NBA Playoffs 2011, Mavericks Advance To NBA Finals With 100-96 Win Over Thunder

Dallas can secure its first NBA Finals appearance since 2006 with a win Wednesday night.

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Dirk Nowitzki Talks About Winning The West

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t hang around the court to speak with Doris Burke during the trophy ceremony on ESPN, but he did speak with reporters in the press room. Here’s what he had to say.

On returning to the Finals:

It was a big win and it feels good to finally go back [to the Finals]. We’ve tried to make it back and we’ve fallen short. This time hopefully we can finish the job.

On late comebacks in Games 4 & 5:

Just execution down the stretch – we had some good steals and some good rebounds, also had some lucky bounces. In Game 4 we really scrambled on defense when we were down 15, really locked down with guys helping each other defensively. When our defense is solid we create points off of that. We pick up the pace, get the ball into Kidd’s hands, and that’s how we want to play.

On Shawn Marion’s play:

He was spectacular for us. He’s probably our best perimeter defender. He’s long, he’s active with his hands, and he was phenominal the last couple games against [Kevin] Durant. On the other end, he’s versatile. He had a big basket when we were down four late. He’s a competitor, and he’s a big reason that we’re in the Finals again.

On whether he would like to face the Heat in the Finals:

Whatever happens, happens. It’s not in our hands right now. We made it to the Finals, and we’re going to enjoy that for a day or two. It’s good to get these series finished off early. It was big for us to get [Jason] Kidd rested after the last series, and we’re going to have a couple of extra days here again, and we’ll be ready for whoever goes through.

On finishing the job this time:

It’s been a long stretch here. The year after we lost in the Finals we came back and won almost 70 games but lost in the first round. We’ve been trying to get back to this stage ever since and fell short. This is a bunch of veterans who want to play and are not selfish. I think that’s what makes this group special. Everyone sacrifices for each other, and they just want to win.

Watch Dirk’s press conference on NBA.com.

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Video Highlights: Mavericks Heading Back To NBA Finals For Second Time In Team History After 4-1 Series Win Over Thunder

For the second time in as many games, the Dallas Mavericks overcame a late deficit to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dallas's Game 5 win on Wednesday night was not quite as dramatic as the 15 point comeback with five minutes to play, but once again it looked as if OKC had the game in hand late in the fourth quarter only to see Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks roar back to win. You can expect much more analysis and reaction to the outstanding display of individual and team basketball played by the Mavericks in the days to come, but just in case you might have missed the game or highlights from Wednesday night's series clinching win, here you go.

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game 5

The Dallas Mavericks are one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006 when they lost to the Miami Heat in six games. Dallas returns home on Wednesday night to play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder, holding a commanding three games to one series lead in the 2011 Western Conference Finals.

The Thunder nearly had the series square at two games a piece - but a colossal choke in Game 4 left Oklahoma City staring at elimination. Oklahoma City was up by 15 points late in the fourth quarter - and I mean really late - with about five minutes left to play. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks forced overtime and eventually took Game 4.

Nowitzki was once again excellent - something that should come as a surprise to nobody. In the Game 4 victory, Nowitzki scored 40 points on just 20 shots, including going 14/15 from the free throw line. Dirk is simply playing historic basketball, scoring 40 points for the second time in the Western Conference Finals, and more amazingly, the second time in just four games. His teammates, according to Tim MacMahon, note how frustrating it must be for Oklahoma City's defenders:

"When you play excellent defense and somebody shoots a shot that you don't think is a great shot and it consistently goes in, what do you do?" Haywood said. "You're taking away his first move and his second move. He's going to his third or fourth move on you. You're right there and he's fading away and it's going in every time. That's gotta be frustrating." 

Added Chandler: "It's frustrating because you're doing everything you can to stop him and the guy is still scoring at will. There's just nothing you can do."

Jason Terry provided a boost off the bench yet again in Game 4 as well, scoring 20 points while grabbing four rebounds and five steals as well. 

Despite Dirk's heroics and Dallas' comeback, there's still improvements to be made - and that have to be made in Game 5 if the Mavericks want to close out the Thunder and head back to the NBA Finals. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged that the Mavericks must improve their rebounding. Per Calvin Watkins:

"There's some areas we got to get better at," Carlisle said Tuesday afternoon. "We're getting outrebounded by eight a game in the series on average and that's a big concern." 

For the series, the Mavs are averaging 34.1 rebounds per game and the Thunder have grabbed an average of 42.2.     

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT. Televised coverage can be found on ESPN as the Mavericks look to end the Western Conference Finals in five games.

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NBA Western Conference Finals, Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Dallas Can Secure Trip To NBA Finals With Win In Game 5

Only one win separates the Dallas Mavericks from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2006, and they can get it Wednesday night when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Dirk Nowitzki (40 points on 14-of-20 shooting) led a stirring, fifteen-point comeback during the fourth quarter of Game 4 to give the Mavs a 3-1 advantage in the series as they stunned the Thunder on their home floor.

Oklahoma City is a gifted young squad with good coaching--it did not advance this far in the postseason on accident--but has yet to face a test this daunting: elimination, on the road, this deep in the postseason. In contrast, the veteran Mavericks have been here before: Nowitzki and Jason Terry from that 2006 run; Jason Kidd as a New Jersey Net in the early 2000s; and Shawn Marion with the Phoenix Suns in the mid-2000s.

That aspect, how the teams respond to the pressure, is one well worth paying attention to. Perhaps the Mavs get complacent and ease up a bit, giving the Thunder an opportunity to climb back into the series. Maybe Oklahoma City wilts, and Dallas romps. There are numerous outcomes in between those extremes as well.

Game 5 between the Mavs and Thunder tips off at 8 PM Central on ESPN.

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2011 NBA Playoffs, Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki 'Took Over' Down The Stretch

With about five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Monday, it looked like the Mavericks were heading towards a 2-2 series tie, and an abbreviated three game series. But then they started clawing their way back. It started by getting stops on the defensive end. Securing rebounds. Getting good looks on the other end and converting. Before you could say Serge Ibaka, the Mavericks had tied the game in regulation. One Shawn Marion block on Kevin Durant towards the end of regulation, and we were heading for overtime.

In that extra frame, it was all Dallas. A Jason Kidd three pointer from the right wing off a beautiful hesitation move gave the Mavericks a lead that they wouldn't surrender. Some continued defensive effort and a few free throws later, and the Mavericks had done what seemed improbable just ten minutes before. Our Mavericks blog Mavs Money Ball does a great quote dump after every game. Here is Jason terry on how the team remained confident despite finding themselves down 15 points in the fourth quarter.

"We’ve been on the flipside where we’ve given up 15-point leads. I’ve seen us give away a 20-point lead, down 15, down 10, come back in the fourth quarter, and Dirk finds a way. We just don’t lose confidence in those types of situations. I've been on the other side of that before, too many times, so I know how it feels. But we relied on our faith in each other and pulled it out. When you believe like that, anything can happen. Like I said, it was about keeping the faith."

For Dirk Nowitzki, the comeback started when the Mavericks started cleaning up the backboards.

"We kept believing. I think finally we got some rebounds. I think that was killing us all night long. We got second-chance points, tipouts. In the last couple minutes we got great stops, finally got some rebounds, and it really helped us (with) our flow. They couldn't really guard us off the transition and we needed to get some stops and that was big down the stretch."

The other big factors in those final minutes were free throws and turnovers. The Mavericks got to the line over and over again over the final ten minutes of the game, while the Thunder missed both of their free throw attempts. The mavericks also took care of the ball, while the Thunder seemed to get overwhelmed by the moment and let it, along with the ball, slip through their fingers.

So where do we go from here? The Mavericks now hold a 3-1 series lead, which the Thunder will have a very difficult time coming back from. The series now shifts back to Dallas, where the Mavs will have the opportunity to put the game away on their home court. I expect the Thunder to come out with a lot of energy in that contest. But they did that on Monday, and that didn't really work out for them in the end. What do you expect, Rick Carlisle?

"We worked really hard these two games to win, and none of that guarantees anything for Game 5. We know that. All of us involved with this team have been through a lot of these wars. We understand our position that we're in. We respect it. We're very humble about it. We've got to get ourselves revved up and ready for Wednesday, because that's an opportunity."

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Rick Carlisle Wants Mavs To Play Like They're Coming Off A Loss

The Dallas Mavericks are coming off of a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3, but Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle is hoping that his team plays Game 4 as if Dallas is coming off of a loss.

Why would Carlisle want his team to play like it just lost rather than use the momentum that gave them the lead in the Western Conference Finals series?

“The team that wins gets their ass kicked the next game,” Carlisle told ESPN Dallas. “Really, that’s what’s happened.”

Carlisle was likely referring to the Mavericks Game 3 intensity that allowed Dallas to lead 27-12 after the first quarter following their Game 2 loss. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what he expects tonight.

“We’ve got to concentrate and we’ve got to be ready for what’s coming at us tonight, which is going to be a lot of force,” Carlisle said. “They’re going to play a desperate game, for sure. For 48 minutes, we’ve got to bring a level of intensity.”

So, if nothing else, Game 4 should at least be intense.

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NBA Playoffs: Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game Four

The Dallas Mavericks find themselves in an excellent position on Monday night headed into Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas has an opportunity to take a commanding three games to one series lead and become one win away from headed back to the NBA Finals.

Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have something to say about that as they look to even up the series at 2-2 tonight in Game 4, as the Thunder play host to the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas broke Oklahoma City's home court advantage on Saturday with their 93-87 win over the Thunder in Game 3. The Thunder managed to contain Dirk Nowitzki in Game 3, holding him to 18 points - and a rather ugly 18 points too as Nowitzki shot just 7-for-21 from the field, including going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Thunder also held Jason Terry to 13 points and a poor shooting night as well, as Terry went 3-for-12 on field goal attempts. 

Still, the Mavericks were able to hold on for the Game 3 win - despite the poor shooting night, and also despite Russell Westbrook's 30 points. Westbrook, though, once again had more turnovers than assists - turning the ball over seven times compared to just four assists. Dallas will likely look to continue to pressure Westbrook into more turnovers in Game 4.

While things do look pretty good for the Mavericks headed into Game 4, having already broke Oklahoma City's home court and everything, there is some bleak news as well. Per Tim MacMahon, Danny Crawford is working as the lead official for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Dallas Mavericks are 3-16 in playoff games officiated by Danny Crawford. The Mavericks are 5-14 against the spread in playoff games refereed by Crawford since 2001 compared to 56-42-2 vs the spread in all other playoff games in that span (according to information from Covers.com). The reason this is important is that the spread is essentially one of the best ways to look at what a team is expected to do in a game. Historically, the spread has been shown to be an accurate predictor of what happens in a game - that is, teams are generally .500 against the spread over large samples of games. Therefore, the fact that the Mavericks seem to underperform compared to expectations (as proxied by the spread) in games reffed by Crawford is possibly more compelling evidence than the 3-16 overall record.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks will have to overcome a desperate Thunder team, home court advantage and Danny Crawford on Monday if they want to take a 3-1 series lead.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. CDT. Televised coverage can be found on ESPN.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Rick Carlisle, Scott Brooks, Dirk Nowitzki Talk About Mavs Game 3 Win

Rick Carlisle:

We were much better tonight defensively, and we had to be. The first two games we were poor. We were very fortunate to win the first game. But tonight, we played championship level defense for the first time in the series, and now the challenge is to sustain.

I know what we’re capable of because the first ten games of the playoffs we saw it. When you come up against a very different kind of opponent you can get seduced a little bit into a different style of play, and you can get a little bit seduced out of what’s made you successful. I believe that happened to us in the first couple of games. But then you get hit in the face at home. It’s sobering for everybody. So we refocused, guys recommitted to the defensive end.

This is as hard a team to guard as there is in basketball because they’re great at putting constant pressure on you off the dribble, off screens, in transition – so many different ways.

Scott Brooks:

I thought they came out and did a great job from the start with their defensive pressure, and we did not do a good job offensively. But they did a great job, really took us out of our sets. Their trapping on the basketball just got us playing on our heels, and that’s not how we play. The start was tough to overcome, but I give our guys a lot of credit. They fought back and made it a game.

They guarded us much better; there’s no question. They started the game off really hitting us and knocking us out of our offense, and we missed a lot of threes. Those weren’t all contested. We have to get better.

Dirk Nowitzki:

Great defensive effort, I think, early on. It really set the tone for us. “Trix [Shawn Marion] has really taken the challenge, I thought Sevenson was great early, and that set our offense up there in the first half.

Second half was a little rougher. We really had to grind it out. I thought we fought through some stuff. We kept our composure when they made a run and made some big plays down the stretch.

To hold a very good offensive team to 36% shooting at home was very good and really won us the game.

Watch all of the postgame comments on nba.com.

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Mavericks Take 2-1 Series Lead, Beat Thunder 93-87

Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) – The Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a big lead in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and held off the slow-starting Oklahoma City Thunder, 93-87, to take back home-court advantage.

Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion both posted 18 points and Jason Kidd chipped in 13 to go with eight assists, helping the Mavs take a 2-1 series lead.

Dallas held Oklahoma City to 29 percent shooting in the first half and led by as many as 23. The Thunder mounted a comeback, but a 1-for-17 showing from three-point range sealed their fate.

“It was a great defensive effort early on. It set the tone for us,” Nowitzki said. “We just played off our defense and executed well … We had more aggression to our play.”

Russell Westbrook came alive late and ended with 30 points in defeat.

Kevin Durant had 24 points on 7-for-22 shooting, and the Thunder reserves netted 16 just two days after outscoring Dallas’ vaunted bench, 50-29.

“They doubled a lot more off pick-and-rolls and post-ups. They made it tough for us,” Durant said. “We have to figure out ways to have a better start.”

Game 4 of the series will also be in Oklahoma City on Monday.

Scott Brooks made a tough decision to bench a struggling Westbrook in the fourth quarter of Game 2, and the Thunder backups came through in a 106-100 victory to tie the series.

Brooks stayed with Westbrook on Saturday, and the All-Star point guard responded with 14 points in the final quarter.

Westbrook’s personal 8-2 run cut the deficit to single digits for the first time in the second half, and two James Harden free throws near the midway point made it a six-point game, 80-74.

Nowitzki briefly quieted the suddenly erupting crowd with a pair of buckets, but the Thunder were still within six, 84-78, coming down the stretch.

The hosts had three chances to inch closer, but Westbrook and Daequan Cook each missed from long range and Westbrook coughed it up on a drive to the lane, the sixth of seven turnovers for the 22-year-old.

Jason Terry ended the scoreless stretch with a short pull-up jumper to extend Dallas’ lead with 1:42 showing. The closest it got from there was four, and the Mavs sealed the win by hitting 5-of-6 from the free throw line over the final 33.6 seconds.

Oklahoma City Arena was hosting its first-ever game in the conference finals, but the home team came out infinitely less fired up than its fans.

An eager crowd watched Marion get inside for two buckets and toss an alley-oop pass to Chandler on Dallas’ game-opening 9-2 run.

The electricity amongst the blue-clad fans dwindled significantly when the Mavs ended the opening quarter just as strong as they started it, as Peja Stojakovic and Kidd each drained three-pointers to spark a 12-4 flurry.

The run yielded a 27-12 lead, which ballooned to 23 following eight straight Dallas points to open the second.

“[The Mavs] came out and did a great job with their defensive pressure. They took us out of our sets and trapped the basketball, just got us playing on our heels,” Brooks said. “I give our guys a lot of credit, they made it a game in the fourth quarter.”

Free throws were the only thing keeping the Northwest Division champs relatively close, making 12-of-13 from the stripe in the second frame alone.

The halftime score, 52-36, still heavily favored Dallas despite Nowitzki only tallying four points, and Oklahoma City went scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the third to go back down by 22.

Game Notes

The Mavs, who won both regular season meetings at Oklahoma City Arena, held the Thunder under 100 points for the first time this series…Terry totaled 13 points and six assists off Dallas’ bench, which scored 28 points in all…Chandler pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, while Durant led the Thunder with 12 boards…The Thunder outscored the Mavs at the foul line, 32-14…Harden went 2-for-9 from the field for seven points after exploding for 23 points to spark Oklahoma City in Game 2.

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game Three

The Western Conference Finals shifts to Oklahoma City on Saturday night as the Thunder play host to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. The two teams split the first games in Dallas, with the Mavericks winning Game 1 behind an historic performance from Dirk Nowitzki while the Thunder responded with a win in Game 2 to avoid going down two games to none.

In the 106-100 Game 2 loss, Dallas only shot 43.8% from the field - down nearly 10% from the 53.4% mark in the Game 1 win. Nowitzki once again led the Mavs in scoring as well in Game 2, scoring 29 points. 

Perhaps the biggest difference, though, was Jason Terry. Terry shot 50% from the field en route to 24 points in Game 1, but was only three for nine in Game 2, scoring just eight points. 

Oklahoma City also has their own problem on their hand as well: Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was benched for the end of the third quarter and entire fourth quarter during Oklahoma City's Game 2 win. Westbrook has more turnovers than assists thus far in the Western Conference Finals, and it will be interesting to see how much of a leash Westbrook is given in Game 3 - and how Dallas responds when Westbrook is out of the lineup as well.

The Mavericks will need to stop James Harden, who was excellent off the bench in Game 2 for Oklahoma City. Harden scored 23 points while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out four assists - without a turnover in Game 2 for the Thunder. Dallas will have to come up with a defensive answer if they're to take a 2-1 series lead.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. CDT. Televised coverage for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals can be found on ESPN.

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Mavs Vs. Thunder: Rick Carlisle, Scott Brooks Talk About OKC Game 2 Win

James Harden, the Thunder Bench, and OKC’s overall offensive game were the primary topics as Rick Carlisle and Scott Brooks discussed the Thunder’s 106-100 Game 2 win.

Carlisle:

I’m not going to make an excuse about a layoff that ended light years ago by NBA standards. Sometimes you get your butt kicked, and you take it like a man and hey, we’ve got to respond. They just played well, and we got in a situation where we were down 10, which was tough. We had to pitch a shutout to give ourselves a chance, which was tough.

A seven-game series is long. A lot of things go on. A lot of emotions going on. When you win, you feel jubilant. When you lose, it’s really tough. They were just more aggressive. They were more aggressive defensively. They took it personally, and they responded and now we have to respond. We’re a team that was a good road team during the regular season. We’ve got to play and do it between the lines.

Brooks:

James [Harden] has been improving ever since we drafted him. We have a lot of confidence in him. He made big basketball plays. He is a playmaker, and I thought he did it all tonight. I thought he’s, since we made the trade, stepped up to another level. Our second-half defense was good. We’re playing against one of the premier teams in basketball. It was good. I told our guys playing perfect is impossible, but playing hard is possible.

Dirk (Nowitzki) is one of the best players offensively at that spot. We saw that a couple nights ago. We did a good job of getting into him. It’s not easy. The guy still had nearly 30 points. That tells you how great he really is.

We always felt confident in our bench. The 50 points they gave us was the game. They did a really good job. It’s good that the guys came in and chipped in for us.

See more from the coaches on NBA.com.

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NBA Playoffs 2011, Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Game Two

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks certainly didn't look too rusty on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 121-112 win. On Thursday night, Nowitzki and the Mavs will look to take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder.

Nowitzki was as good as you can expect a player to be in the NBA Playoffs, scoring 48 points on just 15 shots. Nowitzki was a perfect 24 of 24 from the free throw line, setting the record for consecutive free-throw makes in a game in the magnificent performance.

Kevin Durant also stood out in Game 1, scoring 40 points in his first ever Western Conference Finals game. Durant also added eight rebounds and five assists in the loss.

Perhaps the key to the Mavericks' victory was holding Russell Westbrook to 20 points - and more importantly, only three assists. Westbrook had a poor night shooting as well, shooting 3-15 from the field. Westbrook did make 14 of 18 free throws, but the abysmal shooting from the field certainly was a major factor in Dallas' win.

To win Game 2, Dallas will also have to do a better job of keeping the Thunder off the free throw line. The Thunder got to the line 43 times in Game 1 - seven more times than the Mavericks did. 

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT. Televised coverage can be found on ESPN.

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Tyson Chandler Weighs In On Dirk Nowitzki's Offensive Fireworks In Game 1

It was the Dirk Nowitzki show in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday night. Dirk went off for 48 points in Dallas’ 121-112 win over Oklahoma City, and in the process added fuel to the conversation about just how great the 7-foot German really is.

Tyson Chandler, a different type of 7-footer, struggled to get into the flow of the game after picking up a double-technical foul and other questionable cheap fouls defensively. He was limited to just 25 minutes of action, and he scored just three points while grabbing eight boards. All the more reason to be pleased with Dallas’ chances if you’re a Mavericks fan. They may not get 48 from Dirk every night, but they’ll also likely get more production out of Chandler.

Anyway, even though he struggled, he’s still a great interview. So let’s hear what he had to say about Dirk’s shooting clinic on Tuesday night. Chandler joined Ben & Skin on ESPN Radio to talk about just that and other fun topics the day after Dallas took a 1-0 series lead by the historically efficient performance by Nowitzki.

On Dirk Nowitzki scoring 48 points on just 15 field goals and 39 total shots including free throws:

"I’m just saying, when you actually think about that — this man threw up the ball 39 times and 36 times it went in. I’m sure that in your pick-up league, you guys couldn’t do a layup drill and make 36 out of 39."

On what it’s like to be defending a guy like Dirk when he’s on like that:

"I think that whoever is guarding him feels like they’re on an island all by themselves and everybody in the arena is watching Dirk put on a show. I mean, last night I was on the bench and I don’t how many times I looked over at DeShawn Stevenson at one point when he was on the bench with me, Caron Butler and a couple other guys, and I was just in awe. The only thing I said is this dude’s a monster. He’s a monster. Like as a defender, it just baffles me what he’s able to do on the basketball court. As a defender, if I was coming out to guard him you think ‘okay, what’s his strength? You try to take his strength away and then try to make his second option tough. I mean, the guy’s repertoire, there’s no first, second, third, fourth, or fifth option. He can do everything on the court. So when you’re guarding a guy like that, you’re at his mercy. And last night guys were at his mercy and it was fun to watch."

(Transcription via: SportsRadioInterviews)

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Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Scott Brooks Talk About Mavs' Game 1 Win

The majority of the post game comments after the Mavericks’ 121-112 win in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals centered around Dirk Nowitzki’s remarkable 12-15, 48 point game in which he set an NBA record with 24 free throws without a miss.

Rick Carlisle:

Dirk spends a lot of time working on his game, keeping himself ready, and he got going early. I thought he did a good job of mixing in drives with the jump shot, and getting to the bonus was big because that helped him get to the free throw line when we had a matchup advantage there.

Dirk Nowitzki:

I really looked for my shot early and was able to get into a good rhythm. For a shooter, when the first couple go in, it’s even better for the confidence, and I just attacked from there.

Brooks on Nowitzki:

Dirk was pretty good tonight. He made some tough shots. He had a good rhythm. He got off to a good start. He was making shots and then we were fouling his jump shots. Twenty-four times at the free throw line – he’s a terrific shooter, but that’s just too many fouls. We have to do a better job of guarding him, and we will, but he’s a great player. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen at that position offensively. A lot of shots you don’t think that he has a chance of making it, but he does.

See Carlisle, Nowitzki, Brooks and Kevin Durant speak on NBA.com.

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Dallas Mavericks Vs. OKC Thunder: Game 1 Takeaways

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, we saw Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant dominate, each topping 40 points efficiently and Nowitzki making 36 of his 39 total shots. The Mavs won an offensive game to stay unbeaten at home in the playoffs. None of that should have surprised us. Here are the things that we can take away from the WCF opener.

Westbrook was the weak link.

The biggest questions entering this series were whether the Thunder could do anything to phase Nowitzki, whether a second and third scorer would consistently step up for Dallas, and whether the Mavs could slow down either Durant or Russell Westbrook. While Westbrook still scored 20 points, when Dallas went to the zone late in the first quarter he struggled to find his game. He was 3-15 from the field and posted a three assist, four turnover game. He won’t play like that for the entire series, but Dallas hopes that he will at least a couple more times.

Nowitzki negated OKC’s interior presence.

With Serge Ibaka incapable of slowing down Nowitzki, the Thunder were forced to alter their defensive scheme. Kendrick Perkins had the worst plus/minus in the game at -14 in just 27 minutes, and J.J. Barea was able to be a major penetrating factor. With Ibaka averaging four blocks per game in the playoffs, Dirk turned the tables on him, blocking four of his own, while Ibaka and Perkins had none.

Despite big games from Dirk, Barea and Terry, Dallas was limited offensively.

The deep rounds of the playoffs often expose weaker aspects of a team, and one area that OKC will hope to exploit is Dallas’ limited number of legitimate scoring options behind Dirk. Jason Terry and Barea are both streaky players, and Shawn Marion was the only other Maverick with more than one field goal or three points. Dallas will need Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler to make some sort of offensive contribution to win this series.

Rebounds were nearly even.

Rick Carlisle preaches defensive rebounding as a huge factor in wins and losses, and we didn’t see a big winner in Game 1. OKC won the battle 35-33, but Dallas can live with that margin. When the Mavs fail to shoot 53% and 94% from the line, they absolutely must keep the Thunder off of the offensive glass.

Dallas avoided a Game 1 steal.

Entering the series, Dallas was 5-0 at home in the playoffs, and OKC was 6-1. When the series settles down, it figures to slant heavily toward home court. But with the Thunder riding momentum from their emotional seven-game series win and the Mavs sitting at home since May 8, this game was unpredictable. Now, Dallas is back in the flow, should be able to take full advantage of their extended rest, and simply must continue to protect their home court.

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Thunder Lead Mavericks After First Quarter

The first quarter is now over in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between Dallas and Oklahoma City - and the Thunder are out to a seven point lead, 27-20.

Kevin Durant propelled the Thunder to the early lead. Durant is six for six in shooting, including hitting a three, en route to 13 first quarter points. Durant also grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter, leading the Thunder in rebounds as well.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks in the first quarter with 10 points, going four for four in shooting. Jason Kidd leads the Mavericks with four assists and two rebounds through the first quarter of play.

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NBA Draft Lottery Is Tonight's Pregame

The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder finally get it on tonight at 8:00 CDT for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but the intrigue begins in the pregame with the NBA Draft Lottery. The 2011 NBA draft order will be determined with the draft lottery start time of 7:30 CDT. The festivities will be shown on ESPN.

Current draft order, with percent chance of winning the first pick:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – 25.0%
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – 19.9%
3. Toronto Raptors – 15.6%
4. Washington Wizards – 11.9%
5. Sacramento Kings – 7.6%
6. Utah Jazz – 7.5%
7. Detroit Pistons – 4.3%
8. Cleveland Cavaliers – 2.8%
9. Charlotte Bobcats – 1.7%
10. Milwaukee Bucks – 1.1%
11. Golden State Warriors – 0.8%
12. Utah Jazz – 0.7%
13. Phoenix Suns – 0.6%
14. Houston Rockets – 0.5%

The current Draft Express 2011 NBA mock draft projects Kyrie Irving first and Turkish big man Enes Kanter second. That could all change when the order is finalized, and SB Nation will post their next mock draft after the draft order is determined.

Check out ESPN’s lottery generator to see how some possible combinations could work out, and of course stay tuned to ESPN for Game 1 immediately after the lottery.

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NBA Playoffs 2011, Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Game One

After over a week of rest, the Dallas Mavericks finally take the court again on Tuesday night. The Mavericks will be facing off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas' road through the 2011 playoffs has been both turbulent and easy - Dallas needed six games to put away the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, but swept away the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. 

The Thunder took care of the Nuggets in five games in the first round, but struggled against the Grizzles, needing all seven games to advance to face to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals. 

Dallas went 2-1 against Oklahoma City in the regular season, but that mark is essentially meaningless. Dallas had Caron Butler in their two wins over the Thunder this season, and of course, he won't be playing against the Thunder in the playoffs. Oklahoma City didn't have Kendrick Perkins in the three games against the Mavericks, either, as he was acquired from the Boston Celtics later in the season.

An ESPN Insider article breaks down the new additions to both the Thunder and Mavericks' lineup, but also has the Mavericks winning the series in a simulation:

Although Durant might be the most exciting player in this series, the TeamRankings.com power ratings rank Dallas as the better squad, with a roughly one-point advantage over Oklahoma City at a neutral site. Combined with home-court advantage, that gives the Mavericks a solid (though not overwhelming) edge. Our series simulation projects that Dallas has a 61.7 percent chance to win.

Tim MacMahon over at ESPN Dallas also broke down various individual matchups in the series. One of the most interesting matchups to watch will be Russell Westbrook against Jason Kidd.

Jason Kidd vs. Russell Westbrook 

Westbrook: 14.9 points on 32 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds 

Kidd (+9.1): 6.5 points on 25 percent shooting (4-of-17 3-pointers), 9.5 assists, 6.9 rebounds. 

Analysis: This one will probably surprise people who didn't watch the Mavs-Thunder games or have a foggy recollection of them. Westbrook's quickness is a major weapon, but he still wasn't effective against a man 16 years older than him. The Mavs' big men deserve a large share of the credit for containing the All-Star. The majority of Westbrook's shots against Kidd came in the paint, but he was only 10-of-26 on those attempts, including 8-of-18 at the rim.     

Containing Westbrook may be even more important than containing Kevin Durant, since Durant is likely going to get his points no matter what. The Grizzles were able to take advantage of Westbrook when he was off his game, and the Mavericks will look to do the same. 

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT, with televised coverage being found on ESPN.

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Western Conference Finals: Dallas Mavericks Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Series Analysis

3rd seed Dallas Mavericks (57-25)
4th seed Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

Mavericks won the season series two games to one.

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Western Conference Finals Schedule

We won't know who the Dallas Mavericks will be facing in the 2011 Western Conference Finals, but we do know when they'll be playing. The Mavericks, regardless of who wins the Grizzles/Thunder series, will be the highest seeded team remaining in the Western Conference and will have home court advantage for the series. 

The Western Conference Finals schedule is as follows:

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS (best-of-7)
Tues.: OKC/Memphis at Dallas, 8 p.m., ESPN
Thur.: OKC/Memphis at Dallas, 8 p.m., ESPN
May 21: Dallas at OKC/Memphis, 8 p.m., ESPN
May 23: Dallas at OKC/Memphis, 8 p.m., ESPN
x-May 25: OKC/Memphis at Dallas, 8 p.m., ESPN
x-May 27: Dallas at OKC/Memphis, 8 p.m., ESPN
x-May 29: OKC/Memphis at Dallas, 8 p.m., ESPN


x-if necessary

Dallas will have had more than a week off between the end of the Western Conference semifinals series against the Lakers and the start of the Western Conference Finals. Still, that rest will likely be beneficial to an aged team such as Dallas, while the Thunder and Grizzles will have played a full seven game series. 

We'll see how much that rest pays off on Tuesday night as the Mavericks begin the road back to the NBA Finals.

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2011 NBA Playoffs: Mavs Fans Should Root For Grizzlies Matchup

The Dallas Mavericks match up well with both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Grizzlies may offer less of a headache.

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NBA Playoff Schedule 2011: Two Possible Start Times For Western Conference Final Game 1

The NBA has announced two possible start times for Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals. With the Dallas Mavericks already qualified for the conference finals, the remaining variable is their opponent. With the Oklahoma City Thunder’s comeback 3OT win in Game 4 last night, their series with the Memphis Grizzlies is now tied at two, meaning that it will last at least six games.

The remaining games in that series are scheduled for Wednesday, Friday and, if necessary, Sunday. In either case, Dallas will have home court in the series and the winner of the remaining semifinal will have just one day to recover before the conference final begins. If the series ends in six (Friday), the finals will start on Sunday. If it lasts seven (Sunday), the finals will commence Tuesday.

Possible start times
If Memphis/OKC goes 6: Sunday, May 15 at 2:30 CDT, American Airlines Center, Dallas
If Memphis/OKC goes 7: Tuesday, May 17 at 8:00 CDT, American Airlines Center, Dallas

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NBA Playoffs 2011: Mavericks Prepare For Conference Finals

These are exciting, unexpected times for your Dallas Mavericks. After ending the season looking like they were headed nowhere, the Mavs have overcome two difficult playoff opponents in the Blazers and the Lakers - both teams that were thought to offer matchups that Dallas would struggle to solve. 

Now they're in the conference finals. It's their fourth appearance in the third round, twice unsuccessful and the third time a charm. They first made this round in 1988, a third playoff matchup with the dynastic Lakers in five years. Their first ever trip to the playoffs in 1984 ended in the second round with a 4-1 loss. Another semifinal appearance against LA saw them in one more game but still go out in six. That 1988 conference final went seven games - the Mavericks' first seven game series - and ended with a fourth Lakers manhandling of Dallas in LA. After that series Dallas was 0-10 in LA in the playoffs, a trend they dispatched during this last series.

Their return to the conference finals came in 2003 under Don Nelson in their first 60-win season, as they had beaten Portland and Sacramento in seven. They had jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the Blazers but nearly became the first to blow that cushion. They then crossed the Kings hurdle that had tripped them in the same round the season before. The Spurs were too much for them in the conference finals, and they lost in six. 

Nelson's hand picked successor, Avery Johnson, brought them back in 2006 after another 60-win season and after they cleared the highest hurdle in franchise history in beating the defending champion Spurs in seven games in an epic semifinal matchup. They handled the Suns in six before blowing a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals and losing that in six. 

They hope that this time is different, but without Caron Butler and without Rodrigue Beaubois at full strength, they lack two key elements that would be useful against the younger and more athletic Thunder and Grizzlies. Likewise, they figure to miss those options in any matchup with the remaining Eastern Conference teams if they manage to make the Finals. They were thought to have serious matchup problems in each of the first two rounds, though, and Rick Carlisle was able to patch those holes and create mismatches that Portland and LA could not cover. 

The West finals are not likely to begin before Sunday and could be even later next week if Thunder-Grizzlies go seven games. Dallas will have home court in either case, so Games 1 and 2 will be in Dallas. The Mavericks announced Monday that tickets for those two games will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. CDT via the box office, phone and internet. They will go on sale via Ticketmaster at noon.

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