01/21/2007 Mavericks @ Miami
Jerry Stackhouse regained his scoring touch at the right time for the Dallas Mavericks, helping them finally stave off a comeback attempt by the Miami Heat.
Stackhouse -- slowly working his way back after spraining his left ankle last month -- scored 16 of his 23 points in the final quarter as the Mavericks held on to beat Miami 99-93 on Sunday in the first matchup between the teams since last season's NBA finals.
Josh Howard had 25 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 22 points and 11 rebounds for Dallas, which improved its NBA-best record to 34-8 and is 20-1 in its last 21 games. Plus, the Mavs got some tiny measure of revenge over the Heat, who lost the first two games of last year's finals before rallying to win the championship in six games.
"We just had to keep grinding," Stackhouse said. "It was a great game which had some great players making great plays."
Dwyane Wade -- who suffered a left ankle injury in the first quarter, but returned and played 44 minutes -- finished with 31 points, six rebounds and six assists for Miami, but missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left.
Jason Williams had 17 points and Udonis Haslem, who missed his first eight shots, had 15 for the Heat.
"We still had an opportunity to win the game," Heat center Alonzo Mourning said. "When you put yourself in a position to win, you don't want to just settle for that. They don't keep stats for moral victories."
The Heat were down by 13 early in the second half and their chances clearly didn't look good, especially with Shaquille O'Neal inactive for the 34th straight game because of his surgically repaired knee and Wade hobbling around after injuring his ankle by stepping on Nowitzki's foot late in the first quarter.
"A stupid play," Wade said.
But he returned after getting re-taped and somehow, Miami pulled into a 90-all tie with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Miami was within 76-75 after a three-point play by Wade with 10:44 left, but Stackhouse scored seven straight points to quell the rally, restore some Dallas breathing room and give the Mavericks an 83-75 lead.
Another jumper by Stackhouse with 5:34 left pushed the Mavs' edge to 90-84, but the Heat scored the next six points and tied it 2 minutes later when Wade hit a jumper.
"They're the world champions. ... You knew they were going to come back with a champion's heart," Stackhouse said.
Dallas scored the next six points, with Nowitzki and Howard scoring 26 seconds apart to put the Mavs back on top.
Miami got back within 96-93 on a Wade layup with 57 seconds left, but the Heat wouldn't score again and wound up with their 10th home loss of the season -- matching the total from all of last year.
"We gave up a big lead, they tied it up but we didn't give up either," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "They didn't give up. We didn't give up. That's what I think championship teams and championship organizations are all about."
Dallas never trailed in the game, which was only tied once after tipoff. The Mavs held a 16-5 rebounding edge in the first quarter -- Nowitzki had six boards that period alone -- and disrupted Miami's offense so much that the Heat managed three assists in the entire opening half.
And while Miami clearly improved after halftime, the Mavs' edge in rebounding and second-chance points (19-5) proved to be crucial.
"That's the bottom line," Heat interim coach Ron Rothstein said. "If we held our ground there I think I would be sitting up here really happy with a win."
None of the three officials saw that a layup by Stackhouse was good with 2:39 left in the third. Following a brief conference, Joe Forte came over and asked the scorers' table if the ball went in, after Stackhouse was awarded two free throws instead of the merited one on the play. ... The teams meet again Feb. 22 in Dallas. ... Dallas improved to 29-2 when holding teams under 100 points and 27-1 when recording more assists. ... The Heat host the New York Knicks on Monday in a rare occurrence of home games in consecutive days.