DALLAS, TX - MAY 25: Dirk Nowitzki #41 and the Dallas Mavericks celebrate their 100-96 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 25, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Dallas Does It Again: Another Comeback Victory Against OKC Propels Mavs To NBA Finals

One game after rallying from 15 points down with under five minutes to go, Dallas rallied from an eight-point, fourth-quarter hole to capture the Western Conference crown with a 100-96 victory over the Thunder in Game 5.

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VIDEOS: Dirk Nowitzki Lifts Dallas Mavericks To NBA Finals With Dunk, Circus Shot, Clutch Three

What Dirk Nowitzki did in the Dallas Mavericks' Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder was nothing short of astonishing when viewed from a box score: Nowitzki averaged 32.2 points per game in the series, shot 55% from the field and 36% from three-point range, and missed just two of 61 free throws.

But his Game 5 performance can be summed up in just three videos. First, he puts Serge Ibaka in the spin cycle and dunks early.

Then, in the third quarter, with Dallas trailing but rallying, Dirk hits this improbable reverse layup to cut the Thunder lead to four.

Finally, the dagger: Nowitzki misses a go-ahead three, but gets a pass at the top of the arc and swishes his second chance from deep to give the Mavericks a lead they would not relinquish — and a ticket to the NBA Finals.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Dallas Mavericks Return To NBA Finals Playing Team Basketball, Tough Defense

The Dallas Mavericks are headed back to the NBA Finals, with Game 5 vs. the Thunder just the latest improbable win propelling them deeper in the playoffs. But with all eyes on Dirk Nowitzki,, Dallas owes just as much to defense and team basketball.

So says SB Nation's Mavericks blog, Mavs Moneyball. Wednesday night's game was just a microcosm of what's worked all spring long. As Lisa Rotter writes, "the Mavericks decided to play team basketball, and started making better decisions with their passing. In addition, they followed shots and were able to get second chance points, including a resounding dunk from Shawn Marion." It's a formula that's been more successful than anyone could have expected. Dirk has been unreal, but that's been true for the past decade. It's guys like Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd that have been the difference for Dallas in 2011. 

Ultimately, Mavs Moneyball put it best, with just one word: "Legendary."

Say what you want about the Mavericks as individuals. Jason Kidd's old, Shawn Marion's inconsistent, Tyson Chandler's dirty, Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic are streaky... Whatever. In the end, as a team, on both ends, they've put together a run that we'll remember for a long, long time. Legendary.

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Another Mavericks Comeback, Another NBA Finals For Dirk Nowitzki

The Oklahoma City Thunder controlled Game 5 for nearly the entire second half, but Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks took over in the final minutes, and just like that, the Mavericks are back in the NBA Finals.

Second chances are rare in life and even moreso in the NBA, but Dirk Nowitzki earned this one. He's been ruthless all spring long, and now he's got the chance to avenge past failures in the NBA Finals, possibly against the Miami Heat team that beat him in 2006.

The Mavericks latest comeback began with Dirk Nowitzki, but it was the defense and rebounding of guys like Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler that ultimately proved too much to overcome for the young Thunder. Playing a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter gave OKC more scoring punch, but it came with a price on the other end. When Russell Westbrook is matched up with Tyson Chandler on the glass, the outcome's practically inevitable.

Indeed, with OKC clinging to a two-point lead with 90 seconds to go, Dirk Nowitzki missed a wide open three-pointer, only to have the loose ball go to Jason Terry after Tyson Chandler barreled into Westbrook as he tried to corral the rebound. Such is life when David's trying to box out Goliath.

In the end, even as the clock ticked down and the Oklahoma City stars stayed in control, Dallas was never willing to concede the game. Nowitzki and co. kept firing, and the Thunder kept giving them extra shots. It was only a matter of time before it caught up with them. It wasn't so much a comeback for the Maverick as it was a mismatch getting exploited at the worst time possible for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ultimately, that's been the story of the series.

The Thunder may have been more talented, but in crunch time, the Mavericks were ruthless about exploiting their advantages. Where Oklahoma City and Scott Brooks struggled to find a rhythm, the Mavericks looked comfortable and confident from start to finish.

That's why Dallas is headed to the NBA Finals, where Dirk Nowitzki will try to do it all over again. He's been here before, and now he's got his second chance. It's too early to say whether Nowitzki's capable of doing all this against the Miami Heat.

For now, though, we can say this much for sure: Nobody in the NBA is doing a better job executing than the Dallas Mavericks. On paper, the Western Conference Finals were a toss-up, and Dirk and the Mavericks grabbed control without blinking. There's more work to be done, but until then, it's hard to imagine a more impressive journey to the NBA Finals.

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Dallas Mavericks Advance To NBA Finals, Show They Are Complete Version Of Chicago Bulls

The Dallas Mavericks have advanced to the 2011 NBA Finals using just one star -- Dirk Nowitzki. The Chicago Bulls need to take notes.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Focused On NBA Finals, Not Win Over Oklahoma City

The Dallas Mavericks are glad to have beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, sure. The Mavericks finished a 4-1 series win on Wednesday, with -- suitably enough -- Dirk Nowitzki free throws icing the game in the final seconds.  But while the series win came with a trophy and a celebration, the real work is still to be done. The most important part of this result is very obviously a berth in the 2011 NBA Finals, and that's where Nowitzki's mind is.

In a chat with the Dallas Morning News, Mavericks reserve guard J.J. Barea indicated that the two players remaining from the 2006 NBA Finals team -- Nowitzki and Jason Terry -- weren't ready to celebrate on Wednesday.

"You could tell with Dirk, he doesn’t even want to celebrate. He’s ready to go. And Jason kept saying, we got to win four more. Those two won’t celebrate tonight."

It appears that opponent will be the Miami Heat, who hold a 3-1 lead on the Chicago Bulls and can clinch a Finals berth on Thursday. If the Heat win Thursday, the NBA Finals would begin in Miami on Tuesday, May 31. If the Bulls extend the series to six games or win the series, the Finals would begin on Thursday, June 2. Either way, the Mavericks won't have home court advantage.

For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder Final Score: Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki Deliver 100-96 Dallas Victory

Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki led a fourth-quarter charge to give the Dallas Mavericks a 100-96 victory, eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games for the Western Conference title. A 17-8 run over the last six minutes by the Mavericks turned the game around.

Marion and Nowitzki combined for 14 of those 17 points and those were the final points the Mavericks scored. They both led the Mavericks with 26 points, while J.J. Barea and Jason Terry combined for 26 points off the bench.

Outside of two free throws made by Russell Westbrook, the Thunder were unable to nail down a bucket over the final three-and-one-half minutes of the game. Westbrook put up 31 points on 11-of-28 shooting and pulled down eight boards. Kevin Durant and James Harden both put 23 on the scoreboard. Nick Collison finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

This will be the first trip to the finals for the Mavericks since 2006, when they lost to the Miami Heat.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder Score: Russell Westbrook's 12 Points In 3rd Quarter Keeps Oklahoma City's Lead

In another tightly-fought quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder retained and extended their lead by four points, 76-72, at the end of three quarters. Russell Westbrook put 12 points on the board in the third to have 25 for the game.

James Harden added just two points in the third quarter, 18 for the game, but he has six assists so far. Nick Collison entered double-double territory with his 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 6-of-8 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line for 17 points. Jason Kidd has just two points but has gotten the ball around for nine assists. Jason Terry has hit 4-of-5 from the line and hit on two three-pointers for 12 points.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder Score: James Harden Controls 2nd Quarter For Oklahoma City Halftime Lead

After Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook controlled the Thunder's offense in the first quarter, it was James Harden and his fellow reserves to who preserved a lead at halftime over the Mavericks, 55-52. Harden put 10 points on the board in the second quarter after having six in the first quarter. Nick Collison and Eric Maynor combined for 11 more bench points.

Durant and Westbrook have 26 points so far, but the former added only one point in the second quarter to reach 13 in the half. Collison and Kendrick Perkins each pulled down six boards to help the Thunder to a 25-21 rebounding advantage.

For the Mavericks, J.J. Barea was able to penetrate the Thunder defense and has 11 points off the bench. Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the only two starters in double-digits with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Though he has zero points, Jason Kidd has dished the ball out for six assists.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder Score: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook Give Oklahoma City Early Lead

The Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma Thunder are playing a close game after one quarter as the latter leads by just one, 27-26. The Thunder took the lead late in the quarter when Russell Westbrook made a jumper and drew the foul. After making the free throw, the Mavericks had a 21-19 lead. A J.J. Barea three and a Shawn Marion six-footer temporarily gave the Mavericks the lead twice, but Kevin Durant and James Harden battled back for the lead.

Scoring has been limited to a small group of players on each team. Durant and Westbrook have combined for 19 points, with Harden and Nick Collison picking up the other eight points off the bench. On the Mavericks' side of things, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler are tied for the lead in points with seven, but as a team Dallas is shooting 37.5 percent.

Serge Ibaka and Jason Terry are in early foul trouble with two each so far. Kendrick Perkins has two turnovers already, while four Dallas players have turned it over.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game 5 Adjustments: Run Pick-And-Pop To Score, Don't Hedge Off Of Dirk Nowitzki

In Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked like they were going to go ahead and even up the series at two games each, up 15 points with a few minutes to go.  After blowing the lead and losing in overtime, the Thunder are now faced with elimination in Game 5.  If they want to win and send the series back home to Oklahoma City, they are going to have to make a few changes both on the offensive and defensive end.

Offense: Run The Westbrook/Durant Pick-And-Pop/Roll To Score

I have been a fan of the Thunder's pick-and-pop all season long, telling everyone who would listen that the Thunder need to run this play more during the end of games.  However, in the end of Game 4, the Thunder ran it and didn't have success with it.  The reason?  Well in my opinion, the Thunder were running the pick-and-pop/roll not to score, but to force a switch:

What you have here is the Thunder trying to get Russell Westbrook's man (Jason Kidd) to switch on Kevin Durant.  However, Kidd isn't your typical point guard, and he forces Durant to make the catch behind the three-point line.  Durant now has to try to penetrate, and when he does, Kidd forces him into a spin move, allowing Shawn Marion to come over and force the turnover on the doubl- team.

So what do I mean when I said run the pick-and-roll to score?  Take a look at this possession from earlier in the series.

Here, Westbrook comes off of the screen looking to penetrate and attack the lane.  That attack-dribble forces Marion to hedge for a split second, and that hedge gives Durant all of the space that he needs when rolling to the rim.  Westbrook finds Durant, who is able to finish with the big dunk.

When the Thunder are looking to score when running the pick-and-roll with Westbrook and Durant, this is such a tough play to defend, because if you don't hedge Westbrook gets to the rim.  If you do, Durant is open, a bad pick your poison type of play for the defense.

Defense: Don't Hedge Off Of Dirk Nowitzki

If this sounds familiar, it should, because this was the exact same adjustment that I had listed for the Thunder before Game 4.  In fact, they didn't leave Nowitzki on a few possessions, but late in the game, Nowitzki's defender (Nick Collison) left Nowitzki a few times:

Here, The Thunder are hedging off of Nowitzki and rotating a man from the weakside over to him.  This is how the Lakers tried to defend Dirk, and it simply didn't work because Nowitzki has gotten so good at reading that double-team and throwing the skip pass quickly, which is exactly what happens here, leading to the three by Jason Terry.

Sure, Dirk Nowitzki hits a crazy shot here, but the only reason he is in that spot on the court?  Because Collison hedged off of Nowitzki, and taking himself out of position to defend Nowitzki on the roll.  What makes this even more head-scratching is that Jason Kidd is the ball handler.  While he is a great point guard, he isn't going to get by Westbrook, even with a screen from Nowitzki.  

Game 5 in my opinion is going to be another tough and close game, and if the Mavericks run this play, you can't leave Nowitzki, let the other players beat you.

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Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game 5: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Can Punch Ticket To NBA Finals With Win

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks need just one more win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to punch their ticket to the 2011 NBA Finals. Riding a 3-1 series lead after a phenomenal fourth quarter comeback fueled by Nowitzki on Monday in Game 4, Dallas returns home for Game 5 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Thunder lost both home games to the Mavs; Dallas has now won five straight road games in these playoffs, an amazing run.

The Mavericks had lost the first two games in Portland in their series against the Trail Blazers, but won Game 6 at the Rose Garden to close the series. Dallas swept the L.A. Lakers, opening the series with two wins at STAPLES Center. Dallas fought off an Oklahoma City comeback in Game 3 of this series, and offered one of their own in Game 4.

The Mavericks have been pretty incredible at home too, racking up a 6-1 record. Dallas opened up the postseason with six straight wins at home before dropping Game 2 against the Thunder. Oklahoma City needs to win the next two in Dallas plus hold court back at the Ford Center to take the series, long odds by any measure.

The focus continues to be on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and their synergy (or lack thereof). Even if the Thunder go on to lose this series, availing the tandem will be an important step after the abuse it's encountered on the big stage, under the bright lights.

Be sure to check out our Mavericks vs. Thunder hub for full series coverage. For more on the Thunder, visit Welcome To Loud City. For more on the Mavericks, visit Mavs Moneyball and SB Nation Dallas.

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