DALLAS — Jason Terry put his faith in these Dallas Mavericks in ink. On the inside of his right biceps.
With one more win, he’ll get to keep his tattoo of the NBA’s championship trophy — plus have the real thing.
Terry had his title hopes injected into his arm in October, during a get-together at teammate DeShawn Stevenson’s house. At the start of the playoffs, Terry vowed to have it removed if the Mavericks didn’t win it all.
Thanks largely to him regaining his shooting touch in that inked-up arm, Terry and the Mavs flew to Miami on Friday closer to a title than ever before in franchise history. It could belong to them as soon as Sunday night.
“We put ourselves in the situation we wanted, to go back there with this opportunity,” center Tyson Chandler said. “But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. We can’t get caught up in all the hoopla.”
In their previous 30 seasons, the closest the Mavericks came to being champs was in 2006, when they held a 2-0 series lead over the Heat and a big, late lead in Game 3.
Dallas ended up blowing it in six games. The Mavs had to watch the Heat celebrate on their own home floor. So the chance to close it out in Game 6, in Miami, is a delicious bit of payback to Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, the only holdovers.
“Game 6,” Terry said, savoring the notion. “We must go out, play aggressively and take advantage of our opportunity.”
The Mavs have done that all postseason.
Every time they’ve gotten three wins a series, the fourth has followed right away. They are 3-0 in knockout chances. Only one was on the road, but it was in one of the NBA’s most hostile arenas, in Portland. Dallas already has tamed the Miami crowd, handing the Heat their first home loss of the postseason in Game 2.
“It’s going to be hard to go in there in Miami and win, but we know we are capable of doing it,” forward Shawn Marion said. “It’s going to be crazy. We know what’s at stake here. It’s going to be exciting.”
The Mavs are keeping their excitement level under wraps.
They’ve been in anti-celebration mode since Game 2 of the second round, when Nowitzki was upset about how giddy guys got over a second straight victory in Los Angeles. He’s remained stoic regardless of the circumstances, even walking out of the Western Conference title celebration before it was over.
On Thursday night, following the most significant win in franchise history, with fans going bonkers, all Nowitzki did was wearily raise his arms.
“I really can’t enjoy it much,” he said, still sniffling a bit because of a sinus infection that gripped him in Game 4, but now is as much of a nuisance as the splint on his left middle finger, which isn’t much.
“In the playoffs, for some reason, you’re always on the edge,” he said. “You don’t sleep much. You think basketball 24-7. I can enjoy it hopefully next week when we’re on vacation.”
The Mavs have needed fourth-quarter rallies in each of their three wins. But they keep getting smaller, from 12 to nine to four. In the last game, Dallas also had the luxury of playing from ahead most of the night, a first in this series.
The best sign for the Mavericks was how many guys were scoring.
Terry, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea all had their most productive games of the series, pacing an offense that blistered the Heat’s vaunted defense. Dallas was especially good on 3s, making 13 of 19.
“We’re happy with our performance,” Kidd said, “but there’s always room to get better.”
Like on defense.
While Dallas made 56.5 percent of its shots, Miami made 52.9 and scored 103 points, its best this postseason. Easy buckets fueled a fourth-quarter rally that put the Heat ahead and made the Mavericks need yet another late rally.
Terry was right in the middle of Dallas’ 15-3 closing kick.
He made an open, straightway 3-pointer that tied it at 100, then fed Nowitzki for the dunk that put the Mavericks back ahead for good. Terry turned playmaker again on the next score, driving into the lane and dishing back out to Kidd for a 3-pointer that extended Dallas’ lead.
His best shot followed, a 3-pointer from the right side, released just over the outstretched arms of LeBron James. It was especially sweet for Terry because James had kept him from scoring in the fourth quarter of both games Dallas lost.
Terry also backed up some big words, as he’d yapped for days that James couldn’t shut him down every night and that the Mavs wouldn’t lose if they scored 100 points.
“Ever since I’ve been a Maverick, I’ve been the guy in the fourth quarter they depended on to either make plays or make shots, so I really relish in that role,” said Terry, who had eight of his 21 points in the final period. “Thank God I was able to do that again.”
He’ll be even more thankful if he can avoid looking up the phone number of a tattoo removal expert. And for the record, Terry vowed late Thursday that the trophy tattoo “is my last one.”
“I’m not ever getting another one,” he said, smiling and tapping his biceps.