(1) Last-second layup in Game 2 of the Finals (2011)
This probably isn't too ancient a recounting just yet, but if you'll allow me to set the stage a little: Miami -- the most anticipated team maybe in sports history -- had just completed their rampage of the Eastern Conference, winning all three playoff series 4-1. In Game 1 of the Finals, LeBron James made four of five three-pointers, and Miami won convincingly 92-84. They had now won 13 of their 16 playoff games.
After essentially playing each other to a standstill through three quarters of Game 2, Miami began to pull away in the fourth quarter. A Dwayne Wade three and pose put Miami up 88-73 and that score remained until almost exactly six and a half minutes left.
I don't care how optimistic you are. At this point in time, it looked pretty bad. The clock was striking midnight on the Dallas' unbelievable postseason run. Dirk Nowitzki's shot at erasing the only black mark on his otherwise amazing career was drifting away. For the Mavericks' fans, exorcising the demons of 2006 was looking like less and less of a possibility.
Then that indescribably great comeback happened, which was fantastic in its own right but especially memorable because it served as the prelude to the final 24 seconds, when Jason Kidd handed off the ball to Dirk Nowitzki above the right elbow. Nowitzki used a spin move and hesitation dribble to beat Chris Bosh to the basket for a left-handed layup that changed the course of Maverick team history. I know I can still remember where I was when this moment happened. Can you?
- Alan Smithee (@SmitheeMMB)
(4) 3-pointer beats Chicago in playoff push (2013)
Even if this game ultimately changed little about the final outcome of the Mavericks' regular season, it is indelibly etched in our minds, for several reasons.
First, in a season where Dirk looked very human early on after returning from a knee injury that sidelined him up until Christmas, this was the game that reminded us all that he could still be truly great.
Second, Dirk's beard! The beard that either made you think 10th century Viking or homeless guy pushing around a shopping cart. It also represented how much pride the team had. After being 10 games under .500 in early January, several players had pledged to not shave until they got back to .500. Which they would do, two weeks later, prompting Dirk to reach for the razor literally right as he got back to the locker room.
Third, and finally, the terrific call by Mark Followill, citing a recent Zach Lowe article that called Dallas "the team that wouldn't die." Desperately needing to win, Dallas pulled out the victory despite being down late, and climbed to within one game of the Lakers and Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot. It would have been almost unthinkable a few months earlier.
Dirk finished the game with 35 points, and Dallas needed every last one.
- Alan Smithee (@SmitheeMMB)