MIAMI (AP) — Close games were a worry for the Miami Heat in the regular season.
They are still a big worry late in the postseason for a team that went from leading by 15 points with 7 minutes left to losing both a game and home-court advantage in the NBA finals.
So in a season of challenges for the Miami Heat, here comes the biggest one yet — recovering after an all-out collapse against the Dallas Mavericks.
Getting outscored 22-5 to close the game cost the Heat their perfect home record in these playoffs, and more importantly, a 2-0 lead in the finals.
Final score: Mavs 95, Heat 93, and Miami will fly to Dallas on Friday for the middle three games of the series needing to win at least one to keep championship visions alive. Game 3 is Sunday night.
"No question about it," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's about as tough a fourth quarter as you can have. When it started to slide, it kept on going."
Ahead 88-73 after Dwyane Wade made a 3-pointer with 7:14 left, Miami had the home fans roaring. Dirk Nowitzki's game-winning layup with 3.6 seconds remaining left them silenced.
Like the players, the fans left in sheer disbelief.
"The way we closed the game is so uncharacteristic for us," Spoelstra said, "on both ends of the court."
Struggling to win close games was one of Miami's biggest challenges all season. The Heat went 5-14 in games decided by five points or less in the regular season, but in the playoffs, fourth-quarter closeouts had become one of Miami's calling cards.
The Heat had outscored teams in the fourth quarter of their last five playoff games.
Not on Thursday: Dallas outscored Miami 24-18 in the last 12 minutes, which was bad enough. How the Mavericks did it made it seem even worse for the Heat, who missed 10 of their last 11 shots.
That's right, the Heat shot 53 percent in the first 41 minutes, and 9 percent the rest of the way. Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer with 25 seconds left tied the game, but Nowitzki drove down the lane for the winner on Dallas' final possession, with Miami having a foul to give and second-guessing itself afterward about not taking advantage of that.
Another question afterward: Why Chris Bosh was on Nowitzki then instead of Udonis Haslem, who has done well against Dallas' star in the past?
In the wake of the collapse, there were no answers.
"We had everything going," Bosh said. "We had the momentum going."
They lost both quickly.
Dallas has done this before, of course, rallying from 15 down with 5 minutes left to beat Oklahoma City in overtime, on the road as well, in the Western Conference finals.
This one was even more impressive, given the stakes.
"We were just trying to stay solid," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Look, James and Wade, they're two of the best facilitators — ever. ... They missed a couple shots and it allowed us to keep our momentum going."
James and Wade — who started 22 for 28 from the field in the game — closed a combined 0 for 7. James missed four shots in the last 7 minutes, including two 3-pointers on the same possession that got extended with an offensive rebound by Wade. But James kept the ball at the top of the key for most of that stint, the Heat never seeming to even get into a play, much less executing one.
"We will bounce back," Spoelstra said.
Added Heat center Joel Anthony: "We've been here before. We understand what we need to do."
Wade tried a desperation 3-pointer at the end, bouncing away as he tumbled to the court, one of his rare missteps in a night where he finished with 36 points.
It's the 12th time since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 finals format that teams split the opening two games. Teams holding home-court advantage recovered to win eight of the previous 11 series, including last year when the Lakers topped the Celtics in seven games.
That was of little consolation to the Heat on Thursday.
"This is a long series, OK?" Spoelstra said. "We're not happy about what happened. But we've got an opportunity in Game 3."
The Heat and Mavericks finished the regular season tied for the NBA lead with 28 road wins.
Dallas has done its part so far in the finals.
Miami now gets its chance to answer. Bosh said the locker room was disappointed, but not shocked.