Dirk Nowitzki woke up with a 102 degree fever. He was barely able to get through the morning walk-through. He couldn't hit an outside shot, at one point late in the game he missed 11 out of 12 shots. Nowitzki ended the game shooting 6-for-19 from the floor. Based on that, most people would have thought that Dallas would have little chance of beating Miami in Game Four of the NBA Finals. And most people would have been wrong as Dallas ended the game on a 21-9 run to defeat the Miami Heat 86-83 to even the series at 2-2.
Nowitzki could not get an outside shot to go down but give him credit for taking the ball to the basket late in the game. He came up with 10 fourth quarter points including a key driving layup with 14 seconds left to give the Mavericks an 84-81 lead. After a Dwyane Wade layup cut the lead to one, Jason Terry sank two clutch free throws with 6.8 seconds left to extend the Dallas lead to 86-83. Miami had one last chance but Wade fumbled the in-bounds pass, made a valiant save to Mike Miller who missed a desperation three-pointer as the clock wound down to zero. Dallas had their must win. It was the third straight game to go down to the final shot in what is becoming an excellent series.
Credit Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle with this win by switching to a zone defense in the fourth quarter that cut off most of Miami's penetration. The Heat had no turnovers in the third quarter but the zone defense helped cause six fourth quarter turnovers. At the same point Dallas, led by Nowitzki and Jason Terry started taking the ball to the basket and drew fouls which put Miami over the foul limit. Dallas had 10 fourth quarter free throws, making nine.
Wade had another great game, scoring 32 points on 13-for-20 shooting, grabbing six rebounds and coming up with two great blocks late in the game. Chris Bosh was solid with 24 points but LeBron James was missing on offense, shooting just 3-for-11 for only eight points. James was solid in the rest of the game, playing great defense, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists, but the Heat definitely missed his scoring.
We mentioned that Nowitzki would need help if Dallas had a chance to win the series. Tonight he got the help. Tyson Chandler was huge defensively and on the boards. Chandler finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds (nine offensive rebounds) in 43 minutes of action. Shawn Marion was solid, scoring 16 points and playing aggressively on offense. Terry scored 17 off the bench, DeShawn Stevenson hit three big three-pointers and J.J. Barea was more effective. Barea had a few shots go down, but more importantly only turned the ball over once in 22 minutes while recording four assists. Dallas took care of the ball well throughout the game with only 11 turnovers.
We now have a best-of-three series for the title, with Miami having the home court advantage. The Mavericks still need to win Game Five to have a reasonable chance of hoisting the championship trophy. There will be plenty of rest, vitamins, juice and whatever else the doctors prescribe for Nowitzki to kick his fever. It will take another solid effort for Dallas to beat Miami on Thursday and they'll need their star in top form.