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Dirk's healthy game helps even series

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have pulled off another stunning comeback, tying the NBA Finals at two games each.

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have pulled off another stunning comeback, tying the NBA Finals at two games each.

And this time, Nowitzki did it while battling the flu.

Nowitzki shook off three poor quarters to score 10 of his 21 points in the final period as the Mavericks outscored the visiting Miami Heat, 21-9, over the final 10:12 for an 86-83 victory in a memorable Game 4 last night.

The Mavs avoided going down 3-1, a deficit no team has ever overcome in the Finals, and guaranteed the series will return to Miami for a Game 6 on Sunday night. Game 5 is tomorrow night in Dallas.

"We just played with incredible heart and passion," Dallas center Tyson Chandler said.

Dwyane Wade scored 32 points, but fumbled an inbounds pass with 6.7 seconds left. He knocked the ball back to Mike Miller for a potential tying three-pointer, but it wasn't even close to hitting the rim.

Chris Bosh scored 24 points for Miami, but the Heat got a stunningly unproductive game from their biggest star, LeBron James. He scored only eight points, making just three of 11 shots. He contributed nine rebounds and seven assists, but his lack of scoring sticks out because of the loss.

"Obviously, we'd like to get him involved," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's a very important piece to what we do. So we'll work to help make it easier for him in the next game."

Nowitzki opened the game looking just fine, making his first three shots. But then he missed 10 of 11, and missed a free throw for the first time since Game 4 of the conference finals. By then, word spread of his illness.

"We all seen him go through walkthroughs," Chandler said. "Every time he started to talk he started coughing. He was wheezing."

Miami was poised to take a commanding lead in the series when Udonis Haslem hit a jumper that made it 74-65 early in the fourth quarter. It was the Heat's biggest lead, and the way Nowitzki was playing, the Mavericks didn't seem capable of pulling off another rally like the 22-5 finish that won Game 2.

Yet Jason Terry - who kick-started that comeback with six straight points - made consecutive baskets, and the surge was on. Terry ended up capping it with two free throws with 6.7 seconds left that forced Miami to need a three-pointer.

Dallas finally got the balanced scoring attack it wanted.

Terry had 17, Shawn Marion 16 and Chandler had 13 points and 16 rebounds.

DeShawn Stevenson, who moved to the bench so J.J. Barea could join the starting lineup, scored 11 points.


* Sources told ESPN The Magazine that Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, who were teammates in Detroit for 12-plus seasons, are among the candidates to replace John Kuester, who was fired Sunday after two seasons.

Thomas who played his entire 13-year NBA career with the Pistons, is currently the head coach at Florida International University.

Thomas coached for five seasons in the NBA, the last two with the New York Knicks. He was named the Knicks' president of basketball operations in December of 2003 and took on the added role of head coach in 2006.

The Knicks fired him in April of 2008 after the team lost a franchise record-tying 59 games.

According to sources, Thomas is not the leading candidate. But he is on a short list that includes Laimbeer, who played for the Pistons from 1981-93, Mike Woodson and Kelvin Sampson.

Both Thomas and Laimbeer were teammates of Detroit president Joe Dumars, who also spent his entire 14-year pro career with the Pistons.

* New Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson hired Mike Malone as an assistant coach. Malone was an assistant for New Orleans last season and previously the lead assistant in Cleveland under Mike Brown.