Miami, FL (Sports Network) – To finish off a remarkable comeback, Dirk Nowitzki went to his injured left hand.
It was the right move.
Nowitzki spun around Chris Bosh and lurched to the basket for a go-ahead lefthanded layup in the final seconds, lifting the Dallas Mavericks to a thrilling 95-93 victory over Miami in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Despite playing with a splint on his left middle finger, Nowitzki scored the final nine points for his team and the Mavericks ended the game on a 22-5 run to erase a 15-point deficit with six-plus minutes remaining.
Nowitzki also made a game-tying layup with his injured off-hand in the final minute, ending with 24 points as Dallas improbably evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
Dwyane Wade, stealing the show for Miami until the final minutes, missed a long, gliding three-point try at the buzzer with a chance to win the game for the Heat.
He led all scorers with 36 points, scoring 21 of them in the first half, while LeBron James had 20 points and Bosh 12.
Nowitzki all but willed his team to victory. He tore a tendon in the finger late in Tuesday’s Game 1 when he lunged to swipe the ball from Bosh, and played all of Game 2 with a small splint he hoped wouldn’t get in the way.
It didn’t much. Nowitzki was 10-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-7 in the fourth quarter.
"I played with (Larry) Bird for three years when he was the best player in the world. Guys like [Bird and Nowitzki] don’t feel pain right now," said Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle. "If you’re feeling pain, you make yourself numb so you don’t feel pain."
Guarded mostly by Udonis Haslem, Nowitzki drew Bosh near the left elbow on Dallas’ final play. Using his body to create some distance, Nowitzki first looked right, then spun left and took two long steps to the basket.
Slashing over to help at the last moment, Haslem got there a little too late, and Nowitzki banked the go-ahead basket in.
"He does the move that he always does. He uses his body well," said Bosh. "I got caught up in trying to cover his drive, and that’s what he wanted. I just played bad defense for a couple of seconds, and it cost us two points."
Miami had a foul to give, but didn’t use it, and now faces a tied series after what seemed like a surefire 2-0 lead just minutes before.
"I actually drove a little earlier than I would have knowing they had a foul," Nowitzki said.
"We never gave up," he said. "In this league, you gotta play to the end. You can be down 20, you gotta keep plugging."
Game 3 is Sunday in Dallas.
"That’s about as tough a fourth quarter as you can have. When it started to slide, it just kept going," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Miami, down nine at one point in the second quarter, used a 29-10 run that bled into the third quarter to take a 10-point lead. But it was nothing compared to the fireworks the Mavs produced in the fourth quarter.
Carrying a 75-71 lead into the period, the Heat went up 88-73 with 7:14 remaining when Wade, after two unselfish passes from James and Mario Chalmers, buried a three-pointer from the right corner.
Wade left his right hand dangling in the air for the whole building to see, and he celebrated with James in front of the Dallas bench. The Mavs called a timeout.
Some Dallas players said the celebration bothered them, others didn’t see it.
"There was no celebration at all," James said. "I was excited that he hit a big shot and we went up 15."
Said Wade: "Every team does something. That’s the game. It won’t be the last time if we make a great play that we do something."
Then, Wade walked to the huddle and the Heat reminded each other that the veteran Mavs are capable of making up a 15-point deficit quickly.
Which they did.
After wilting under the Heat’s potent offense, Dallas turned to its star down the stretch. Hopeful for a better outcome than the last time these teams met in the Finals, Nowitzki responded with a defining finish.
The Mavs finally took the lead when Nowitzki, after collecting a rebound at the other end, drained a wide-open three-pointer to make it 93-90. Chalmers responded with a three at the other end, tying the game and setting up Nowitzki’s shot.
"We pride ourselves on the defensive end," said Wade, "and they were able to break us down."
Shawn Marion scored 10 points in each half for Dallas, while Tyson Chandler added 13 and Jason Terry scored 16 off the bench. Nowitzki also had a game- high 11 rebounds.
The series is a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, when Wade and the Heat beat Nowitzki’s Mavericks in six games after falling behind 0-2 in the series. It was the only other time either franchise made the Finals.
The teams were knotted 28-28 after the first quarter and Wade hit a three- pointer in the final moments of the second to cap a 9-0 run and keep the score tied, 53-53, at halftime.
Dallas, after being out-rebounded by the Heat in Game 1, turned the tables with a 41-30 advantage on the glass in Game 2. The Mavs also won the battle on the offensive glass, 11-6…Mike Bibby had 14 points for the Heat, but their bench was outscored 23-11.