Nowitzki's supporting cast stepped up with its most complete effort in Game 5, bringing the Mavericks within a victory of the franchise's first title by outlasting the Miami Heat, 112-103, at American Airlines Center. The series heads back to Miami with the Mavs up 3-2.
J.J. Barea came up big in his second straight start, contributing 17 points for the Mavs.
"He doesn't have to carry us like he's been doing," J.J. Barea said of Nowitzki. "It's a team effort. For us to win another game in Miami it's going to be a team effort."
While Nowitzki once again led the way with 29 points, four of his teammates scored in double figures. Jason Terry scored 21 off the bench. Barea frustrated Miami with a series-high 17 points, including eight during a third-quarter barrage. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd each scored 13.
"Everybody stepped up in a different way," said DeShawn Stevenson, one of the heroes of Tuesday's Game 4 victory. "J.J., Jason Kidd and Jet did an awesome job. It just says a lot about out team. Any given night somebody can do something for us to win, and we need that in the Finals."
The Mavericks wouldn't have come this far and be on the verge of a title without everyone contributing, in coach Rick Carlisle's estimation.
"That's kind of defined us as a team," he said. "There's no set formula, other than we need each other. And we need to play a certain way, and we need to play with a certain collective intelligence and will. And the defense has got to be tight.
"So we were able to do a lot of those things tonight, and I think that's why we won."
Terry and Kidd drilled huge 3-pointers in the closing push after Miami took a 96-95 lead. But it wasn't just about offensive contributions on a night the Mavs shot 56.5 percent, including 68.4 percent from beyond the arc.
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Shawn Marion continues to play stellar defense on the perimeter against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Ian Mahinmi burned up eight solid minutes. Brian Cardinal's four points and three fouls in about 10 minutes don't seem like much, but the floor burns he collected mucking things up were bigger than his stat line. His grit filling in for Nowitzki and Chandler was acknowledged in all Dallas precincts.
"He did a terrific job for us," Carlisle said.
Cardinal was also involved in one of the game's key turning points -- Wade suffering a hip contusion in the first quarter that had Miami's leading scorer in the series in and out of the locker room for the rest of the night.
"Brian hit a big 3, took a key charge and tried to take a charge on Dwyane and [Wade] hurt his hip," Stevenson said. "We have guys that have been in the league for a long time and are ready. It says a lot about our team with Brian coming in there having not played a lot of minutes in the playoffs and he's in the Finals giving his all.
"We just have guys in here that are very confident. We're a family."