- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DALLAS — The Miami Heat captured their first NBA championship in franchise history last night, winning their fourth game in a row 95-92 over the Dallas Mavericks.

Miami’s Dwyane Wade, whose team won the series 4-2, was named NBA Finals MVP after posting 36 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to give the Heat their championship in the 18-year history of the club.

The Heat became the third team in league history to come back from an 0-2 start to win the series, the other two being Boston in 1969 and Portland in 1977. It marked the fifth championship for Heat coach Pat Riley. His last came in 1988 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The victory, the Heat’s first here since March of 2002, ended a six-game losing streak in Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 29 points as their rally came up short.

Down by nine points late in the third quarter, the Mavericks rallied and eventually pulled even with the Heat at 79-79 when forward Josh Howard converted a pair free throws with 7:05 to play.

The Heat led 87-81 when forward James Posey made a 3-pointer. He later gave the Heat an 89-85 lead with another clutch basket.

Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse hit a 3-pointer in the corner with 1:37 left, but the Heat’s Udonis Haslem battled hard for an offensive rebound and converted a layup to put the Heat up 91-88.

Out of a timeout with 54.6 seconds to play, Dallas’s Josh Howard pulled the Mavericks to 91-90. But Wade restored the lead to 93-90 with a pair of free throws with 26.2 seconds to play.

On their next possession, Dallas center Erick Dampier mishandled a pass from Dirk Nowitzki. Wade was fouled and gave the Heat a 95-90 with two more free throws with 17.7 seconds to play.

The third-year player averaged 34.6 points a game in his first NBA Finals appearance.

Since the Heat completed the three-game home sweep of the Mavericks with an overtime victory on Father’s Day, Dallas has been engulfed in one soap opera after another.

They were still seething over what they thought was a wrongly assessed timeout at the end of overtime in Game 5, which ended with Nowitzki receiving a $5,000 fine for kicking the ball into the stands.

The game’s conclusion also saw Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hurling insults at the officiating crew. Cuban also picked up a $250,000 fine for hollering, according to a report in yesterday’s Miami Herald, at league commissioner David Stern that the NBA is “rigged.”

The Mavericks, who also saw the return of top reserve Jerry Stackhouse from his one-game suspension, wasted little time in jumping out to a 10-4 lead and prompting Miami coach Pat Riley to call time with 8:51 remaining.

That cooled the Mavericks temporarily but not for long. Devin Harris’ layup at the 7:32 mark triggered a 16-4 Dallas’ run and a 26-12 Mavericks’ advantage with 2:54 to play in the quarter.

Miami’s reserves helped the Heat trim the lead to 30-23 going into the second quarter, which Wade and the Heat dominated.

The Heat tightened up on the defensive end, cooling off the Mavericks, who made 54 percent of their field goals in the first, by holding them to just 9 of 27 in the second quarter.

A 10-0 Dallas run early in the second looked as if it might galvanize the Mavericks and draw their fans into the game.

But after Stackhouse scored to give his team a 42-31 lead with 4:31 left in the half, Miami responded with some of its best execution of the series.

Wade, who scored 19 points in the first half and 12 in the second quarter, responded with a 21-footer to trigger an 18-6 Miami run to the end of the half, which ended with the Heat on top, 49-48.

Miami extended its lead to 59-53 early in the third and later took its largest lead of the game, 67-58, when Heat forward Antoine Walker scored on a breakaway lay-up at the 2:38 mark.

But with Nowitzki gong for 10 points and eight rebounds in the quarter Dallas managed to close to within 71-68 as the third quarter expired.

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