MIAMI -- Unlike last June when they clinched their first NBA title with a Game 6 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena, this time there was no wild and crazy celebration by the Dallas Mavericks.
Gone were the bubbly smiles -- and bubbly champagne -- that accompanied last year's championship season. That's what Thursday's 106-85 loss to the Miami Heat did to the Mavericks.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh scored 19 points each, and the Heat used a suffocating defense to smother the Mavericks.
"We had trouble getting the ball in the basket," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Second-chance points hurt us, and then they hit a flurry of transition points at some inopportune times for us.
"It was disappointing because our start to the third quarter was strong, and then they answered back. It was a tough loss."
Dallas only trailed 80-72 going into the final period. But the Mavericks developed some frosty fingers from there, and they opened the fourth period by missing 14 of their first 16 shots.
Still, Dallas managed to cut a 13-point deficit to 90-83 with 4:37 left after Dirk Nowitzki made five consecutive free throws. But the Heat was off to the races again and finished the game on a torrid 16-2 run.
"You've got to give them credit, they stepped up their pressure at both ends of the floor," said Nowitzki, who finished with a game-high 25 points. "I think the first half everything came a little too easy for us.
"I thought we really had a good offensive effort in the first half moving the ball and making shots, but we still were down seven because we couldn't get a stop. Defensively, we just weren't sharp enough."
The Mavericks shot 54.8 percent from the field and scored 53 points in the first half. But that was negated because the Heat shot 61.5 percent and scored 60.
In the second half, the Mavericks went stone-cold, shooting only 27.8 percent and having almost as many turnovers (seven) as made field goals (10).
"We couldn't make shots," point guard Jason Kidd said. "We had some good looks.
"We couldn't get stops and they just kept going and we were stuck."
Guard Jason Terry never got going for the Mavericks, shooting only 1 of 10 from the field with only three points and three turnovers. Afterward, Terry said: "We've got another one tomorrow."
The Mavericks welcomed the return of guard Delonte West, who played his first game since fracturing his right ring finger Feb. 15 against the Denver Nuggets. West played eight minutes and scored seven points while hitting all three of his shots.
"It hurt a little more than I thought it would," West said of his surgically repaired finger. "I made a pass in the second half and it felt like lightning went through my body. I also had a little problem handling the basketball with my right hand. I'm going to try to do some therapy by tomorrow, but right now this [finger] is throbbing a little bit."
The Mavericks' heads are probably throbbing a bit, too, after they ended up getting swept in the season series by the Heat, 2-0. But the Mavericks hope to make amends in Florida when they end this brief two-game road trip at 7 tonight in Orlando.
"Everybody's playing for a playoff position right now," Kidd said. "So we've got to figure out a way to get one on the road before we go back home."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760