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The illness hit Monday night. After struggling to get any rest, he showed up for shootaround but hardly did anything.

His condition was kept a secret, and he helped keep it that way by hitting his first three shots. Then he missed 10 of 11 and it was obvious something was wrong. The biggest giveaway: he also missed a free throw for the first time since Game 4 of the conference finals.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle tried resting Nowitzki as much as he could. During timeouts, he stayed in his chair as long as possible, trying to conserve every ounce of energy.

“You’ve got a guy that’s 7 foot, there’s a different kind of toll it takes on your body when you’re sick,” Carlisle said. “Everyone could tell looking at him that he labored.”

This series is now more fascinating than ever.

After the last two games were decided by two points, the first time that happened in the finals since 1998, this one was decided by three. In many ways, it was the best one yet because of how tight it was throughout.

The Heat seemed to have taken control when they led 74-65, their biggest lead of the night.

But Dallas went to a zone and Miami struggled.

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 3-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 for Dallas.

Bosh scored 24 points for Miami, but the Heat got little beyond its three superstars. Miller scored six points, Mario Chalmers had five and Haslem and Joel Anthony each scored four points.

It was an electric night from the start, with 20,430 fans again clad in their blue “The Time Is Now” giveaway T-shirts standing and screaming from the time Kelly Clarkson finished the national anthem.

The Mavs made half their shots in the first quarter, but gave up so many offensive rebounds — nine in the first 10 minutes, matching Miami’s total for Game 3 — that the Heat tied it after one period despite shooting only 29 percent.

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