Dirk Nowitzki didn't have the best game of his NBA Playoffs run in the Dallas Mavericks' 86-83 Game 4 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday. But he did score 21 points, 10 during a fourth quarter that saw the Mavericks go on a 17-4 run to erase a nine-point deficit. He also added 11 rebounds, and was certainly the biggest factor for Dallas in the win. But the amazing part is that he did it all while sick, running a fever of 101 degrees.
We didn't find out Dirk was sick until halftime, with the Mavericks trailing 47-45 and Nowitzki having eight points on 5-10 shooting and just one rebound. He excelled in the second half (13 points, most on free throws, plus 10 rebounds), playing all but two minutes. His performance not only helped Dallas even the NBA Finals at 2-2, but it inspired his teammates. From Eddie Sefko in the Dallas Morning News:
Mavericks officials were calling Nowitzki’s play — 21 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes — heroic. After the game, he could barely speak without coughing or sniffling.
"This is the Finals," Nowitzki said. "You’re going to leave it out there."
NBA lore is well-stocked with legends of players succeeding in the most difficult circumstances; the name "Willis Reed" calls up a very specific limp to the court, and "Flu Game" is a two-word essay on toughness all of its own. Dirk enters that pantheon -- maybe on a lower rung -- after Game 4.