Dallas, TX (Sports Network) – The Dallas Mavericks rallied behind a sick leader and evened the NBA Finals at two games apiece.
This time, it wasn’t just Dirk Nowitzki’s hand that was ailing. It was the rest of his body, too.
"I just battled it out," said Nowitzki, who played despite a fever that reached 101 earlier in the day.
Nowitzki scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday, including eight during a big run that gave the Mavericks the lead in an 86-83 victory over Miami in Game 4.
Jason Terry scored four straight points to spark the 17-4 spurt that pulled the Mavericks out of a nine-point deficit in the fourth. Terry had six total points during the surge, and later hit a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds left to give Dallas its final margin of victory.
The Mavs survived a last-second shot by Miami’s Mike Miller, who ended up with the ball on the high right side only after Dwyane Wade let the inbounds pass hit off his hand and float toward the backcourt.
"It didn’t look good," Nowitzki said of his team’s deficit in the last quarter, "but our energy and defense really picked us up."
"This series is a jump ball, every single game," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "And they out-played us in the fourth quarter, obviously."
Playing again with a splint on his injured left middle finger, Nowitzki was just 4-of-13 for 11 points through three quarters — he missed a free throw for the first time in the Finals, too — and said he was "just a little under the weather."
"I didn’t really have a good night’s rest," he said.
When it came down to it, though, Nowitzki again was everything his team needed him to be.
Mirroring the move he made to win Game 2, the 7-foot German held the ball on a late possession and drove right past Udonis Haslem for a layup that made it 84-81 with 14.4 seconds left.
Slashing to block the shot, Wade got there a split-second too late. But he dribbled past Chandler on the other end for a dunk that got the Heat within a point.
Terry made his free throws with 6.7 seconds remaining, again putting the Mavs ahead by three points, but the Heat couldn’t get a clean shot off after their timeout, settling for Miller’s off-balance try.
Nowitzki labored, sitting until the end of every timeout to conserve his energy in a performance reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s "Flu Game" in the 1997 NBA Finals. He looked anything but festive after the big win, sniffling through his post-game press conference.
But, as Chandler put it afterwards: "It’s always better when you win."
"He’s one of the greatest ever. He wants the ball and he wants the responsibility of winning or losing the game," said Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle. "We make every effort of putting him in those situations."
Bosh scored 16 of his points in the first half, leading Miami to a 47-45 edge at the break. Bosh, who hit the go-ahead shot in the final minute of Game 3, went 5-for-5 in the second quarter for 10 of his points.
Neither team led by more than three in the third quarter until the Heat finished it on an 8-1 run to go ahead by as many as five. They carried a 69-65 lead into the fourth.
Miller hit a three-pointer and Haslem knocked down a jumper to cap an overall burst of 13-1 that gave Miami its nine-point lead, 74-65, with 10:11 remaining in the game.
After a timeout, Terry made a layup and a jumper to start Dallas’ run.
"I don’t think any [lead] is commanding in this series," said James. "We just have to continue to execute offensively and grind defensively."
Terry also scored the go-ahead layup during the burst, making it 79-78 with about five minutes remaining. Nowitzki hit two free throws to end the run and give Dallas an 82-78 lead with 2:16 left.
Bosh made two foul shots for Miami’s first points in 5 1/2 minutes, and Wade went to the line with a chance to tie the game after he was mauled under the basket by Jason Kidd on a long pass.
But Wade only made 1-of-2, and Nowitzki banked in his driving layup at the other end for some distance.
Carlisle tinkered with his lineup, starting J.J. Barea at guard in place of DeShawn Stevenson. Barea had eight points, while Stevenson scored all 11 of his points in the first half…Mavs backup center Brendan Haywood was active after missing Game 3 with a right hip flexor injury. He played just 3:05 off the bench, all in the first half…The Heat lost despite outshooting Dallas 42.7 percent to 39.7 percent.