MIAMI -- The carnival of a cruise that has been the Miami Heat season said goodbye to its home port last night for the final time as the NBA Finals sailed off to Dallas for tomorrow night's Game 6 and the rest of the series.
"It's hit, but I don't think it's hit," Heat coach Pat Riley said before the game. "We've had a great run here at home (11-1 in these playoffs). We were definitely ratcheting up the intensity. But tonight's the swing game."
And thanks to 43 points and two free throws with 1.9 seconds left in overtime from Dwyane Wade it swung in favor of the Heat in a 101-100 victory last night to give Miami a 3-2 lead in the Finals. The Heat can win the first championship in franchise history with a victory in Game 6.
"When you've got a chance to put it away, obviously you're a lot more motivated," Riley said. "When you go down, you have to win two and that's a tough chore."
The Mavericks' X-factor was supposed to be Josh Howard. Before being stopped earlier in the series, the Mavs had a streak of winning their past 25 games when Howard scored at least 20 points. But Howard came into the game with three points in the previous five quarters and not having scored a point in the fourth quarter in the series.
"Everybody kind of knows now we're good when he gets 20 or more," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "When he gets on a roll, he's not getting as much single coverage as he did earlier in the playoffs. They are paying a lot of attention to him."
So the Mavericks ran their first three possessions for Howard, who got an isolation jumper and a pair of free throws to help the Mavs to the early lead, 11-5, that had been eluding them. And Howard began to find the confidence and aggressiveness the Mavs were seeking with 19 first-half points and three offensive rebounds in the first half, more than anyone on Miami.
Devin Harris started again, primarily to harass Wade. Johnson said the Mavericks haven't been physical enough with Wade, and later in the first quarter, when Shaquille O'Neal went out, the Mavs threw three defenders at Wade.
Wade had 17 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter, the last two on a short jumper off the glass with 2.8 seconds left that pulled the Heat into a 93-93 tie with the Mavericks at the end of regulation.
Erick Dampier's dunk with 10.1 seconds left gave Dallas a two-point lead, but Wade coolly drove, pulled up and scored to knot the game for the Heat -which trailed by nine points earlier in the second half.
Jason Terry had 33 points in regulation for Dallas, but misfired on a jumper as three Heat defenders swarmed at him at the buzzer.
Wade made 19 free throws in regulation, tying an NBA Finals record - but his superstar teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, continued his struggles from the foul line. O'Neal was 2-for-12 from the line in the first four quarters, misfiring on three of four attempts when the Mavericks went to the Hack-a-Shaq scheme in the final period.
But ultimately, it didn't cost the Heat.
O'Neal had 16 points in regulation for the Heat, and James Posey scored 10.
Josh Howard had 25 points and Dirk Nowitzki 18 through four quarters for Dallas, which blew a four-point lead over the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation.
Miami was aiming to join the 2004 Detroit Pistons as the only teams to win the middle three home games since the NBA began utilizing the 2-3-2 format for the Finals in 1985. The series returns to Dallas tomorrow night for Game 6. If necessary, Game 7 is Thursday night.
Terry and Howard teamed to carry the Dallas on a big second-quarter run and give the Mavericks a 51-43 lead at halftime. Terry and Howard each had 19 points at intermission, combining to make 14 of their 23 shots for the Mavericks - who also lost Games 3 and 4 of the Finals.
And they had every Dallas point in a 21-6 run over a 5 1/2 -minute stretch late in the second quarter, one that turned a four-point deficit into an 11-point lead in the final minute before the break.
Sam Smith writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.