- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

DALLAS — A tropical storm is heading toward Florida. But the Miami Heat have their hands full with the basketball storm that is Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks ran the Heat out of the American Airlines Arena 99-85 last night, taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals. The series moves to Miami tomorrow night.

Nowitzki re-emerged last night and played at a superstar level, erasing his 4-for-14 shooting nightmare Game 1 with with 26 points, 16 rebounds and a pair of blocks.

The Heat also received a glimpse of how good the Mavericks can be when they are clicking on all cylinders, as they did last night.

Jerry Stackhouse came off the bench for 19 points. The former Wizards player shot 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Jason Terry had another big game, this time notching 16 points and nine assists. Josh Howard added 15 points, and reserve center Eric Dampier added six points and helped forge the Mavericks’ 46-32 rebounding edge with 13 boards.

Meanwhile, Miami was just plain lousy.

Over the better part of the last two days, all they talked about was getting the ball to Shaquille O’Neal more and getting him more than the 11 shots he took in the series opener.

And in that department, they failed miserably.

O’Neal attempted just five shots on his way to just five points, his lowest offensive output in 190 playoff games. Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 23 points but shot just 6-for-19 from the floor. Antoine Walker added 20 points.

The Heat now find themselves in the untenable position of having to do what just two teams in league history have done: Bounce back from and 2-0 deficit to win the series.

Twenty nine times in the history of the league has a team dropped the first two games of the finals and just two — Boston in 1969 against the Lakers and Portland in 1977 to Philadelphia — have ever come back to win the championship.

The Heat might be able to find solace in the fact that they are 8-1 at home in the playoffs this season.

And just two years Detroit won all three of the middle games against the Los Angeles Lakers en route to a title.

But the Pistons of 2004 at least split the first two games of the series and could have won both games in Los Angeles had Kobe Bryant not made a buzzer beater.

To the contrary, the Mavs have looked every bit the better all-around team after two games.

Things went so well for the Mavs last night that they notched a pair of four-point plays, getting on each from Stackhouse and Josh Howard. Before last night’s game just 12 had been converted in finals’ history.

Miami has proven to be a much better team at home during the playoffs than they have been on the road, having accumulated an 8-1 record with their only home loss coming in the second round more than a month ago to New Jersey.

Miami took its largest - and last lead off the game - near the start of the second quarter, 28-23, when Heat reserve James Posey sank a 3-pointer with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter.

But instead of gaining momentum here the opposite was true for Miami and, instead, it was Dallas that took its game to a higher level.

Beginning with Nowitzki’s 20-footer with 8:11 left in the half the Mavs would proceed to outscore the Heat 27-6 the rest of the way.

Dallas made 70 percent of its field goals in the second quarter, connecting on 12-of-17 shots, and outscored the Heat 32-17.

No other player was hotter than Stackhouse.

Stackhouse played a huge role in the Mavs’ run in its latest stages. In fact, he was dominant on the floor, scoring the Mavs’ last 10 points of the half in the final 1:19.

He followed up a 3-pointer that gave the Mavs a 43-34 lead with a 4-point play when Wade fouled him with 43.5 seconds left.

And not long after the Heat committed its sixth turnover of the quarter, Devin Harris found Stackhouse for another two-pointer — this one with 2.5 seconds left in the half — to give Dallas a 50-34 lead headed into the locker room.

Stackhouse added seven more point in the third quarter and the Mavs made shredded the Heat defense again in the third quarter, hitting on 10-of-17 (59 percent) from the field and taking a 78-51 lead with 2:23 left in the third.

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