Originally created 06/13/06

Heat face long odds as they return home down 2 games



MIAMI - Outside Bongo's Cuban Cafe, workers in golf carts whizzed around the home of the Miami Heat preparing for the first NBA Finals game in South Florida.

Roughed up on their road trip to Texas, the Heat are in familiar surroundings again. But unless they make some drastic changes, Shaq and his crew won't be traveling again this season.

"We can't get down 3-0," guard Gary Payton said. "We have to focus on Game 3 and get that one."

Or else.

By double-teaming Shaquille O'Neal's every touch and congesting Dwyane Wade's routes to the hoop, the Dallas Mavericks dominated Game 2 on Sunday night, winning 99-85 to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series that has hardly been close.

So far, the Mavericks have been superior in every phase. They've displayed an overlooked depth, an unmatched perimeter game and have exuded absolute confidence in moving within two victories of their first NBA championship.

They're playing like they want one.

"We haven't really done anything," said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had 26 points with 16 rebounds in Game 2. "We won two games at home. We know they are a different animal at home."

To this point, the Heat have been, well, lukewarm. Two tepid performances in their first finals have them in a desperate situation.

O'Neal and Wade, the club's resident superstars, are out of sync and Miami's bench hasn't given them enough help. The Heat and their fans awakened Monday to an 0-2 deficit and a gloomy start to their work week as some southerly bands from Tropical Storm Alberto shrouded the city in a humid, depressing gray blanket.

The prospect of a comeback - only the 1969 Boston Celtics and 1977 Portland Trail Blazers have recovered from an 0-2 hole to win an NBA title - remains a possibility, albeit a long one.

"We have been in situations like this before," Heat center Alonzo Mourning said. "We have been down. I'm very confident we're going to find a way to get ourselves out of this.."