MIAMI, June 3, 2011 (AFP) – Dirk Nowitzki hit the decisive layup with 3.6 seconds remaining Thursday as the Dallas Mavericks rallied to beat the Miami Heat 95-93 in game two of the NBA finals.
Nowitzki, who played through an injured finger on his left hand, finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, who levelled the series at 1-1 and handed the Heat their first loss at home in this post-season.
The series now shifts to Dallas for game three on Sunday.
Dallas’ victory spoiled a 36-point performance by Miami’s Dwyane Wade.
The Heat led 75-71 at the end of the third quarter and appeared to be en route to their 10th consecutive win at home in these playoffs when they hit a bump.
LeBron James finished with at least 20 points for the sixth playoff game in a row but couldn’t hit a late basket, unlike game one when he carried the Heat on his back down the stretch.
Shawn Marion finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. He and Nowitzki got plenty of help from the supporting cast Thursday as four Mavericks finished in double figures. Guard Jason Kidd also had six points and eight assists.
This year’s final is a rematch of the 2006 NBA championship, which Miami took in six games for its first title in franchise history. Dallas has never won the NBA championship in the 31 years it has been in the league.
There was a video tribute to Shaquille O’Neal with three minutes left in the first quarter, showing him holding the NBA championship trophy when he and Wade led Miami to the title five years ago.
O’Neal announced his retirement Wednesday after 19 brilliant seasons in the NBA that netted him four NBA championship rings.
Dallas raised their physical play a notch and the Heat responded in kind with plenty of pushing and shoving under the baskets and one-on-one battles for loose balls.
The Mavericks wanted to get more production out of their supporting cast and it worked Thursday, especially from guard DeShawn Stevenson.
He was able to provide the added energy and muscle from the opening tip-off that was missing when the Heat pushed the Mavericks around in game one.
Stevenson shot three-of-six from the field and finished with nine points.