Done and done. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The Mavericks came out firing on all cylinders with Dirk Nowitzki leading the way. In the first five minutes he hit a Euro leanback, two free throws and a slam dunk. Tyson Chandler was matching Dirk's intensity with a putback and some strong moves under the basket. Lest we forget that the Thunder made it to the WCF for a reason, the young players showed us why they deserve to be here. Russell Westbrook was active, logging an assist, a steal and a block in the first few minutes.
Jason Terry came in off the bench and provided a great spark with a three right off the bat, and then a two from almost the same spot. However, neither team was shooting particularly well, and the slightest let down on defense allowed OKC to take the lead. The first quarter ended with the Mavericks down one.
Quarter two started with promise, as Jose Barea launched the ball down court after a good defensive set to a waiting Shawn Marion. But then, as is the team's style, they started taking weird shots and getting blocked and turning the ball over. Barea didn't let up, though, and he sliced to the rim on several occasions with positive results. If he didn't see room for the layup, he dished out to Dirk for the corner jumpshot (which we all know is going in).
As the quarter wound down, the Mavericks decided to play team basketball, and started making better decisions with their passing. In addition, they followed shots and were able to get second chance points, including a resounding dunk from Shawn Marion. One reason Dallas was able to hang around was the apparent cooling of Kevin Durant's hot start. He had 12 points in the first quarter, and just one in the second. The Mavs went into the locker room down three at the half.
At the start of the second half, Oklahoma City was making the right plays but their shots just weren't falling. Durant started the quarter 0-4, and yet the Mavericks could only tie the Thunder. That is, until Peja Stojakovic drilled a three pointer, his first make of the night. After that three, Westbrook had a lapse in judgement and shoved Jason Terry out of bounds. He made the ensuing free throw and the Mavs had a three-point lead.
Durant finally overcame his slump with a made three, and we were all tied up. Again. A 9-0 run ensued at the Mavericks expense, but the quarter ended on a ridirkulous note when the Great German hit a crafty reverse layup. Dallas entered the final quarter with a four-opint deficit, and just 12 minutes left to clinch a berth to the NBA Finals.
Fourth quarters have been making me nervous. OKC started out a lot better than the Mavericks did, especially with Westbrook and Harden carving up the Dallas defense. The Mavs committed several silly turnovers and the Thunder took an 8 point lead, which matched their largest of the night. Guess who wasn't having it? Dirk Nowitzki. He fought through fouls to put back his own miss. His little buddy Barea was fighting back too, making heady plays and setting Marion up twice for big baskets.
With itty bitty baby steps, the Mavericks closed the lead back to four points. Then Jason Kidd got a big steal on Durant and Marion was fouled on the fast break. His two free throws brought the deficit to two. Durant hit a shot and Terry missed on the other end, and with three minutes left the Mavericks had four points to overcome. Shawn Marion hit a hook shot right out of the time out, and after forcing a turnover on the other end, the Mavericks made the right decision and gave it to Dirk. He missed a three from the top of the key, but they got an offensive rebound and handed it right back to him. So what does he do? Takes the exact same shot and makes the damn thing. Mavs up by one.
Dallas defense clamped down and they got a transition dunk from Marion, who hit the and-1 free throw giving them a four-point lead with under a minute to play. Westbrook hit a pair of free throws and Dallas took a timeout to design some way to win. Dirk actually missed a shot (I know, right?) but Kidd, King of the BBIQ, grabbed the offensive rebound and got it to Dirk ASAP, who was fouled. He sunk the free throws.
The Dallas Mavericks are headed back to the NBA Finals.