MIAMI - LeBron James came to Miami last summer for the chance to be a champion.

He arrived back here Friday just hoping to be a survivor.

The Dallas Mavericks have a three-games-to-two lead in the NBA Finals and can win their first championship Sunday night. Less than a year after the Heat's free-agent victory celebration, the real party might belong to Dirk Nowitzki.

But the Heat, despite consecutive losses that have renewed criticism of their execution and James' ability in the clutch, insist they can still win the first of multiple titles James boasted of upon his arrival in South Florida.

"Game 6 is Game 7 for us," guard Jason Terry said. "We want to play like there's no tomorrow. If we do that, I have no doubt in my mind we can be successful. We must come out aggressively."

Wrapping it up on Miami's floor would be the sweetest revenge for Nowitzki and Terry, who launched the Mavs' final shot that Wade rebounded and fired in the air as the clock expired on Miami's Game 6 victory in Dallas in the 2006 Finals.

That remained the Heat's biggest moment until last July, when James and Chris Bosh agreed to join Wade in Miami. The Heat threw a victory bash, with their three superstars posing and dancing on stage while drawing some ridicule around the league.

There's no dancing now, especially not with Wade's sore left hip. And James' reputation has absorbed its own wound. He rebounded from his eight-point Game 4 flop by delivering a triple-double in Game 5. But it came with only two points in the fourth quarter. He has totaled just 11 points in that period, a major reason the Mavericks have pulled out three games.

Still, these Finals are turning into what James isn't doing, much more than what the Mavs are doing. Even the two-time MVP's triple-double felt hollow, because it was accompanied by two missed shots and a turnover on an offensive foul after the Mavs tied it at 100.

And the Heat can't even count on his defense against Terry anymore. He shut out the Mavs' spark plug off the bench in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 3. But the Mavs have done a better job of freeing their sixth man, who has helped himself by putting the ball on the floor and attacking more.

"That's the 'Jet' we need," Nowitzki said. "We need him to attack and get in the lane. It opens up a lot of stuff for everybody else out there."

NBA Report


Mavericks at Heat

Sunday at 8 p.m. TV: 6ABC

Dallas leads series, 3-2.