Dallas' Nowitzki defies illness to level series
An ailing Dirk Nowitzki had his worst shooting game of the NBA Finals but came through in the end to lead the Dallas Mavericks to an 86-83 victory over the Miami Heat yesterday.
Nowitzki scored 10 points in the final quarter, including a basket with 14.4 seconds left, to help the Mavericks level the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
"I didn't really have a good night's rest," said the 10-time All Star, who was running a temperature earlier in the day. "I was just under the weather a little bit, but battled it out.
"It didn't look good there in the fourth quarter when we were down nine, but energy and defence really picked us up."
Dallas, seeking their first championship, were down 74-65 but went on a 17-4 run to take an 82-78 lead with just over two minutes left.
Nowitzki, who battled through a finger injury earlier in the series, said he just played through the illness.
Everybody has a little something going," he said. "You have to go out there and compete and try your best for your team. So that's what I did."
After a foul shot by Dwyane Wade, with 30.1 seconds left, cut Miami's deficit to 82-81, Nowitzki blew past defensive specialist Udonis Haslem on an aggressive drive to the basket to score.
That hiked the Mavericks' lead to 84-81, forcing the Heat to play a futile game of catch-up in the waning seconds.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said the 32-year-old Nowitzki, who hit only six of 19 shots but finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, was "struggling".
"The play he made at the end getting the ball to the rim was a great play," said Carlisle. "It's a great win for us, and I love the way he played. Fighting through that was not easy."
Game Five is set for tomorrow in Dallas.