(8) 2006 Western Conference Finals, Game 5 vs. Phoenix
While most will remember this as Dirk's playoff career high, Mavs' fans of this era may look back on Game 5 of the 2006 Western Conference Finals as "The Tim Thomas Game". The Mavericks and Suns were deadlocked at 2 games apiece, and Dirk had just come off one of his worst playoff performances ever, managing just 11 points in a 20 point loss. I suppose it was such circumstances that made Suns forward Tim Thomas impetuous enough to taunt the All-NBA 1st teamer with the rapier-like "blown kiss" maneuver.
The Suns had played well most of the night, and a pair of back-to-back threes from Thomas made the score 74-70 late in the third quarter. Dallas Coach Avery Johnson called timeout and a very upset Nowitzki gave his teammates a spirited pep talk, which I assume went something like "OK, I think I'll just dominate now, guys, yeah?" From that point on Nowitzki outscored the Suns all by himself 29-27, pouring in 22 during the final frame. Both Thomas and defensive ace Shawn Marion took turns checking Dirk; not that it mattered. In the fourth he made 6-7 field goals and went 8-8 from the line, each trip bringing thunderous chants of "M! V! P!".
With 47 points and the game already well in hand, Dirk hoisted a deep three with a pair of Suns defenders running at him, and was so confident it was in that by the time it sailed through the net his backpedal had practically taken him past midcourt.
I think Dirk had let Tim Thomas know exactly where he could place that kiss.
(9) 2011 Western Conference Finals, Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City
There was an unmistakable sense of anticipation and excitement in the air on this May evening. That may sound like a painfully obvious thing to say about a Western Conference Finals game, but for the Dallas Mavericks, this was more than a deep playoff run. This was starting to feel like destiny.
Consider the recent history of the franchise: a perennial playoff team most notable for their short stays, as they'd been dispatched in the first round three of the last four years. Consider the final month and a half of the season, where the Mavs had lost eight straight games against Western Conference playoff teams, the low point being a embarrassing (on more than one level) blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that culminated in a Jason Terry frustration cheap shot.
But then suddenly Dallas came face to face with that same Los Angeles team in the playoffs, and the defending champions looking for their second threepeat in the Kobe/Phil era were swept, with the final blow coming in a massacre game four to close out the series. What was happening?
Enter Nowitzki. His first touch of the WCF came the first time down for Dallas. Facing up against the athletic shotblocking savant Serge Ibaka, Dirk gave a series of jabsteps, before hoisting a rainbow jumper that looked magnetized to the net. Ibaka tried to adjust the next time down, bodying up Nowitzki very tight about 18 feet from the basket, denying any airspace. Dirk took a dribble to get a feel for Ibaka's positioning, used a spin move to beat Serge to the baseline, and then threw down one of the more vicious slams you'd see from the floor-bound German. Uh oh.
Dallas continued to feed their star. Between field goals and free throws, Dirk made 36 of 39 attempts, netting 48 points (his first of two 40 point games that series). It didn't matter if it was Ibaka, or Nick Collison, or Thabo Sefolosha guarding him. When the ball left his hands, no matter how good the defense, it seemed there could be only one outcome. Destiny.