heat had in mind, and such a dramatic finish seemed improbable when Wade’s 3-pointer gave the Heat their biggest lead midway through the fourth period.

As the Mavs called timeout, Wade held his follow-through pose and teammates raised their fists. Wade and James swapped jubilant gestures all the way to the Heat bench, while the Mavericks stewed.

“It angered a lot of us,” Dallas’ Tyson Chandler said. “It’s upsetting when you’re out there playing hard and someone celebrates right in front of your bench.”

The tide quickly turned. The Heat missed their next nine shots, while Mavericks made 9 of their last 10. The game’s final points came on a driving layup by Dirk Nowitzki with 3.6 seconds left for a 95-93 victory.

“Obviously this one hurts,” Wade said. “We’ve got two days to think about our mistakes and blowing a 15-point lead. So we made it a lot harder on ourselves. We’re going to see what we’re made of as a team.”

There have been doubts all season about the Heat’s ability to close. During the regular season they went 5-14 in games decided by five points or less, but during the playoffs they had been at their best in the fourth quarter _ until Thursday.

The Miami meltdown left second-guessers with plenty of fodder to fill the next two days. Why didn’t Bosh foul Nowitzki on the Mavs’ final play? Why was Bosh even the one guarding Nowitzki? Why didn’t Wade get the ball more at the end after scoring 36 points in the first 41 minutes? Why didn’t the Heat have a timeout left to set up a final play?

Wade conceded the Heat should have grabbed Nowitzki before he launched his last shot.

Story Continues →