The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks to level the series at two games a piece.
The Dallas Mavericks rallied from a 15 point deficit with five minutes to go to stun the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four 112-105 in overtime and took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best of seven series.
After a lackluster game three, you knew the Thunder were going to come out with a ton of energy and they did just that. The Thunder exploded out of the gate going 9/9 to start the game and building a ten point lead 18-8. Durant came out in attack mode going 5/6 for ten points in the first quarter and the Mavericks started real sloppy. The Mavericks committed six turnovers in the first quarter. 31-22 after one. With Tyson Chandler picking up two quick fouls it was essential that Brendan Haywood play productive minutes. Haywood came in and provided energy, doubling on Durant and Westbrook when necessary and despite the Thunder's attempts to play Hack-a-Wood, went 5/8 from the line for seven needed points to help squelch OKC's hot start. The Thunder shot 58% in the first half and yet were only able to take a five point lead into the half 59-54. Despite ending the first quarter with two shots, Nowitzki finished the first half with 22 points on 6/7 shooting. He relentlessly attacked the Thunder's defense and as a result went a perfect 9/9 from the free throw line. The careless turnovers were killer though as they finished the half with 11. The lackluster play continued for the next quarter and a half.
Serge Ibaka had been a relative non-factor for the Thunder in this series and despite leading the playoffs in blocked shots had yet to record a single block against the Mavericks. That changed in game four. Ibaka made his presence known early and was a monster in the paint swatting five shots and nabbing ten key rebounds , including five offensive boards and poured in 18 points. The Thunder were the dominate team on the boards coming into this series and that showed in game four as they outrebounded the Mavericks 55-33 and an unreal 20-5 on the offensive boards.
Down 15 points with five minutes left the game was all but over. And then Dirk Nowitzki took over. Nowitzki made sensational shot after sensational shot including two clutch freethrows to tie the game up at 101 with six seconds left in the game. Shawn Marion harassed Durant as the Mavericks made their run and continued his immaculate defense into the overtime. While the Mavericks thrived under pressure down the stretch, the Thunder crumbled. James Harden fouled out with 4:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Thunder were up 13 points at that point but as they found out, 4:33 is a lot of time in an NBA game. Here are the Thunder's possessions after Harden fouled out:
Westbrook misses 17 ft jumper, Westbrrok turnover, Durant 22 ft miss, Durant misses a 3, Westbrook makes a jumper, Westbrook misses two freethrows, Westbrook misses a 15 footer, Durant turnover, Westbrook 16 ft miss, Sefolosha misses a three.
Chalk it up to youth, inexperience, coaching? Whatever it is, the Thunder were horrendous down the stretch.
Marion played great defense against Durant and in the meantime it was all Dirk all the time for the Mavericks scoring 12 of the Mavericks 15 points in the final 4:33. After all that the Thunder still had an opportunity to win the game with six seconds left. What followed was a reckless possession that ended in a 30 foot three point shot by Durant being blocked by Marion.
As the overtime began, the Thunder were absolutely stunned and the Mavericks took their first lead of the game 17 seconds in the overtime and milked the game home.
It was a historic comeback by the Mavericks and it was another page added to the legendary career of Dirk Nowitzki.
He finished with 40 points and has finally begun to get the recognition he's always deserved and it's performances like game one and willing his team to this comeback in game four that will be engraved in people's memory for a long time. Dirk is a truly transcendent talent and one that has been taken for granted far too often, hopefully that begins to change.
According to espnstats the last time a team came back from 15 points with under five minutes remaining in a playoff game was 15 season ago. Amazing.
The Mavericks have taken their dagger out and are pointing it at the Thunder's chest, they have a chance to stick it in on Wednesday in Dallas.
Game five is Wednesday night at eight.