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Mavericks rally to defeat Thunder, 100-96, and reach NBA Finals

Dallas closes out Oklahoma City in five games behind Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion to stay on track for first title.

May 25, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki celebrates during the Mavericks' 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday.
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki celebrates during the Mavericks' 100-96… (Mike Stone / Reuters )

Reporting from Dallas — Now maybe the Dallas Mavericks will finally get some respect.

All they have done the last three weeks is sweep the Lakers and stomp all over the alleged youth and speed of Oklahoma City, the latter a part of their push to win the franchise's first NBA championship.

The latest rush was a series-ending 100-96 victory Wednesday against the Thunder, ending the Western Conference finals in five games.

Dirk Nowitzki continued his playoff plundering, Shawn Marion matched him with a surprising 26 points, and the Mavericks will begin the NBA Finals on Tuesday or next Thursday, depending on how long the Chicago-Miami series lasts.

Ah, yes. The NBA Finals.

If the Mavericks want to join the elite handful of the last four decades — the Lakers, Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Miami, Detroit, Houston and Philadelphia — they might want to avoid their championship blunder of 2006.

They were up two games on Miami and ahead by 13 points with 6:16 left in Game 3 when the unthinkable happened. Dwyane Wade began going to the free-throw line every six seconds, the Heat won four consecutive games, and Wade and Shaquille O'Neal had themselves a championship.

It was the Mavericks' only trip to the Finals in their 41-year existence. Their fans haven't forgotten, in case a ready-to-party crowd didn't prove the point at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks came back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki and Marion taking turns with vital point-scoring ventures in the final minutes.

Nowitzki gave Dallas the lead for good, 95-94, on a three-pointer from the top of the key with 1:14 left, and Marion converted a three-point play on the Mavericks' next possession, scoring on a fastbreak dunk and making a free throw.

For the young Thunder, it was another disappointing playoff exit. Oklahoma City pushed the Lakers to six games last season in the first round but was generally pushed aside in this series.

Russell Westbrook had 31 points for the Thunder but didn't shoot well, making 11 of 28 attempts. Kevin Durant and James Harden each had 23 points.

The Mavericks aren't young. They almost make the Lakers look like college kids. Jason Kidd is 38. Marion, Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic are 33. Nowitzki is 32. Their youngest starter, DeShawn Stevenson, turned 30 last month.

"We don't talk about things like that," Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said before Game 5. "We're immersed in the moment, really."

Not too immersed to forget what happened five years ago against Miami. At least, that's their hope.

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