Dirk’s late charge not enough for Mavs
Dirk Nowitzki knew his marvelous Game 1 wouldn’t mean much if
the Dallas Mavericks couldn’t follow it up with another victory in
Nowitzki followed his NBA playoff-high 48-point performance by
scoring 29 points- including 16 in the fourth quarter – but the
Mavericks lost to the Thunder 106-100 to even the series at a win
apiece heading into Game 3 on Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
”Usually if you’re the road team and you start in a tough
building, usually you go for a split or you try to win one. That’s
what they did, so they have the momentum,” Nowitzki said.
”So, we’ve got to go up there in a tough environment, in a very
loud building and execute and play Mavs basketball and get back to
getting some stops like we did in the first two series, and then
I’ll like our chances.”
Nowitzki scored all but eight of Dallas’ points in the final
period, hitting seven of 10 shots, but it wasn’t enough to rally
the Mavericks down the stretch.
Nowitzki had just 13 points on 3-for-7 shooting after going
scoreless in the third quarter. By contrast, he had 17 points and
matched an NBA postseason record by hitting all 13 of his free
throws in the third quarter two nights earlier.
In Game 1, Dallas headed into the fourth with an 11-point lead
and held off a late charge from Oklahoma City.
In the rematch, the Thunder’s late push put the game away in
”The guy is still tough. He scored a lot down the stretch when
they needed it,” Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison said of Nowitzki.
”But we did enough early to get the win.”
Nowitzki couldn’t reproduce his masterful effort from Game 1,
when he hit 36 of the 39 shots he took – including all 24 of his
free throws. Since they couldn’t stop him once he had the ball, the
Thunder did their best to prevent him from ever touching it – then
sent more frequent double-teams on the occasions he did.
”We were trying to make things difficult for him,” Oklahoma
City guard James Harden said. ”He’s so tall and it makes it hard
to contest, but I think Nick and Serge (Ibaka) did a great job on
Nowitzki finally solved the problem in the fourth quarter, doing
much of his damage from the high post.
”It’s impossible to front there and so basically in the fourth
quarter, I still got my catches and tried to make some stuff
happen,” Nowitzki said.
Even with his impressive closing charge, Nowitzki played a role
in the Mavericks’ demise. He had a shot blocked by Collison, then
turned the ball over on the next possession as the Thunder reeled
off seven straight points to bump their lead to 102-92 with 3:15 to
Then, his run of 39 consecutive free throws came to an end with
a key miss that kept Dallas from making it a one-possession game
with 36.7 seconds left.
”Tough loss but we feel we’re a good road team. … I think we
can compete on the road. We’ve just got to be a little sharper than
we were in the first two,” Nowitzki said.
”We said it after Game 1: `We’ve got to be better on both
ends,’ and we weren’t. We weren’t today, so we didn’t deserve to
Oklahoma City did a much better job of defending Nowitzki
without fouling after six defenders were whistled while defending
him in the opener. The big German was 9 for 10 from the foul line
Dallas lost for the first time in 18 games this season when
Nowitzki attempted at least 10 free throws.
”He still had 10 free throws, but it’s better than 24. So we
kept him off the line,” Collison said. ”We didn’t use our hands
as much. We wanted to challenge his shots and hope he missed
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle didn’t think the problem was failing
to get the ball to Nowitzki enough. He was focused on another off
performance from the Mavericks’ defense, which has given up its
most points of the postseason in the last two games.
Dallas was allowing opponents only 88.2 points per game and
hadn’t given up more than 97 in the playoffs before a 121-112 win
in Game 1 against Oklahoma City.
”Scoring 100 points in a playoff game should be enough to win,
but not if you’re giving up 106 or 112,” Carlisle said. ”It’s
just too much.
”You’ve got to give them credit. They played an attacking,
desperate type game. They kept coming. They did not get
discouraged. Their bench was dominant when they played. We have got
to do a better job at the defensive end.”