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Wade sparks Heat to win

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots in the first quarter as Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris defends in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals in Miami, Thursday, June 15, 2006. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
AP | AP

MIAMI ” Dwyane Wade’s tender knee held up fine, and so did home-court advantage for the Miami Heat.

The NBA finals aren’t over ” not even close. They’ve only just begun.

Wade, barely able to walk on a badly banged-up left knee 24 hours earlier, scored 36 points and big buddy Shaquille O’Neal added 17 and 13 rebounds as the Heat downed the Dallas Mavericks 98-74 Thursday night to even the series 2-2.

Remember a few days ago when the runnin’ and gunnin’ Mavericks were in control and possibly on their way to a sweep?

Well, they’ve taken a Texas two-step sideways as the once-lopsided finals are a dead heat and guaranteed to be returning to Big D.

Wade, who saved Miami’s season with 42 points in an epic Game 3 comeback, followed up with a performance just as impressive. Although the lightning-quick guard didn’t have his usual bounce off the floor, he fired in jump shots from every corner of AmericanAirlines Arena, the South’s white house which will host Game 5 on Sunday.

“I think this is our first almost-good game,” O’Neal said. “We’re picking it up. Different series now, 2-2.”

After two dominant double-digit victories at home, Dallas came to town thinking it could wrap things up on the road. The Mavericks had won their three previous playoff series away from home, including a dramatic Game 7 in San Antonio that went into overtime.

Now, the Mavs are somewhat of a wreck. They scored just seven points in the fourth quarter, a record low for the NBA finals.

Jason Terry scored 17 points to lead Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki added 16, but rolled his left ankle taking a jumper with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and favored it the rest of the way.

Leading by 10 points at half, the Heat pushed their lead to 20 midway through the third quarter when tempers flared after Jerry Stackhouse’s hard foul on O’Neal and Miami coach Pat Riley and Dallas’ Avery Johnson had to run on the floor to help restore order.

After Wade scored six straight points, O’Neal, criticized for not dominating in Games 1, 2 and 3 despite constant double-teaming, spun on the baseline for a three-point play to give Miami a 68-51 lead.


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