Dallas led by 10 points with under three minutes left, but they allowed their advantage to dwindle to a single field goal in the final minute and a half. I don't think I was alone in becoming more than a little worried at this all too familiar sight.
Thankfully for our collective sanity, the Mavericks held on, scoring the final four points of the game and walking away with an absolutely enormously important victory in the first game of their L.A. double-header.
Dirk Nowitzki led all scorers with 27 points, including 10 in the final period, and recorded his second straight double-double with 11 rebounds. Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis played against types, with Calderon pouring in 19 points (and just one assist) and Ellis leading Dallas with 9 assists. Calderon, Dirk and Vince Carter combined to shoot 11-19 from behind the three point line, and Dallas would need pretty much every longball they got.
With the #2 and #3 teams in offensive efficiency squaring off, you could probably have guessed this game would be high-scoring.
A 15-5 run for Dallas to close out the first quarter put them ahead 32-26 early. They would stretch the margin to double-digits in the second quarter, with Dirk scoring 11 points in that period, but ex-Mav Darren Collison also score 11 in the second (including a buzzer-beating prayer that he always seems to make at least once a game), and the Clippers would catch fire, closing the gap to two heading into the half.
In the third, Dallas and L.A. would exchange leads most of the way, and the visiting Mavs would pull ahead at the end thanks to five three-pointers, and as the game headed into the final frame, the score read 86-81. The fourth got a bit wacky.
The game would be tied at 89 early, but a quick 10-0 run(with a pair of Dirk bombs) suddenly gave Dallas a cushion. They would hold at that margin for several more minutes, getting to as high as 12 at 109-97 with two and a half minutes left. Then STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE the Clippers made a run. Four free throws, a pair of Dallas turnovers, and a pair of Collison layups, and it was a two point lead.
But this time around, the Clippers would come up short, failing to score again, and after some close misses by Darren Collison and J.J. Redick, some Dirk free throws would essentially ice the game.
So, tonight Dallas escaped. And with this win, the Mavericks briefly take sole possession of 7th place in the West, breaking what was a three-way tie with Memphis and Phoenix entering tonight's play. All three teams will be in action tomorrow, with Dallas playing the Lakers, Memphis hosting Denver and Phoenix traveling to Portland.
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