Forget everything you ever heard about Dirk Nowitzki needing a championship to secure his place among the NBA legends.
Nowitzki did just that on Thursday by playing through a torn tendon on his left middle finger to score the winning basket and level the NBA Finals at one game each.
Nowitzki, who turns 33 on June 19, slipped past Miami’s Chris Bosh with 3.6 seconds left and give Dallas an improbable 95-93 win over the favored Heat on Thursday.
“You play if you are feeling pain,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “You make yourself numb so you don’t feel pain. You got to play and you got to be a warrior.”
Ten-time All-Star Nowitzki went one step further. He won the game for Dallas which went on a 22-5 run to close it out.
Nowitzki, who essentially spent the last five years answering for his postseason failures, tore the tendon in Game 1 and is expected to wear a protective splint for the rest of the series which switches to Dallas for Game 3 today.
On Thursday, he finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, who handed the Heat their first loss at home in this year’s playoffs.
Carlisle compared the one time league MVP Nowitzki with Celtic Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
“I played with Bird for three years when he was the best player in the world,” Carlisle said. “Guys like that don’t feel pain.”
Now the Heat are the only thing standing in the way of Nowitzki and his first NBA championship ring.
Germany’s Nowitzki played like there was no tomorrow and the last thing the Mavericks wanted is to be down 0-2 in the finals.
“What a huge swing it was,” Nowitzki said. “A huge comeback for us. We never gave up.”
Terry said he felt the Heat were rubbing their noses in it when Wade drained a three pointer in the fourth to take a 15-point lead and LeBron James and the Miami players started to dance in front of the Mavericks’ bench.
“I can’t say what was going through my mind,” Terry said. “It was the turning point. I looked at Dirk and said ‘There is no way we are going out like this.’ For us to go out in a blowout fashion with them dunking on us, shooting threes on us, it would have been disheartening.”
Wade denied that there was any showboating going on.
“There was no celebration,” Wade said. “Every team in the league when they go on a run they do something. Whether it is a signal or a chest bump. It is part of the game. A celebration is confetti and champagne bottles.”
That is exactly what some Miami reporters were writing about after the Heat beat the Mavericks 92-84 in game one.
Only the Dallas players saw this one coming. It was the third huge comeback for the Mavericks in these playoffs after they found themselves down by 16 to the Los Angeles Lakers and 15 to Oklahoma City before rallying to win.
“If there is time on the clock there is still time for us,” Terry said.
After chewing out Terry in the huddle in the fourth quarter for leaving Miami’s Mario Chalmers open for an easy three pointer, Nowitzki had to back up his tough talk with results.
When asked by reporters what was said in the huddle Nowitzki said: “I am not going to share that with the media. There was a little cussing involved.”
“We got lucky down the stretch. Hopefully we can carry this momentum in Game 3,” he added.
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