Wed, May 25, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Mavs erase 15-point deficit to grab 3-1 lead


Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks misses a dunk against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Dirk Nowitzki scored 40 points on Monday as Dallas erased a late 15-point deficit and beat Oklahoma City 112-105 in overtime to move to within one win of reaching the NBA finals.

Jason Kidd hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 40 seconds remaining in overtime and the Mavericks took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals.

The winner of the series will face either Chicago or Miami for the NBA crown.

“I believe that was all about getting stops,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “Every guy who was in there made big plays. The one thing about this team all year is we have been a resourceful group. They keep believing. They have been extremely opportunistic. I don’t know how you quantify that, but this comeback was fantastic.”

The Mavericks trailed by 15 points in the final five minutes of regulation.

They didn’t take the lead until Nowitzki drained two free throws 16 seconds into overtime.

Kevin Durant missed a three-pointer on Oklahoma City’s opening possession of overtime, then didn’t get another shot until he missed a three-point attempt off the front rim in the final 10 seconds when the Thunder trailed by five.

Durant finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Mavericks, who struggled all night to rebound, pulled within 99-91 with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining.

After Oklahoma City’s Westbrook scored off another offensive rebound, Nowitzki answered with a three-pointer.

Dallas’ defense then stopped Oklahoma City on four straight possessions and the Mavericks closed the gap to 101-99.

Two free throws from Nowitzki knotted the score with 6.4 seconds remaining and Shawn Marion’s block on Durant made sure the Thunder didn’t close it out.

The game was tied 105-105 with 1:15 left in overtime when Kidd stripped the ball from Durant and drained a three-pointer at the other end with 40.3 seconds to go.

Kidd then rebounded a Westbrook miss, Jason Terry hit two free throws for Dallas and Kidd added two more free throws to let the Mavs celebrate a victory that looked anything but likely when the Thunder opened the game by hitting nine straight shots.

The Mavericks were able to stay in touch, never falling more than 12 points behind. Thanks in large part to free throws, they trailed just 59-54 at halftime.

However, with the sell-out crowd cheering them frantically, the Thunder put together two runs of seven straight points early in the fourth quarter.

Durant had a two-handed dunk and a three-pointer in the second burst, which made it 99-84 with 5:06 left to play, but the Mavs were already closing in when Thunder guard James Harden fouled out. Dallas limited Oklahoma City to just one basket from there and Nowitzki scored 12 points in Dallas’ 17-2 scoring run to close regulation.

“There’s times and situations where they are going to test the courage and the mental inner strength of your team,” said Terry, who scored 20 for Dallas. “This was one of those times. This was a defining moment in our season where we look back and say: ‘Hey, that was the game.’”

The Mavericks will host Game 5 today and Durant said the Thunder must stay positive.

“It’s not over yet,” he said.

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