NBA Finals: What happened in Game 3?

Originally Published: June 6, 2011
ESPN.com

The Miami Heat won the pivotal Game 3, taking a 2-1 series lead and regaining home-court advantage. What to make of their performance? What happened to Dirk down the stretch?

Here are 25 takes on Game 3 and beyond:

1. Which five words best sum up Game 3?


A. Wade, Heat got it done
B. Mavs didn't get it done
C. Heat defense was too much
D. Could have gone either way
E. [Write your own headline here]

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: D. Could have gone either way. We may want to act like the 48th minute of basketball Sunday tells us something deeply ingrained about either team, but the truth is we were a makeable Dirk Nowitzki lean-back jumper away from seeing an overtime and leaving with an entirely different impression.

Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: D. Could have gone either way. What if Chris Bosh's jumper rims out and Dirk Nowitzki hits the game winner? For those who believe in the existence of the clutch gene, this game actually should have gone the other way.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: E. Wade and LeBron lead win. I know we like to often attribute 48 minutes of a team effort to one player winning the game, but that's not how Game 3 worked. Wade carried Miami in the first half with 18 points. In the second half, LeBron created 23 points -- with scoring and assists -- to Wade's 14 created points. The Heat's defense and duo were too much.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: E. Dallas nosedives with Dirk out. Dirk Nowitzki has played all but 20 minutes in this series. In those 20 minutes he's spent on the bench, Dallas has been outscored by 31 points. If the Mavs can't figure out how to generate offense when their uberstar sits, they'll continue to put tremendous pressure on themselves, and Dirk, to rally late against a very tough Miami defense.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: C. Heat defense was too much. Wade was as in charge and focused as I've ever seen him. But the Heat's D, to me, is still the biggest reason why they're constantly rolling up leads and could well have snared a 3-0 lead right now. The Mavs made it this far with an incredibly unorthodox construction for a team in the Finals: one star and a lot of specialists. Trouble is, Miami is good enough defensively to make that one star work hard for everything he gets and shut down all his helpers.


2. Dirk scored 12 straight, then threw it away and missed a jumper. He …


A. Needed to close the game better
B. Can't do everything for Mavs

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: B. Can't do everything for Mavs. His turnover on the Mavs' second-to-last possession was regrettable, but the final shot he took was, for Dirk, a decent look. It's a shot we've all seen him make countless times, but it didn't fall that one time. It's disingenuous to act like the Mavericks didn't get a shot they wanted.

Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: B. Can't do everything for Mavs. Rick Carlisle said it. Jason Terry said it. Jason Kidd said it. We all saw it. Someone else needs to step up. Nowitzki scored every point for Dallas after the 6:48 mark. He's as close to a basketball god as we have in this game, but as shocking as it may be, he is mortal.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: B. Can't do everything for Mavs. Dirk has been extraterrestrial with his fourth-quarter scoring throughout the playoffs. In Game 3, his teammates hung him out to dry with their execution. They were 3-for-11 in the fourth quarter and didn't attempt a single fourth-quarter free throw. Asking Dirk to close out a team in the Finals by himself is too much, even for him.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: B. Can't do everything for Mavs. Sort of. Dirk is incredible, so he actually can do everything for the Mavs -- but he won't be perfect every time. In the closing moments, Dallas relies on him to single-handedly catalyze their offense, whether it's as a decoy, distributor or scorer. He made a mistake on a great double from Wade and missed a shot, but was otherwise nearly flawless.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: B. Can't do everything for Mavs. Dirk played so well that you scarcely heard a mention Sunday about that splint on his left middle finger. I suppose there are folks out there who expect him to play mistake-free in every crunch time, but I'd say he's earned a little leeway this postseason to be pardoned for those last two possessions.


3. Which Chris Bosh will you remember most from Game 3?


A. Hesitant, 7-for-18 shooting, three boards
B. Scored seven late, sunk game winner

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Secret Option C: I'll remember how violently he flailed on the floor after being poked in the eye, and how swollen it looked for the remainder of the game. But seriously, in the short term I'll remember his hesitancy throughout the game, but as time passes, we increasingly see NBA Finals games through the lens of the final few minutes.

Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: B. Scored seven late, hit game winner. Everyone in the building didn't expect Bosh's jumper to go down -- except for the guys in red. The cool thing about basketball is that there are dozens of opportunities for redemption. And Bosh capitalized in the moment.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: B. Scored seven late, sunk game winner. Chris Bosh didn't shoot the ball well in the first three games of this series, but considering he played the majority of Game 3 with one good eye, I'd say his late "heroics" were pretty remarkable. If we're going to pretend the greatest stars of NBA lore can absolve bad games by closing out the game, why not Bosh, too?

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: B. Scored seven late, sunk game winner. Logically, I agree with those who say that points scored at the beginning of the game are just as valuable as points scored at the end. But our brains don't work that way. I won't forget Bosh's putrid play in Game 3, but the first thing I'll remember is his hand in the Heat's well-designed game-winning set.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: B. Scored seven late, sunk game winner. Bosh is a Dallas native who'd never previously won a game in his hometown. He deserves to enjoy his fourth-quarter moment, especially after the first-quarter eye poke.


4. In 12 quarters, Mavs have won 5, Heat 4, with 3 ties. This proves ...


A. Series has been extremely close
B. Nothing; only final score counts
C. Nothing; Heat have been better
D. Mavs have been better, unlucky

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: A. Series has been extremely close. We're three games in and have yet to see a double-digit victory. Rather, we've seen a pair of two-point victories. Someone had to take a series lead in Game 3, but the Heat are only narrowly winning this war of attrition. However, we don't measure victories in quarters won.

Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: A. Series has been extremely close. We can slice it up however we want, but the conclusion remains: These two teams are extremely good and we're all extremely fortunate to watch. Crazy to think that a few loose balls here and there could have made this a 3-0 series -- in the Mavs' favor.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: A. Series has been extremely close. While we're trying to figure out if LeBron or Wade is winning the NBA Finals for Miami or if the refs are trying to favor one team over the other, we're missing the main storyline that we've had three pretty incredible games so far. Both teams could easily be up 3-0 in this series.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: A. Series has been extremely close. Like both conference finals, these first three games have been hard-fought and entertaining. Dallas could easily be up 2-1 with a few bounces in their favor, and Miami has a legitimate claim that they should have won all three games. My only hope is that this fascinating series goes longer than five games.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Can we add an E option? The series has been extremely close and Miami has been the better team. Defense, again, is the swing factor. The Mavs are guarding with a ferocity I've never seen them muster, but Miami's D still stands out.


5. Which five words best sum up what you expect from Game 4?


A. Mavs bounce back at home
B. Heat take commanding 3-1 lead

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: B. Heat take commanding 3-1 lead. Despite the Game 2 collapse, in the playoffs the Heat have emerged as the ruthless closers many anticipated they'd be at the beginning of the season. Game 4 will be another excruciatingly close contest, but the Heat's superior defense and unparalleled combination of superstar talent will be the difference.

Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: A. Mavs bounce back at home. Some 3-point numbers in this series: Peja Stojakovic, 0-for-4. J.J. Barea, 1-for-8. Jason Terry, 4-for-12. A Mavs 3-point downpour has to be just around the corner … right?

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: A. Mavs bounce back at home. So far in the playoffs, we've been looking for the Mavericks to revert to a preconceived stereotype of not being capable of winning big playoffs games. They may not win this series, but I find it hard to believe they're going to lose their first two games at home in the Finals. I think they'll grind out a victory.

Beckley Mason, Hardwood Paroxysm: A. Mavs bounce back at home. I feel silly picking against the Heat. They are getting to the rim, have a solid plan for defending Dirk and have neutralized J.J. Barea. But it's only a matter of time before Dallas has an insanely accurate shooting night and so far they've been rather pedestrian, even considering the opponent.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: The Mavs are due something resembling a breakout shooting game, so I lean toward A. Yet you wonder how discouraged they'll be after winning the rebound battle (42-36) in Game 3, shooting 27 free throws to Miami's 15 and losing anyway after Dirk racked up 34 and 11. They don't have much choice, though. Nowitzki wasn't wrong when he responded to Sunday night's defeat by describing Game 4 as a must-win.


Check out our NBA Finals pages

NBA Finals: Mavs vs. Heat | NBA Finals: History and more