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Western Conference Final Game 4 - Dallas 112, Oklahoma City 105 (OT) – Mavericks lead series, 3-1

 

Just when we thought it was impossible to create a sequel to match his historic Game 1 performance, Dirk Nowitzki went and did something nearly as special. Then, it was a 48-point explosion on just 15 shot attempts when the Western Conference finals began. On Monday night in Oklahoma City, it was a blitzkrieg of 12 points over the final 4:33 of regulation to force overtime, enabling Dirk’s determined Dallas Mavericks to overcome a 15-point Oklahoma City lead in the process. With six seconds left and his team trailing 101-99, Nowtizki calmly stepped to the free-throw line and tied the contest up after drawing a foul from the Thunder’s Nick Collison. After Shawn Marion blocked Kevin Durant’s potential game-winning basket as time expired and the game moved to overtime, the outcome was almost a forgone conclusion. The Mavericks had thoroughly ravaged the Thunder, stripping them of any degree of confidence. The shellshock fully set in on the Oklahoma City bench and the Mavericks, behind a truly heroic performance from Nowitzki, grabbed a hold of the series.

It was not always so. The Thunder, specifically Durant, came out of the gate with a vengeance. Hitting on his first five shots from the field, the two-time scoring champion had an extra gear during the opening stages of Game 4. The Thunder, playing with the energy and motivation of a team on the brink, took a nine point lead after one quarter. The crowd and a national television audience would all come to know later that the second quarter was just a type-and-shadow of what Nowitzki would provide in the fourth period. Nowtizki scored 17 points in the second stanza, using his wide array of brilliant offensive moves to bring the Mavericks back into the contest.

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Oklahoma City continued to pound the glass, however, showing no signs of collapse throughout the first three and a half quarters. The Thunder dominated the boards and began to pull away during the late stages of the second half. With Serge Ibaka playing a terrific game, scoring, rebounding, and defending at will, the Thunder looked like they were going to easily overcome another poor shooting night from Russell Westbrook. Things looked rosy as Oklahoma City took a commanding 99-84 lead midway through the fourth quarter after yet another offensive rebound from Nick Collison gave Durant an open look at a 3-pointer. Thirty seconds later, James Harden, who has been a creator off the dribble all series for Oklahoma City, fouled out of the contest. It didn’t seem to mean much at the time, but in short order, the Thunder’s world abruptly collapsed. It was downhill from there for the young team that is still learning how to close down games in the postseason.

 

Nowitzki began to heat up and veteran Mavericks started to put the pressure on a clearly frazzled Oklahoma City team that began to tighten up at both ends of the floor. With Nowtizki scoring on one end, the Thunder’s shot selection and possession down the stretch was nothing short of pitiful. Oklahoma City ended with a mind-boggling 25 turnovers, many of which came after timeouts and set plays in the final minutes of regulation plus the wrenching five-minute overtime that witnessed their ultimate demise.

Monday night was perhaps Dirk’s shining moment as a professional. The epitome of steady and sure leadership was on display as the best foreign-born player in NBA history authored yet another masterpiece for the postseason record books. Nowtizki is proving one game at a time that his place in history is assured. The question now becomes, just how far can Nowitzki take this band of Mavericks? Is Dirk ready to exorcise his demons of 2006? After what we witnessed on in Game 4, nothing would surprise the world of basketball observers.

 

By: Zach Bloxham
ProBasketball-fans.com Staff Writer


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