Ailing Nowitzki moves Mavericks closer to the title

By Steve Ginsburg

The 32-year-old All-Star made only six of 19 shots in Tuesday's 86-83 Mavericks victory over the Miami Heat but had 10 points in the emotionally charged final period.

The popularity of the Mavericks forward, who is averaging 26 points a game in the finals and has been unstoppable with the game on the line, is approaching folk hero status in Dallas.

He ignored the torn tendon in the middle finger of his left hand to score the winning basket in Game Two of the series, and tallied a clutch basket with 14 seconds left on Tuesday to secure victory.

The win on Tuesday evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2, fuelling optimism in Dallas that the Mavericks are ready to end 30 years of frustration.

Despite wheezing on the bench and tiring on the court due to a sinus infection and a raised temperature, Nowitzki said he would show up for Game Five on Thursday.

"I had some soup and had a good meal," he said of what he did to recover following Tuesday's game. "Drank some fluids, drank some tea and just feel a lot better today.

"I still got a little high temperature, but the fever is basically gone. So that's obviously the main concern always. Anything else, the sniffles or the cough, you don't really care about that as long as the fever is gone."

The series will move to Miami for Game Six, and, if necessary, Game Seven. Each of the last three games has been decided by three points or less.

"There's no woulda, coulda, shoulda. Both teams have done the same thing -- won on each other's court, and won one game on their home court," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"It's defensive minded, it's competitive, it's physical," he said. "It's like being on the ropes in a heavyweight bout.

"It's back and forth all the way until the end. And that's the way it should be."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)