"That's the NBA. We're not that dominant where we can come in and blow every team out," Wade said. "You've got to respect these other teams. They're good. They come in and play very well against us so we've got find ways to win ballgames. That's what it's all about right now."
James extended his streaks of scoring at least 20 points to 30 consecutive games this season, 35 regular-season games going back to last season and 51 straight games overall when including last season's playoff run.
The teams met two weeks ago in Dallas, a game where the Heat simply dominated start to finish and led by as many as 36.
This one was decidedly different.
Dallas was up 18-7 before Nowitzki even entered the game and led by as many as 12 late in the first quarter — thanks in part to the Mavericks grabbing 19 of the game's first 27 rebounds — and still held a 10-point lead when Mayo connected on a jumper midway through the second quarter. That's when the Heat put together its best run of the opening half, a 16-6 spurt led by James.
Still tied midway through the third, Miami seemed to have grabbed some control with a 14-5 run that gave the Heat a 78-69 edge. But the Mavs ripped off the next eight points, starting with a 3-pointer by Carter and then a 3-pointer and a layup by Nowitzki that got Dallas within a point again.
Dallas reclaimed the lead at 88-87 on a 3-pointer by Mayo midway through the fourth, and only a few moments after Wade chased down and blocked a layup try by Collision to keep Miami within three, Mayo struck again from beyond the arc in the left corner by the Heat bench to put the Mavs up 97-91 with 4:09 remaining.
They just couldn't finish the job.
"Execution down the stretch has been one of our problems all year," Nowitzki said. "We're 0-6 in overtime and lost a lot of close ones during the season in regulation. We've got to work on that."
NOTES: It was trophy night for James, who was presented with his USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year award by Heat President Pat Riley in a brief halftime ceremony. And just before tipoff, the NBA announced James was the Eastern Conference's player of the month for December. ... It was the 21st time Nowitzki played at Miami, and just the second game where he came off the bench while visiting the Heat. He also didn't start in his first-ever game at Miami in 1999. ... An errant pass by James struck a courtside cameraman in the third quarter. The man was tended to briefly for what appeared to be a small cut, and James went over to shake the photographer's hand.