MIAMI — Once again, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade basked in the roar of the crowd in their home arena, only to be accused of celebrating prematurely.
Again they pleaded innocent.
The Heat's display of jubilation midway through the fourth quarter Thursday angered the Mavericks, who then rallied from a 15-point deficit for a 95-93 victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The comeback evened the series, with the next three games in Dallas, beginning Sunday.
The Heat denied going overboard with enthusiasm when Wade sank a 3-pointer in front of the Mavs bench for an 88-73 lead with 7:14 left. James and Wade even denied they celebrated.
"A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles," Wade said. "There was no celebration. It was a shot made going into a timeout. Every team does something."
Said James: "As far as celebration, that word has been used with us all year. But we knew how much time was left in the game still."
The Heat's trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh heard criticism when they took center stage in an arena spectacle in July after forming their partnership.
As the Mavs called timeout, Wade held his follow-through and teammates raised their fists.
"It angered a lot of us," Dallas' Tyson Chandler said. "It's upsetting when you're out there playing hard and someone celebrates right in front of your bench."
The Heat missed its next nine shots, while the Mavs made nine of their last 10. The game's final points came on a driving layup by Dirk Nowitzki with 3.6 seconds left for the 95-93 victory.
It was Dallas' third second-half rally from a 15-plus-point deficit in this postseason: from 16 vs. the Lakers (Game 1, West semifinals); from 15 down vs. the Thunder (Game 4, West final).
"Obviously this one hurts," Wade said. "We've got two days to think about our mistakes and blowing a 15-point lead. … We're going to see what we're made of as a team."
SHAQ to Howard, STAY: Newly retired center Shaquille O'Neal, who lives outside Orlando, said he hopes to see Dwight Howard in a Magic uniform for years to come. "I'm going to be right there on the front row watching, and hopefully he can get two, three or four championships because he's a fabulous player and he deserves a ring if he works hard," O'Neal told the Orlando Sentinel.
Knicks president Leaves: Donnie Walsh, 70, will not return as Knicks president when his contract runs out at the end of this month. Walsh turned down Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan's request to stay for at least two years. Walsh, who will move to Indiana but serve as a consultant, indicated coach Mike D'Antoni would stay. Senior vice president Glen Grunwald will serve as interim general manager.
McHale to lead Rockets: Kevin McHale, 53, was officially introduced as Houston's new coach, replacing Rick Adelman. The former Celtics standout, Timberwolves exec and coach and TV analyst signed a three-year deal, though terms were not disclosed. "There's nothing like being in the fight," he said.
Rambis miffed: Kurt Rambis admitted he is irked that it has been seven weeks since the season ended and he has not been told by team president David Kahn whether he will be back for a third year as head coach. He has two years left on his contract.
Heat 1, Mavericks 1
Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Sunday: at Dallas, 8, Ch. 28
Tuesday: at Dallas, 9, Ch. 28
Thursday: at Dallas, 9, Ch. 28
June 12: at Miami, 8, Ch. 28 *
June 14: at Miami, 9, Ch. 28 *
* If necessary