MIAMI – Maybe the demon that’s been haunting Dirk Nowitzki will be pushed over to LeBron James.

The Dallas Mavericks are a victory from claiming the title that James came to Miami to win. It would forever alter Nowitzki’s reputation, which has already been elevated enormously during this series as he’s ignored injury and illness.

And James is now the target of all the criticism Nowitzki long endured, the one shouldering most of the blame as things go wrong.

“That’s just a part of the game if you’re the star or the face of the franchise,” Nowitzki said Saturday. “If you win, it’s great for you, and everybody looks at you. And if you lose, you’re going to get hammered. It’s just part of the business. I think we understand that, we’ve been around long enough. I got hammered the last 13 years, basically. So hopefully this year I can make the hammering go away for a year.”

He has two shots at it. The Mavs can win their first title tonight, or Tuesday if the Heat force a seventh game.

That would require a stronger effort from James, who this time a year ago was coming off his second straight MVP award and was three weeks from becoming among the most sought-after free agents in sports history.

Now he’s the guy who can’t produce in the fourth quarters, with 11 total points in five games, the one with the big name but the puny stats who had to spend part of his off day answering all sorts of questions about what’s happened to him.

James did allow that perhaps he hasn’t been as aggressive in the fourth quarter because Dwyane Wade has been playing so well. Wade is averaging 28.4 points — 11 more than James, who also trails Chris Bosh.

James noted that he did have a triple-double last game, but even with 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, he said, “I had a bad game in a lot of people’s eyes. I understand that.”

Nowitzki knows the feeling. He has been the lone big star on a Dallas team that’s won 50 games for 11 straight seasons, yet he’s known best for his failures: the collapse after a 2-0 lead over Miami in the 2006 finals, the first-round loss to eighth-seeded Golden State in the first round the next year.

He was tagged as soft — a label many European players receive — and given derisive nicknames such as No-win-ski or No-ring-ski. But he showed plenty of toughness Saturday when he fired back at Wade and James after they appeared to be mocking his recent illness on a video that made the rounds Friday.

“We’re one win away from my dream, what I’ve worked on for half my life,” Nowitzki said. “This is really all I’m worried about, this is all I’m focusing on, and not really the off-the-court stuff that happened.”

The Mavs are comfortable on the road, where they won Game 2 of this series after a pair of victories at both Los Angeles and Oklahoma City in the previous two rounds. Nowitzki and Jason Terry still remember the pain of watching the Heat celebrate on their floor five years ago, and now they’ve got the chance for the ultimate payback.

“We feel that we can execute on the road as well,” Nowitzki said.