Rapid Reaction: Mavs 100, Thunder 96
How it happened: The savvy, old Mavs schooled the young Thunder in crunch time once again.
Two days after erasing a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes, the Mavs finished off the Western Conference finals with a 14-4 run Wednesday night.
The Mavs did it again with a heavy dose of Dirk Nowitzki and dominant defense down the stretch. Oklahoma City's only points in the final 4:25 came on a basket by Kevin Durant (23 points) and a pair of free throws by Russell Westbrook (31 points). Nowitzki scored seven of his game-high 26 points in that span, including a 3-pointer to give the Mavs the lead for good.
Mavs forward Shawn Marion also scored 26 points. His three-point play on a fast-break slam dunk made it a two-possession game in the final minute.
The Mavs managed to close the series despite a poor shooting night from the floor. They shot 41 percent, including 5-of-20 from 3-point range, but made 31 of 36 free throws. The Mavs went 11-of-13 from the line in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The veteran Mavs will be a well-rested squad when they make a return appearance in the NBA Finals. They’ll get at least five days off before facing the Miami Heat (or a full week if the Heat can’t finish off the Chicago Bulls in five or if the Bulls come back to win the East). Dallas rolled through the West with relative ease, winning 10 of 11 games after blowing a 23-point lead in a Game 4 first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Play of the game: After Jason Terry came up with a loose ball, Marion found Nowitzki at the top of the 3-point arc. Nowitzki knocked down his only 3-pointer of the game to give the Mavs a 95-94 lead with 1:14 remaining.
Stat of the night: Oklahoma City had been 5-0 when James Harden scored at least 15 points this postseason. The Thunder lost Wednesday despite Harden getting 15 with 3:23 remaining in the first half and finishing with a career-playoff-high 23.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
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Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.