DALLAS (AP) — Jason Terry has backed up his talk.
The man who raised some eyebrows by wondering aloud on Monday if LeBron James would wear down in these finals — and who was urged by Dirk Nowitzki to do more for the Mavs — is off to a big start for Dallas in Game 4.
Terry has seven points off the bench, and Dallas and Miami are tied after the first quarter at 21-all. More good news for the Mavs: Brendan Haywood checked in late in the period, going to see what he can do with that ailing right hip.
The Mavs gave Miami some gifts late, first when Terry missed a pair of free throws, then when Rick Carlisle picked up a technical for arguing that LeBron James wasn't fouled with 18.8 seconds left. Mario Chalmers made the 'T' free throw to tie it, and James hit a pair to give Miami its first lead, 21-19.
JJ Barea tied it with a pair of FTs with 5.5 seconds left.
A few more pregame quotes for you from the locker rooms:
— Carlisle: "We gotta win a grit and guts game tonight. They gotta see waves of white coming at them all night long. I'll make sure we got fresh bodies in the game."
— Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "There can't be a weak link ... not tonight. It is a primal game."
The Mavs say this is a must-win for them tonight, for obvious reasons.
LeBron James says the same thing to the Heat.
Take a gander of what the ABC cameras caught him saying just before the Heat took the floor for warmups, where he channels his inner Herb Brooks for an all-time locker room speech:
"Let's continue to play desperate. That's the only way we know how to play basketball. That's the best way we know how to play. When we play desperate, we feel like our back is against the wall. Even though we're up 2-1, I still feel like our back is against the wall. And this is a must-win game. Every game we approach, our back is against the wall and it's a must-win game. Don't ever come out of a situation where you feel like, 'Damn, if I'd have did this a little bit harder or I did that a little bit smarter, I'd have gave us a better chance to win the ballgame.' Lay it all on the line tonight and play Miami Heat basketball."
They might be playing desperate.
So might the Mavs, for that matter.
Neither team is playing great, yet. Dallas 17, Miami 16, 2:01 left in the first.
Couple quick stat updates: Heat have nine offensive rebounds already, after having nine in all of Game 3. And Wade had his first turnover since Game 2.
Dirk Nowitzki did his thing, then Chris Bosh did his.
The power forwards had all the power in the opening minutes of Game 4 of the NBA finals.
Nowitzki scored the first six for Dallas. Meanwhile, the Heat missed 10 of their first 11 shots and got away with it, thanks to Bosh getting three field goals in the opening minutes.
We're tied at 8, 5:51 left in the first.
The Mavs did more than change the lineup, they changed defensive rotations as well. Jason Kidd has spent some time guarding LeBron James. That will not be a regular occurrence.
Once again, at least for the opening moments, the Heat have taken the best the Dallas crowd had to offer to open a game and handled it fairly well.
A few pregame stats and one key tweet for you:
— Dwyane Wade has one turnover in his last 101 minutes, 58 seconds of on-court time.
— The Heat have not scored 30 or more points in a quarter in their last 34 quarters. Haven't given one up in the last 28, either.
— JJ Barea started two games this season for the Mavs. Until tonight. (Move is now official, even though there was no doubt after DeShawn Stevenson said he wasn't starting.) All-time, he's 34-15 as a starter.
— Heat reserve Dexter Pittman calls LeBron James "big bro." Which might clear up the mystery in this tweet he posted a couple hours ago: "Here we are. Game 4. 2 more. Big bro zoned out. I know he bout to be a freaking monster tonight. He focus like a lion hunting for prey"
(And one more reminder — send those questions on Twitter to "ByTimReynolds" — and we might get to them during the game.)
The blue shirts are back.
The mood in Dallas, though, is anything but blue entering tonight's Game 4 of the NBA finals.
Yes, the Mavericks are making some lineup changes, which will likely disappoint the Heat because they were amused by some of the things DeShawn Stevenson was saying on the off day yesterday. Seems like Stevenson is out of the lineup in favor of JJ Barea. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn't saying it yet, but Stevenson is, so that seems good enough.
The Mavs know the reality. Go down 3-1 tonight and this series is over. Too big a mountain to climb, especially with the potential of two games in Miami.
The Heat know that too, of course.
Dwyane Wade was saying this morning that the Heat are trying to block out the 2-1 series lead and play this game as if it means everything. LeBron James says Dallas losing tonight won't doom the Mavs — extremely political correct there — but that the Heat don't want this turning into a best-of-three series, either.
Speaking of James, he was asked today if he MUST win the NBA finals MVP award to validate his decision to join the Heat. Here's his full response:
"That's ridiculous," James said. "I'm here to win. That's all it's about. Individual accolades take care of itself. I've got two MVP trophies sitting in my house back in Ohio and I haven't won anything. It doesn't matter to me. It's all about a team game and this is the ultimate team prize right here, just trying to win the NBA championship. So I don't really care. I could trade in my last two MVP trophies to have a ring. I don't care about individual accolades to solidify myself in the NBA or whatever they're talking about. It's ridiculous."
Scheme-wise, don't look for the Heat to change much. The Mavs will clearly play a lot more zone if Barea is getting a ton of minutes.
And tonight, we'll add a new wrinkle to this blog. Hit me with your questions at "ByTimReynolds" on Twitter, then keep checking here to see if I answer. I just might.
Tip off in about 30 minutes. Enjoy Game 4.
Follow Tim Reynolds on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds