MIAMI - Dwyane Wade's night began with a hug for his mom. It ended with an embrace from LeBron James.
And the Miami Heat has struck first in the NBA Finals.
James scored 24 points for his first win in five Finals-game appearances, Wade added 22 points and 10 rebounds and the Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks, 92-84, in Game 1 of the title series last night.
The Heat trailed by eight points early in the third quarter before pulling away, remaining unbeaten at home in the playoffs and snapping Dallas' five-game road winning streak.
Chris Bosh scored 19 points - holding up three fingers when it was over, a clear nod to the three wins Miami needs for a title - and Mario Chalmers added 12 for the Heat, which hosts Game 2 tomorrow night.
"I just was aggressive," Wade said. "We understand that this is the kind of game we wanted to play. We had them where we wanted them in the sense of points. You know they weren't scoring a lot on us and offensively we just executed and guys made plays."
Wade's three-pointer with 3:06 left put the Heat up 82-73, then the largest lead of the game for either team. The Mavs shaved two points off it on the next possession when Dirk Nowitzki hit two free throws, but James gave the Heat its first double-digit lead of the Finals a few seconds later.
He dribbled upcourt against Shawn Marion, crossed his dribble over and got clear for a dunk while being fouled. The free throw made it 85-75, and most in the sellout, white-clad crowd began standing in anticipation.
Even then, it wasn't over.
Nowitzki made two more free throws - he was 12-for-12 from the line for the game - with 1:36 left, cutting the Miami lead to six.
A momentary blip.
Wade grabbed a key defensive rebound, dribbled away from three Dallas pursuers and found Bosh for a dunk with 1:08 left that restored the 10-point lead. Another dunk by James came with 38.6 seconds left, sealing the outcome.
Game over, and the Heat fans knew it, breaking into their now-traditional tossing of their white seat covers.
Miami shot 39 percent, Dallas 37 percent.
"We'll play better. I'm very certain of that," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We had some opportunities. Shots we normally make, they didn't go down. Look, it's a long series. We'll adjust."
Miami outrebounded Dallas, 46-36, and got another strong fourth-quarter finish from Wade and James.
"That's who they've been their entire careers," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Nowitzki, who shot just 7-for-18 from the field, scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Dallas, which got 16 points and 10 rebounds from Marion and 12 from Jason Terry - most of those coming in an early flurry. It was Dallas' fifth straight loss to Miami in Finals games, dating to the Heat's rally for the 2006 crown.
"For the most part, we think we had chances to get a hold of this game," Marion said. "And we let it get out of our hands."
Dallas had 51 points after 26 minutes. The Mavericks scored 18 points in the next 18 minutes, 33 over the remainder of the game, as Miami's defense found another gear.
"That's kind of the way we've been winning games, of late," Wade said. "You've got to stay with it. You can't get frustrated because the ball's not going in. There's other ways you can dominate the game and we were able to do that tonight. I thought we did a great job in the second half of rebounding the ball, limiting them to one shot as much as possible."
In his annual news conference before Game 1, commissioner David Stern acknowledged it will be "a challenge" to reach a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires in a month.
"The question is whether the owners and the players will be bold enough to do what has to be done here to keep this sport on the track that it is on now, which is straight up," Stern said.
Owners are seeking major financial changes to the deal that expires June 30. Without an agreement, the owners could then lock out the players.
The sides already planned to sit down twice when the series moves to Dallas, and Stern said groups from both negotiating committees will be in Miami today for what he called a "full-blown" bargaining session.
"We told the players and the owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach," Stern said, poking fun at the line James used when he announced he was leaving Cleveland as a free agent last summer.
Both sides insist they want to avoid a situation similar to the NFL's, which is currently being carried out through the court system - though the players did file a charge against the NBA with the National Labor Relations Board last week for unfair bargaining practices.
Stern said the key is continued meetings before the deadline, some in small groups and others with more voices in the room.