The Dallas Mavericks are going to the NBA finals.
It was a sloppy first half for the Mavericks. The Mavericks shot 37% in the first quarter and Tyson Chandler uncharacteristically had the most shot attempts with seven. Chandler was left wide open on a few jumpers and couldn't help but take them. He missed them and of course, that's why he was open. Dirk Nowitzki picked up right where he left off in game four and was 4/5 from the field for 13 points in the half. Jason Terry his first two shots but picked up two quick fouls including the foul that sent Russell Westbrook to the line for Oklahoma City's first lead of the game at 20-19. The Mavericks shooting began to improve in the second thanks to J.J Barea's penetration accounting for 11 points but it was James Harden who stole the show. Harden came out firing off the bench as was the leading scoring at the half with 16 points. The Thunder rode his hot shooting to a 55-52 halftime lead.
Chandler picked up his fourth foul with 6:31 left in the third quarter and the Thunder began to attack the basket. The Mavericks traded baskets for a few possessions with the Thunder, missing free throws to take the lead on a couple of occasions and then Peja Stojakovic hit a three to give them a 65-63 lead. In the ensuing possession, Russell Westbrook blatantly shoved Jason Terry in front of the referee and he was immediately given a technical foul. The tide seemed to be turning. Terry hit the technical to put the Mavericks up by three and then the Thunder responded with a 9-0 run to make it 72-66. The Mavericks were still stuttering on the offensive end but were able to cut it to four to end the quarter with another ridiculous layup by Dirk Nowitzki. The Thunder would keep responding however, extending the lead to eight at 85-77.
And then it happened... Again. The Mavericks went on a 17-6 run to end the game. Dirk played his part but it was Shawn Marion who had 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter who made the difference. Marion was sensational down the stretch, getting key stops on Russell Westbrook and provided the offense when no one other than Nowitzki was able to generate anything. Nowitzki put the exclamation point on his series by draining a three with 1:14 left to give the Mavericks their first lead of the fourth 95-94. Marion made a steal at the other end and exploded down the floor dunking for the and one. That was it. Nowitzki hit two freethrows late to put it out of reach and the Mavericks are headed to the NBA finals for the first time since 2006.
This run has certainly been unexpected but why should it end here? The Mavericks will have an opportunity to exercise their 2006 demons once and for all if Miami is able to close out the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will certainly be favored in the finals. But the Blazers were favored in the Mavericks' first round matchup and the Lakers in the second round.... This team has made a habit of shocking the basketball world.
Why would they stop now?