- Created on Thursday, 26 May 2011 09:24
- Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 07:51
- Written by Staff and Wire Reports
Nowintzi, who has dominated this postseason, hit a straightaway 3-pointer with 1:14 left that put the Mavericks ahead for good on their way to a 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and into the NBA finals for only the second time in franchise history.
The Mavericks outscoring Oklahoma City 14-4 the rest of the way, with many of their most-accomplished - but ring-less - players making the key plays: Nowitzki, of course, but also Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion.
LeBron James and Miami lead the Chicago Bulls 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals. If the Heat win Thursday night, the finals will begin Tuesday in Miami. If the Bulls win Thursday night, the finals will begin next Thursday in the East winner's city.
Oklahoma City led for most of this game, even staying ahead during a stretch of 11 straight missed shots. But the Thunder were just too young and too inexperienced to understand how to close out a game.
When Dallas started to surge at the start and middle of the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook came up with some answers. Yet when the pressure really ratcheted up, and 21,092 fans were at their loudest, the veteran Mavericks made all the right moves.
Westbrook made a pair of foul shots with 39 seconds left to get the Thunder within a basket. Nowitzki missed a shot against tight defense with 18 seconds left, but Kidd got the rebound and passed back to Nowitzki. He was fouled and made a pair of free throws with 13.3 left. Durant and Harden missed 3-pointers, and that was it.
Westbrook scored 31 points, and Durant and James Harden each scored 23. The Thunder bowed out with only their second three-game losing streak of the season.
Teams with at least eight days off before a series, as Dallas did, are now 12-7 in the next round during the shot-clock era. If the Bulls win Thursday night, the Mavericks would have seven days off before the next series.
The Mavs, Spurs and Lakers have combined to win the last 13 West titles. ... Dallas-area sports fans are getting spoiled. The World Series was here in October/November, the Super Bowl in February and now the NBA finals are coming.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)