DALLAS — LeBron James and the Miami Heat couldn’t keep the Dallas Mavericks from winning the most recent NBA championship. They did a nice job, however, of getting the Mavs’ title defense off to an ugly start.
James had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Heat beat the Mavericks 105-94 Sunday in a game that was hardly ever as close as the final score might suggest.
Maybe the pregame banner-raising ceremony left the Mavs emotionally drained or — more likely — the overhaul of their roster is slow to take hold. The newly minted champs were down by 15 after one quarter, 21 at halftime, and 35 a few minutes into the second half.
Miami made it look easy, scoring at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters. James had the top highlight, tipping an alley-oop pass to Dwyane Wade so he could have the dunk.
Wade had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Heat cemented their status as the preseason favorite to win it all. Udonis Haslem added nine points and 14 rebounds.
Dallas hardly showed any life until newcomer Lamar Odom was ejected for something he said while arguing a charging call late in the third quarter. Soon after, Jason Terry fueled a surged that got the Mavs within 17 midway through the fourth. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle recognized how unlikely it was that they would come all the way back, so he kept Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion on the bench the entire final period. The remainder of the Mavericks’ rally was by deep reserves.
Terry ended up leading Dallas with 23 points. Nowitzki scored 21 in three quarters. Marion scored 12, and Delonte West added 10 in his Dallas debut. West also started the second half in place of another newcomer, Vince Carter.
Carter had five points, two rebounds and three steals in 21 minutes. He took Dallas’ first two shots, an 18-footer and a layup, missing both.
Odom — the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who was acquired from the Lakers a few weeks ago for merely a trade exception — entered to a standing ovation, and got fans roaring again when he made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 11. He missed his next five shots before getting tossed, but still left to loud cheers. He had four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
NBA Commissioner David Stern attended the game and took part in the banner raising ceremony. Fans greeted him with boos, perhaps showing disgust over the lockout that delayed the start of the season from Nov. 1 and shrunk the season by 16 games.
Fans had plenty more to cheer, such as Terry proclaiming, “Thirty-one years you waited — 31 years! — to call your team a champion, ladies and gentlemen. A champion!”
Nowitzki, Terry, Jason Kidd and many more players, coaches and staff each got a strand to yank as part of the unveiling of the banner at court level. Nowitzki and Kidd seemed awed as they watched it rise to the rafters. They couldn’t take their eyes off it — or didn’t want to.
Championship tie-ins were everywhere, from the Mavs’ warmup jackets proclaiming them the 2011 NBA Champions to jerseys featuring a patch of the championship trophy, with the words on the front and back of their jerseys all outlined in gold. Terry even wore gold high-tops.
But Dallas was more style than substance, especially compared to a Miami team that returns the core of its rotation.
The Heat scored 18 points in the paint in the first quarter, while the Mavs scored a total of 17 that period — none in the paint. Both Miami’s 18 and Dallas’ 0 are an indication of how badly the Mavs will miss last year’s center, Tyson Chandler.
Miami enjoyed a 15-1 spurt in the second quarter, then a 14-0 run in the third period that included James’ alley-oop tip to Wade. James preceded that highlight with another nifty play, a spin move that freed him for a 17-foot jumper off the glass.