Big games from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh weren’t enough for the Miami Heat as Dallas Mavericks tied the series 2-2 with an 86-83 win in Texas.
Bosh scored 24 whilst Wade kept up his claims for MVP by dropping 32 points. But this game was won by the Mavs’ bench who had to be in top form with All-Star Dirk Nowitzki ill.
Nowitzki was suffering with a fever which reportedly reached 102 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), but he started the game with a fire in his belly, as oppose to his head, draining the first three buckets of the game to give the Mavs an early 6-0 lead after only 1:25.
The fever may have then kicked in though as Dirk would only make another two points before half-time.
Heat fought back from their deficit but their shooting was poor. By the end of the first quarter, their field goal percentage was a meagre 29%. However, what helped them pull level was that they were getting offensive rebounds from their missed shots. (They had nine at the end of the first quarter) They were being converted and, coupled with poor Dallas shooting also, the Heat were somehow level at 21-21.
Dallas should have been out of sight, but they were being their own worst enemies and missing easy shots. The main culprit was point guard Jose Barea, making his first start of the finals series, he was getting good looks, the most notable being an open lay-up, but was failing to convert. He also missed two free-throws in the first quarter to go with a field goal ratio of 1/5.
In the second quarter, Heat started draining more of their shots, whilst Mavs had set-up a high-pressure defence, but was still giving away easy looks, allowing Miami to increase their field goal percentage to 45% by the buzzer.
Chris Bosh was heating up and had a variety of shots in his locker before half-time. Bosh, who grew up in Dallas but was never a Mavs fan, was driving to the basket, winning tips to score and even knocking down mid-range jumpers. He ended the half with 16 points and a field goal ratio of 8/12, which was already level with his series average of 16.3 points. By contrast, LeBron finished the half with just four.
Dallas set-up a high-intensity defence to try to combat the Heat’s flow and this allowed them to get more turnovers and they began to score more fast-break points to keep in touch with Miami. Jason Kidd even managed to take a big charge, showing just how tenacious the Mavs were being. Tyson Chandler was also beginning to win the battle of the boards and was preventing Miami from getting the offensive rebounds that were killing the Mavs in the first quarter.
However, their ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ defence was evident as they allowed LeBron James to set-up first Wade and then Joel Anthony for easy uncontested jumps.
This was being combated by the Mavs’ bench, notably DeShawn Stevenson who made three straight buckets from outside the Arc to keep Mavs in touch. Stevenson ended the half with 11 points and 4/5 field goals, whilst Jason Terry had finally stepped up in this series and had eight points at the interval, where the Mavs were down 47-45.
The third started with Nowitzki feeling refreshed and he managed to grab more rebounds at the start of the quarter than he had in the whole of the first half. However, as in the first, he began fading due to the fever and even managed to miss a free-throw – the first he had missed in 39.
Shawn Marion was taking it upon himself to be the Dallas outlet in Dirk’s absence and he was playing aggressive basketball in the third. At one point ‘Matrix’ even won his own rebound from a shot and managed to tip it in.
Dallas had started this quarter better and this was partly due to a great tactical switch by coach Rick Carlisle. Throughout the series, the pick-and-roll’s have been set by Nowitzki, but he switched this to Tyson Chandler. This allowed Dirk to be more open, and more closely defended, leaving space in the middle. Barea was exploiting this and was finally finding his shooting game. He was able to penetrate the Heat defence deeper and was bursting into the paint and scoring easy points.
However, half-way through the third, Barea needed a break, and when he went off Mavs’ missed his pace. Kidd, despite being a fantastic passer, hasn’t the sleight of foot of Barea and this slowed Dallas’ general play down.
Heat began to fight back, and one of their bench men wanted to get involved. Mario Chalmers, who has had a great series for a second-choice point guard, managed to notch up his sixth assist of the night during the third and was part of the 8-1 run at the end of the quarter which dragged Miami back into the lead by 4.
This run also included the play of the night, an ‘alley-oop’ set-up by James and emphatically finished by Wade, who was still quietly picking up points.
But as has been pointed out by everybody this season, Dallas are no strangers to a comeback. Miami knew that after Game Two, where they lead by 15 going into the fourth but still lost, and this lead was even more fragile.
Heat got a few early points to put the Mavs nine points down with 10 minutes left on the clock, but Terry responded with two quick buckets (after being aggravated by Chalmers) and the lead was cut to five.
Another Carlisle masterstroke was implemented for the fourth, as Dallas went to a zonal defence to stifle the middle of the court and the paint for easy points. This forced Miami to take jumpers and three-point attempts, something they were failing to convert.
In fact, they were shooting that poorly that they went five-and-a-half minutes in the final quarter without scoring a single point. Couple this with the Mavs’ brilliant defence causing five turnovers (they had 0 in the third) and the comeback was well and truly on.
Dwyane Wade was trying to single-handedly prevent the onslaught and came up with two huge blocks on Tyson Chandler – swatting the ball away over-the-rim for one and getting fingertips on another. However, Chandler picked up yet another rebound to slam home and Wade was livid with his team-mates.
Chandler was playing brilliantly and finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Dirk was turning up in the fourth and as the clock ran down, he was becoming more pivotal with every play. With only 29.3 left on the clock, Mavs were one point up and had an inbound pass. Kidd found Nowitzki and as he allowed the clock to run down he was marked by Udonis Haslem, who had done a great job on Nowitzki all night. However, Dirk, knowing his jumper was a bit off, went to the basket and made a clutch two-pointer to give the Mavs a three-point lead with 14.4 left.
Wade managed to grab a quick two to leave 9.0 on the clock and as Mavs inbounding to Terry; James fouled him and sent him to the line. Terry nailed both of his clutch free throws, leaving Miami three behind again with 6.7 left.
However, the inbound pass to Wade was mishandled and the opportunity, along with the match for the Heat, was lost 86-83.
Nowitzki headed straight down the tunnel at the end, but his 10 points in the fourth, despite having a huge fever, were crucial.
However, on a night when Dirk couldn’t be the main man, the rest of the team stepped up to the plate. Terry finished with 17 points, Marion 16, Chandler 13 and Stevenson 11.
The series is now level at 2-2 and Thursday night sees the last game of the series at Dallas, before a potential two games in Miami.