Once again, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade basked in the roar of the crowd in their arena, only to be accused of celebrating prematurely.
Again, they pleaded innocent.
The Miami Heat's display of jubilation midway through the fourth quarter Thursday angered the Dallas Mavericks, who then rallied from a 15-point deficit for a stunning victory in Game 2 of the NBA finals. The comeback evened the series at 1, 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 Mavericks 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 superstar trio of James, Wade and Chris Bosh heard plenty of criticism when they took center stage in an arena spectacle last July after forming their partnership. And when Miami eliminated Chicago in the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls' Joakim Noah said the Heat were "Hollywood as hell."
But Thursday's Hollywood ending was not what the Heat had in mind, and such a dramatic finish seemed improbable when Wade's 3-pointer gave the Heat their biggest lead midway through the fourth.
As the Mavs called timeout, Wade held his follow-through pose and teammates raised their fists. Wade and James swapped jubilant gestures, while the Mavericks stewed.
"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 tide quickly turned. The Heat missed their next nine shots, while Mavericks made nine of their last 10. The game's final points came on a layup by Dirk Nowitzki with 3.6 seconds left for a 95-93 victory.