By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle praised German giant Dirk Nowitzki for playing through the pain barrier and leading his team to a 95-93 comeback win at the Miami Heat in Game Two of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
Nowitzki, playing with a splint to protect a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand, made just six-of-17 shots from the floor but twice used his injured hand in the final stages, including on the game-winning lay-up with 3.6 seconds remaining.
"I played with (Larry) Bird for three years when he was the best player in the world. Guys like that don't feel pain right now," Carlisle told reporters after the Mavs tied the best-of-seven series 1-1 with three games to come in Dallas.
"You play, you play and if you're feeling pain, you make yourself numb so you don't feel pain. You've got to play and you've got to be a warrior.
"Dirk knows for us to win this series. He's going to have to play all around basketball. He's going to have to fight through periods where the ball isn't necessarily going in the basket, which he did tonight.
"He's going to have to play a solid all around game, which he did tonight."
The seven-foot (2.13m) Nowitzki scored the final nine points for the Mavs as he led another remarkable rally but was quick to shrug off the injury.
"It didn't bother me. We were able to keep the tape a little lower, so I was able to keep my grip on the ball because my palm was open and my fingertips were open. I was able to get a good grip on the ball," he said.
Team mate Jason Terry said while it was spectacular to watch Nowitzki find his shooting at just the right time, he was not surprised by the way he pulled out some great shots to level the series.
"It was unbelievable. But these are shots again that he works on, that he practices. I don't know how that finger felt, but I know he didn't care. He was going to do whatever it took for us to get the win tonight," Jerry said
"There was no concern whatsoever. We have seen him shoot. He got some extra work in after practice to get comfortable with the situation. I've never played with a broken hand. I don't think it really affected him at all," he said.
(Editing by John O'Brien; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)