DALLAS (AP) — Welcome to Game 7 of the NBA finals.
Wait. It's only Game 3?
Sure seems like more than the 2-1 lead in the series is at stake tonight, when the Miami Heat visit the Dallas Mavericks because of the apparent rule that one team cannot be in the NBA finals without the other. There's about a half-dozen different stats kicking around, saying that there's no way the loser of this game will rally to win the title.
Not surprisingly, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is not looking at tonight's game in those terms.
"To simplify it for all of you, the game is not played in a statistical world," Spoelstra was saying about 90 minutes before tipoff. "It is played between those four lines and 94 feet. Whoever plays the best and more consistent to their identity likely has the best chance to win."
And that'll hold true in Game 4, Game 5, and maybe Game 6 and Game 7 as well.
The Heat say they want to get to the foul line more tonight, especially LeBron James, who has taken only six free throws in the first two games of these finals. He calls that unacceptable.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows what's coming.
"From everything that we're hearing, Miami is going to be in a very strong attack mode, looking to get to the free-throw line more," Carlisle said. "And so, look, we're going to have to be down in the stance containing them and attacking at both ends ourselves. They're not a team you beat by playing any kind of a passive game. We'll have to be ready, and I'm sure they will be, too."
One hit already for Dallas: Brendan Haywood is out tonight.
So here we go. Tipoff is shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. And there's about 20,000 fans wearing blue shirts filling in, except for one woman who was shown on the video screen a little while ago refusing to put hers on.
"Go Heat," she shouted.
They booed her. Those 2006 finals, nah, they haven't been forgotten in Big D quite yet.