Do it for these guys, Mavericks. Do it for them. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The pre-game story of the night was the change to the starting lineup, with Jose Barea getting the start in place of DeShawn Stevenson. He only stayed on the court for the first six minutes before Jason Terry subbed in for him, but he did get one circus-style layup in before he sat down. Dirk Nowitzki started the quarter three for three and the Miami Heat started three for three as well- three turnovers on their first three possessions. They quickly recovered, however, and a series of offensive rebounds and subsequent second-chance points got them right back in the game.
Jason Kidd was busy making uncharacteristic turnovers, while Brian Cardinal (I know, right?) was seeing big minutes and setting big screens. Terry actually backed up his confident words with some vastly improved offense, including a big transition three after a Heat turnover. The only reason the game was tied after the first quarter, with the Heat shooting under 30%, was a series of calls that sent the Heat to the free throw line. Also a technical foul on Rick Carlisle didn't help matters.
The Heat went on a 7-0 run in under two minutes to start the second quarter, and after Barea missed his first two shots, Carlisle decided to take a time out. Stevenson came right in and hit a three to stop the bleeding. He would hit another few threes to bring the game back to within reach, and then a patented Euro Leanback from Dirk tied the game up again at 34. None of this would have been possible if not for the clamp-down defense of the Mavericks that they so desperately needed for this series. They literally turned it up to 11.
Another key difference in this game from the last was the offense of Tyson Chandler. He was fighting hard under the basket for offensive boards and not only getting the ball, but drawing the fouls as well. Miami would continue to hit tough shots, even when the Mavs covered them well, and as a result the score stayed close at halftime. They went into the locker room down 47-45.
We found out at halftime that Dirk, ever the contender, was playing with a fever of 101 or 102, and on the first play of the game he drove straight to the rim and drew a foul. He made both, of course. Barea was in to start the half, and he was able to get to the rim on consecutive plays, the first resulting in a trick shot and the second in a put-back from Chandler. Joining the fray was Shawn Marion, who was making his usual ugly-awesome shots. He even got a rebound off of his own miss and put it back to give the Mavs a two-point lead.
With two minutes left in the half, the Mavs were down one, but a ridiculous alley-oop pass to Dwyane Wade gave the Heat a three point lead and the momentum. The Mavericks had a few opportunities to close the gap, but all they could get was a free throw from Tyson Chandler. They went into the fourth quarter down by four points.
The start of the fourth quarter wasn't what Mavs fans wanted to see. After his 3-3 start, Dirk had gone 1-11, and his teammates were struggling as well. That is, until the Jason Terry of old woke up and started his clutch 4th quarter play. Apparently he took the big German's words to heart. And as for the big German? Well, despite feeling ill and shooting poorly from the field, he continued to drive and draw fouls. He scored six straight points for the Mavericks and kept the game within reach.
Then, all of a sudden, a switch flipped, and Dallas found their defense again. They forced 5 turnovers in the first half of the fourth quarter, and capitalized accordingly. The Heat started to miss shots, and then they went into the penalty with just over two minutes left in the game with the Mavericks up by two. A foul on Wade sent Dirk to the line, where he calmly sunk both free throws. On the other end, Stevenson fouled Bosh from behind, and his free throws gave Miami their first points in over five minutes.
With a minute to play, the game was stuck with the Mavericks up by two. Kidd fouled Wade hard to prevent a fastbreak dunk, and for once, Wade was un-clutch, missing his second free throw. With a five-second differential between the shot and game clocks, the Heat didn't need to foul. Dallas inbounded the ball and got it right to Dirk, who held it just long enough to make a driving layup with enough time on the board for the Heat to shoot a three for the tie. Rather than shoot a three, Wade waltzed right to the hoop to make it a one-point game.
The Mavs called a time out, and Kidd successfully inbounded the ball to Terry who was fouled. He made both to give the Mavs a three point lead again. The Heat were barely able to get the ball in, and Wade fumbled the pass from Miller. Miller then took a desperation three and missed badly, giving the Mavericks the win and tying the series up at 2-2. All while Dirk was sweating out a fever. What a game. What a team.