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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."

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.