Long about midnight, Dirk Nowitzki took the podium and talked about the Mavericks’ amazing comeback, from 15 points down with less than five minutes left to force overtime and eventually beat the Thunder 112-105 in a game that will be long remembered in Oklahoma City.
Nowitzki finished with 40 points, including 12 in those final five minutes and two more to start overtime.
“I can’t remember another comeback like that,” Nowitzki said. “Our defense was unbelievable down the stretch. Trix (Shawn Marion) and J-Kidd (Jason Kidd) did a wonderful job on (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant, making catches tough.
“The other guys were kind of helping and zoning. And really what was killing us all night long was offensive rebounds. They got a lot of tip-ins, tip-outs for shots, and finally there in the last five minutes, I only recall one offensive rebound they had.”
True enough. Brendan Haywood said much the same thing. That after James Harden fouled out with 4:34 left in regulation, the Mavs sold out to stopping Durant and Westbrook.
That makes Harden’s foul-out the game’s biggest play. It was a terrible play — fouling while trying to rebound a missed Thunder shot, which sent Harden to the bench and the Mavs to the foul line, with no time off the clock. The Thunder loses its No. 3 scorer and lengthens the game with with 4:34 left and a 99-86 lead.
The Thunder had 11 possessions after taking a 99-84 lead. Dallas never failed intentionally to lengthen the game. If the Thunder had taken no shots during that stretch, if the Thunder had just committed a shot-clock violation every possession, that would have been 264 seconds — four minutes and 24 seconds.
Now do you see the enormity of Dallas’ comeback? No way do the Mavs come back without monumental help from the Thunder.
Anyway, more of Dirk.
“Once we got to OT, we had to feel good about ourselves, after being down 15 and making all that comeback, and we obviously talked about it in timeouts, that we’ve got to go for it now,” Nowitzki said. “We’re here and this is our ballgame, we’ve got to go for it.
“We’re just a veteran team trying to play off each other … I don’t remember actually calling a play the last couple minutes. We just ran down and pick-and-rolled and free flowed it.”
Nowitzki said he didn’t sense any frustration on Durant but that the Mavs did a good job helping Marion on Durant. “When he came off down picks, we were kind of right there,” Nowitzki said. “When he faced up and (isolated) Shawn, our bigs and Tyson did a good protecting the rim. Yeah, so our defense was phenomenal. When you’re down 15 with a couple of minutes to go, you’re obviously desperate.”
Nowitzki said the biggest play to him, at least offensively, was his 3-pointer that made it 101-94 with 2:22 left. It immediately followed the Thunder’s only points in the final five minutes — a jumper by Westbrook that gave OKC a 101-91 lead.
“The one three I shot was either do or die,” Nowitzki said. “At that point, we were down 10. So if it goes in, great. And if not, then it just wasn’t our night. And we were able to get that three in.”
Nowitzki was asked how the Thunder was feeling after the game.
“You know, I’ve obviously had my fair share of leads and lost them,” Nowitzki said. “It’s all part of the game. It happens. It happens to the best teams in the league. The good thing about us, we didn’t cave in there in the fourth. We hung in there, kept battling, even though it didn’t look good, but kept trying to make plays.
“It was a great comeback for us. Definitely one of the best that I can remember being a Maverick, in a very important game.”