The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat 86-83 to tie the best of seven series at two.
The Mavericks were looking for a hot start after continuously falling from behind in the previous three games and Dirk Nowitzki obliged by starting the game 3/3 and giving the Mavericks an early 6-0 lead. Offensive rebounding and turnovers have been the Mavericks' Achilles heal throughout these finals and the first quarter was no different. The Mavericks committed five turnovers and gave up nine offensive rebounds which left them tied at 21 after one despite holding Miami to 30% shooting in the quarter.
Miami continued it's fast start to quarters by scoring seven straight to begin the second. The Mavericks countered by scoring nine straight points of their own and took a 38-34 lead. Chris Bosh hit the game winning shot in game three and got off to a torrid start in game four going 8/12 for 16 points in the first half. Deshawn Stevenson came off the bench and poured in 11 while Jason Terry helped with nine points of his own. After starting the game 3/3 Dirk finished the half just 4/10 and the Heat held a 47-45 advantage at the half.
At the half word came down that Nowitzki was battling a fever of up to 103 degrees and that Haywood was done for the rest of the game. The Mavericks needed to dig deep in the second half if they were to avoid a 3-1 deficit. Marion picked up the slack with ten points in the third quarter but it was Dwyane Wade who continued to torch the Mavericks helping Miami to a 69-65 lead after three.
The Heat scored six straight points to begin the fourth upping their lead to nine at 74-65. Terry hit back to back baskets coming out of a timeout and just like that.. the comeback was on. When it was all set and done, the Mavericks had outscored Miami 19-9 in the final ten minutes of the fourth quarter. They held Miami to one field goal in the last 7:24- a dunk by Wade with nine seconds left in the game. A Nowitzki layup with 14.4 seconds gave the Mavericks a three point cushion at 84-81. Two huge free-throws by Terry and a botched final possession by Miami sealed the game and the series was tied.
Nowitzki's performance while battling a fever upwards of a 100 is remarkable and he continues to leave spectators speechless night in and night out. Nowitzki finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Once again, Nowitzki was magnificent in the fourth quarter, scoring ten of his 21 points in the fourth. In the finals, Nowitzki has not had a fourth quarter in which he's scored less than nine points.
Jason Terry brought a lot of unwarranted attention to himself prior to the game by calling into question James' defensive ability. Well, it appears he knew what he was talking about. Terry was immense off the bench finishing with 17 points and scored eight points in the fourth quarter. He did not commit a turnover in the pivotal fourth and continuously abused James off the dribble. If you're going to talk a big game, you have to back it up. Terry did that- at least for one night.
After getting destroyed on the offensive glass early in the game, the Mavericks were only outrebounded by three overall, 44-41 and by three on the offensive glass 15-12. How did this happen? Tyson Chandler. With Haywood unable to go in the second half, the onus was on Chandler to stay in the game and he responded by playing 43 huge minutes. He was the unsung hero for the Mavericks scoring 13 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Of those 16 boards, nine were on the offensive end. He provided the Mavericks with a massive lift and his performance can not be understated.
Brian Cardinal was able to give the Mavericks seven all out hustle minutes and played decent defense against Bosh when called up in that short span. The insertion of JJ Barea into the starting lineup did not have initial success on the offensive end but was able to help out the Mavericks on the defensive end. It provided the opportunity for Stevenson or Marion be fresh at all times and put a good defender on Wade or James throughout the game. Wade has been unconscious all series hitting an array of circus shots and finished with 32 points. James? The defensive rotation limited him to 3/11 shooting and eight points. I'd consider that a successful adjustment by coach Carlisle.
These games have all been decided in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks were able to make the crucial plays down the stretch in games two and four, the Heat made the plays in games one and three. The Heat have yet to lose back to back games in this postseason. Thursday would be a great time to end that streak.
Game 5 is Thursday night at 8:00 CT.