- Created on Wednesday, 08 June 2011 11:04
- Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 07:51
- Written by Staff and Wire Reports
Coughing and wheezing, his temperature spiking to 101, worn out from hardly sleeping the night before, Dirk Nowitzki went through three miserable quarters in Game 4 of the NBA finals.
Yet the fourth quarter was his time to shine. Again.
And now the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are starting over in the NBA finals, this best-of-seven series reduced to a best-of-three.
In the final period, Nowitzki scored 10 of his 21 points and grabbed five of his 11 rebounds as Dallas pulled off its second stunning finish this series.
The Mavs avoided going down 3-1, a deficit no team has ever overcome in the finals, and guaranteed the series will return to Miami for a Game 6 on Sunday night.
Dwyane Wade led Miami with 32 points, but missed a free throw with 30.1 seconds left and fumbled an inbounds pass with 6.7 seconds left. He knocked the ball back to Mike Miller for a potential tying 3-pointer, but it wasn't even close to hitting the rim. Fans jumped to their feet and began roaring as soon as they could tell the ball was off-target. Bosh scored 24 points. Other than Miami's three superstars, none of the Heat scored more than six.
Dallas players savored it, too, except for Nowitzki, who walked off looking somewhat sullen, obviously ready for a hot shower and a warm bed.
His condition was kept a secret, and he helped keep it that way by hitting his first three shots. Then he missed 10 of 11 and it was obvious something was wrong. The biggest giveaway: he also missed a free throw for the first time since Game 4 of the conference finals.
The Heat didn't know, and didn't care.
Coming into this game, the Heat felt they should have been up 3-0. The Mavs felt they should have been up 2-1. This game was all about figuring out whether Miami was going to runaway with the championship, as many have expected since "The Decision" last summer, or if the plucky veterans from Dallas really had what it took to be champs for the first time.
Now it's 2-2. Both teams are 1-1 at home, and all those stats about who wins under various circumstances seem pretty moot.
Carlisle shook up Dallas' lineup, starting J.J. Barea instead of DeShawn Stevenson, and made Brian Cardinal the primary backup for Nowitzki, instead of Peja Stojakovic. Like his late move to the zone, these changes worked out quite nicely. He also made an adjustment after Miami grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the first quarter; the Heat got just six more.
Stevenson scored 11 points, his first time in double-digits since Feb. 2. Cardinal drew a charge on James early and provided seven solid minutes, giving Nowitzki much-needed rest.
Terry scored 17, Shawn Marion 16 and Chandler had 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Game 5 is Thursday night in Dallas, and Nowitzki vowed to be ready.
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