The Dallas Mavericks 15 point come from behind 112-105 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder gave them a three games to one series lead in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. The Mavericks were once again led by forward Dirk Nowitzki who was the games top scorer with 40 points while forward Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 29. The Mavericks were outplayed for most of regulation, but benefitted from Oklahoma City guard James Harden fouling out of the game and won it by doing three things in the last five minutes of regulation and overtime.
The first step that led to the win was getting the ball to Nowitzki. Down 99-84 with a little under five minutes to go, the Mavericks went on a 17-2 run to tie the game at the end of regulation. In that stretch Nowitzki scored 12 of Dallas’ points including the two free throws which tied the score at 101. The Thunder played him one on one with Nick Collison and Nowitzki ate him up. Then Nowitzki hit two free throws 16 seconds into overtime to give the Mavericks a lead they never relinquished.
The second step to Dallas’ victory was stopping Kevin Durant. Just before Nowitzki went on his run down the stretch, Durant scored five points on a three pointer and dunk during a 7-0 Oklahoma City run which gave them the 15 point lead. After Harden fouled out, Durant did not score the rest of the fourth quarter. He and the Thunder were held to one field goal in the last 5:06 of regualtion.
In the overtime, Durant missed his first shot, a three point attempt, and did not take another shot until there were less than ten seconds to play and the Thunder were down by five. Along the way, Durant was stripped of the ball while going to the basket by Mavericks guard Jason Kidd with the score tied at 105. Kidd, then went to the other end and hit the three point basket which gave Dallas the lead for good. Which leads us to the third step in Dallas’ victory.
The Mavericks veterans never panicked. Down by 15 on the road in front of a hostile crowd, the Mavericks weathered the storm just as they had the entire game. Until Harden fouled out there was no reason to believe that Dallas would survive after Oklahoma City’s 7-0 run to make it 99-84. But once he did, the Mavericks took full advantage of the situation as they shut down Durant and Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and got the ball into Nowitzki’s hands down the stretch in regulation. Mavericks forward Shawn Marion forced Durant to take a difficult three point shot at the end of regulation and blocked it forcing the overtime.
In overtime, Kidd had the big steal of Durant then hit the big three pointer that gave the Mavericks the lead. Guard Jason Terry sank the two free throws which made it a two possession game and basically ended any hopes of an Oklahoma City comeback. Meanwhile, Marion helped the Mavs defense to shut down Durant, Westbrook and company holding them to just four points in the extra period.
The series goes back to Dallas with the Mavericks having a chance to close out the Thunder. Once again, it will come down to whether or not Oklahoma City can figure out a way to stop Dirk Nowitzki for 48 minutes while playing better basketball down the stretch. None of which they did tonight.
And they were beaten in three easy steps.