A season that began with Miami celebrating the signings of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — along with the promise of championships — ended on the very same floor, with the Dallas Mavericks hoisting the title trophy for the first time in their franchise history after beating the Heat 105-95 on Sunday night. The Mavericks won four of the series’ last five games, a turnabout that could not have been sweeter.
“I really still can’t believe it,” said Nowitzki, who had 21 points and took home Finals MVP honors.
He and Jason Terry, who led the Mavs with 27 points, were the two remaining players from the Dallas team that lost to Miami in the 2006 Finals.
“Tonight,” Terry said, “we got vindication.”
James did not. Not even close, and a year unlike any other ended they way they all have so far — with him still waiting for an NBA title.
Clad in their “Eastern Conference Champion” shirts and hats and in the midst of hearty handshakes and hugs, Miami Heat players stopped their locker room celebration so they could watch TV.
It wasn’t that they wanted to see their own highlights from the mystical final three minutes of their stupefying 83-80 comeback victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. They needed to see them. They had no idea what had happened.
As the plays cycled through, from the gritty defensive stops to the astonishing barrage of 3-pointers from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, players exchanged looks and laughter as if it wasn’t even them on the screen from just a couple of minutes before.
It was the completion of a collective out-of-body experience that carried the Heat to the Finals after their fourth consecutive win over the Bulls.
“We don’t even know what happened,” Wade said. “I’m not going to lie to you and say we do. I can’t remember all the plays.”
The Chicago Bulls hammered Miami Heat 103-82 on Sunday in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to Bulls MVP Derrick Rose
Rose honored his MVP award with a dynamic and dazzling 28-point effort that his teammates channeled into a collective frenetic energy, lust for battle and defensive greatness.
Where the Heat withered Sunday, the Bulls smothered. Miami surrendered 19 offensive rebounds, turned the ball over 16 times and saw LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combine for only 33 points and nine rebounds.
To put that in perspective, Chris Bosh scored 30 points and had nine rebounds of his own.
Each of them had 30-10 nights — James with 33 points and 10 rebounds, Bosh had 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Wade shook off a bruised tailbone to finish with 30 points and 11 boards — as the Miami Heat beat the Houston Rockets 125-119 for their eighth win in nine games.
It was the first time since February 1961 that three teammates finished with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a non-overtime game.
“Unbelievable,” James said.
“That’s why we get paid the big bucks,” Wade said.
In a game that featured an epic 15-point comeback, about a dozen hard fouls and three players suffering bloody facial wounds before the night was done, the Celtics emerged with a dramatic victory over the Knicks. The playoffs may still be three weeks away, but there was a playoff atmosphere at Madison Square Garden all the same.
The Celtics didn’t just win a game at MSG on Monday. They won a war.
“It was a bloodbath,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought it was beautiful.”
Miami Heat handed the NBA leading Spurs their worst lost of the season and in the same instance took revenge for the hammering they received in San Antonio the last time the two teams did battle. Miami’s Chris Bosh scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Dwayne Wade scored 29 for the Heat.
“It’s huge for us, really, just getting even with this team,” Bosh said. “They beat us pretty good and I’m happy that we were able to respond by playing a complete game tonight. But at the same time, it is just one game.”
LeBron James finished with 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds for the Heat, who have won three straight and moved within two games of Eastern Conference front-runners Boston and Chicago.
Miami lost 125-95 in San Antonio on March 4, the midpoint of a five-game slide that now seems all but forgotten after wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and now the Spurs.