- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

MIAMI — The Miami Heat looked beaten and battered after being blindsided 99-85 by the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

Maybe they just had a look at this statistic: In 59 previous finals, only two teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a championship — the 1969 Boston Celtics, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers, and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, who beat the Philadelphia 76ers.

But Heat coach Pat Riley, winner of four NBA titles with the Lakers in the 1980s, cautioned against counting his team out.

“They did what they had to do,” Riley said of the Mavericks winning the first two games at home. “Everybody’s written our team off, even against Chicago. Then we got buried when we lost to New Jersey in Game 1. We were history against Detroit, even when we were ahead 3-1. I’m sure we’re history now.”

While Riley might be using these words to motivate his team, the Mavericks have soundly beaten the Heat in both games.

While Miami has two superstars — Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade — to Dallas’ one in Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks have an abundance of good players as evidenced by their 65-22 advantage in bench points so far.

Dallas won Game 1, in which Nowitzki scored just 16 points and O’Neal attempted just 11 shots.

Then the Mavericks won Game 2, in which Miami was supposed to be more determined, specifically to get O’Neal more touches. Nowitzki totaled 26 points and 16 rebounds, and O’Neal — whom Dallas coach Avery Johnson called the “most unique player” in the league — scored a career playoff-low five points on just five shots.

“We know it’s going to be a different story when we get to Miami,” Johnson said. “They are not going to quit.”

Just two years ago, the Detroit Pistons became the first home team to win all three middle games in the NBA Finals, which uses the 2-3-2 format, against O’Neal, Gary Payton and the Lakers.

Also, the Heat are a good home team — 8-1 in the playoffs. They haven’t lost in Miami in more than a month.

“This is a four-game series, not two games,” Nowitzki said. “They are going home, and they are going to have something ready for us. Our job is to be ready for it.”

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