- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks demonstrated last night that they can grind out a victory and that they can do it without their best player being a huge factor, as they defeated the Miami Heat 90-80 in the opener of the NBA Finals at American Airlines Center.

Dirk Nowitzki finished with 16 points, making just four of 14 shots. However, Jason Terry stepped in with a game-high 32. And after allowing the Heat to make easy baskets early on, Dallas’ defense was strong late. Miami was limited to 36 points in the second half.

Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 28 points, and Shaquille O’Neal and Antoine Walker both added 17 as Miami, which began the game by making 70 percent of its shots in the first quarter, cooled off the rest of the way en route to finishing 43.6 percent from the field.

Down by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, the Mavericks used eight-straight points from Terry, including a pair of 3-pointers, for an 82-72 lead with just under eight minutes to play.

Miami cut the lead to 82-79 when Wade made one of two free throws with a little more than four minutes to play.

But from that point on Dallas clamped down defensively, holding the Heat without a point until O’Neal sank a free throw with 55.6 seconds to play.

Although they had six days between the conference finals and Game 1, much was made of Wade’s status. He was hampered with a touch of the flu in the Heat’s Eastern Conference-title clinching Game 6 win over Detroit. And a sinus infection had kept him off the practice court for all but two days leading up to last night.

Wade didn’t look the least bit bothered by flu-like symptoms or anything else early on, least of all the Dallas defense.

For that matter, Miami as a team began the game showing no signs of rust from the layoff between yesterday’s series opener and their victory over the Pistons.

With little deterrence, Wade penetrated off the dribble and got right to the basket, where he received very little resistance from Dallas’ big men.

Wade took advantage of the Dallas defense late in the first quarter when he scored five straight points. And when he missed, as he did at the free throw line with 9.6 seconds to play in the period, a Nowitzki turnover resulted in Walker’s 3-pointer with three-tenths of a second remaining to give the Heat a 31-23 at the end of the quarter.

While the Heat made 70 percent of their field goals to begin the game, the Mavericks began the game cold. Nowitzki was emblematic of the offensive problems that plagued them early on as he missed all but one of his shots, and Dallas connected on just seven of 21 shots.

Walker gave the Heat their biggest lead of the game when the former Maverick swished a 3-pointer for a 34-23 lead early in the second quarter.

But with Nowitzki not in rhythm the Mavericks are not a helpless team. Instead they are a group that can turn to multiple different scorers, and in this case it was Terry.

Terry scored 12 of his 20 first-half points in the second quarter, the prettiest on a charging dunk down the lane that pulled Dallas to within 38-31.

The Mavericks also revved up their defense in the second quarter and it paid off considerably.

Dallas limited Miami to just five of 19 shooting in the quarter. This included a stretch late in the half in which the Mavericks held the Heat to just one field goal in the final 6:43 of the half.

All told, Dallas outscored Miami 23-13 in the quarter. That included a 19-6 run to end the half, which concluded with Nowitzki knocking down a 19-foot fade-away jumper at the buzzer that was good upon review for a 46-44 lead at halftime.

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