The Dallas Mavericks used some fourth-quarter fireworks by an ailing Dirk Nowitzki to overcome a 32-point performance by Dwyane Wade and defeat the Miami Heat 86-83 on Tuesday to square the best-of-seven NBA Finals at 2-2.
Dallas got 10 final-period points from a feverish Nowitzki, including a clutch basket down the stretch, to overcome a nine-point deficit in the final eight minutes.
The 32-year-old All-Star played down his sinus infection and 38.33°C fever, but his teammates did not.
“The average person has sick days and battling 100-something [Fahrenheit fever], it’s just tough to get out of bed,” said center Tyson Chandler, who had 13 points and 16 rebounds. “The doctors tried to keep [the fever] down and they couldn’t get it under control.”
“This guy is playing against the best athletes in the world, and he’s putting himself out there, because if he has a terrible night, he’s going to get criticized about him not making shots and not stepping up in the challenge,” Chandler said.
The Mavericks overcame a 74-65 deficit with a 17-4 run to take an 82-78 lead with just over two minutes left, igniting the capacity crowd of 20,430 at the American Airlines Center.
With the Mavericks clinging to an 82-81 lead, Nowitzki drove to the basket tightly guarded by Udonis Haslem and softly banked in a lay-up with 14 seconds left.
“I was going to play the clock down, but I saw I had a little -opening there,” said Nowitzki, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but hit only six-of-19 shots from the floor. “So I just went for it. I was able to rip through and go to the right. They really played my left, which obviously the whole league does.”
“So I was able to rip through and get to my right and finally finish a lay-up,” he said.
Two foul shots by guard Jason Terry with less than seven seconds left gave the Mavericks an 86-83 lead. After a time out, Wade fumbled the in-bounds pass and shoveled the ball to Mike Miller, who missed a desperation 28-footer.
“We had opportunity to win the ballgame,” said Wade, who hit only one of two foul shots with 30 seconds left that would have tied the game at 82-82. “The one thing about this series, you see no team is ever safe. When it looks like one team may be in control of the game, the other team comes back.”
“So that’s why it’s a 48-minute game,” Wade said.
Two-time MVP LeBron James had another miserable game on offense, scoring only eight points and three-of-11 shooting.
James said the fact that his eight-point effort, a career playoff low, occurred during a loss is what upsets him the most.
“If I had had eight points and we won the game, I could be satisfied,” he said. “The fact I could have did more offensively to help our team, that’s the anger part about it.”
“I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that needs to be done to help our team win,” James said.
The next game is today in Dallas before the series heads back to Miami for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7.
Miami forward Chris Bosh, who has emerged from his recent shooting slump to score 24 points, said he was confident James would return to form.
“He struggled, point blank, period,” Bosh said.
“We’ve all done that at times in our careers, and it happens, but he’s a resilient guy,” he said.
“For this team, we’re back in our comfort zone. We’re desperate again. We’re going to have to do a better job, and the pressure is on again. This is when we’re at our best,” Bosh said.