Nowitzki Saves Mavericks in Closing MinutesDirk Nowitzki scored 12 points in the final 3:06 and came up with a key blocked shot as the Dallas Mavericks overcame a 112-103 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors 118-112. Nowitzki, whose name apparently was changed to either "Much maligned" or "Soft" in recent days (if you listen to the talking heads), led both teams with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Baron Davis had 27 points and nine assists for the Warriors before fouling out on a questionable looking call with 21 seconds left and Dallas up just one point.
Dallas took a 31-15 lead in the first 7:30 of the game and at that point it hardly seemed like the Mavericks would need any late game heroics to extend this series to a sixth game. Golden State cut that margin to 36-28 near the end of the first quarter but then the Mavericks built a 53-32 lead just past the halfway mark of the second quarter. As TNT's Charles Barkley so aptly put it, though, the Warriors will not go away--you have to kill them. By halftime, Dallas was up just 62-55. Jerry Stackhouse received a technical foul as the teams walked off of the court, so Stephen Jackson shot a free throw before the start of the third quarter, bringing Golden State to within 62-56. The Warriors tied the game at 67 on a Jason Richardson three pointer and the teams battled back and forth after that, with Dallas taking a 90-87 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game was nip and tuck for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter but then the Warriors went on an 11-1 run--including two three pointers and an alley oop that Davis threw from near half court to Jason Richardson--to take a 112-103 lead with just 3:21 remaining. Dallas teetered on the brink of elimination--and then Nowitzki took over, draining a three pointer, blocking Matt Barnes' layup and then nailing another three pointer. Devin Harris' layup pulled the Mavericks to within one, 112-111, and then Nowitzki put Dallas ahead for good by making two free throws with :48 left. Golden State's last points came on a Davis three pointer at the 3:21 mark.
Golden State definitely looked impressive in their two home games in this series--and if the Warriors intend to win this series they better come up with that kind of a performance on Thursday in Game Six, because--as I wrote last year--Game Seven on the road in the NBA is death. As regular readers of this site know, I like to dissect Xs and Os and the strategic aspects of basketball but I think that in this series some of those things have been overdone, at least from Dallas' side. The Mavericks posted one of the best regular season records in NBA history but for most of this series they have been changing their lineup and trying to outthink the Warriors--but you can't outthink a crazy man. Don Nelson is the crazy man in this series--crazy like a fox. He knows that his team is not as good as Dallas, which is why he keeps saying that--but he also knows that by running and gunning on offense and triple-teaming Nowitzki on defense and just creating a wild and crazy shootout that there is a chance that his team will be standing at the end; certainly, the Warriors would have no chance to win by playing in a more conventional way.
The Mavericks should start looking at this series the same way that the Warriors do, namely that Dallas has the better team: the Mavericks have the likely MVP, a young All-Star in Josh Howard, several other talented players (Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris) and a deeper bench. If Golden State wants to run, Dallas should not be afraid to run with them. The Mavericks did this in the first half and were blowing the Warriors' doors off. I don't believe that the Warriors can rely on a short rotation, run and gun for the entire game and stay with a deeper, more talented team. The Mavericks need to stop being afraid of what Golden State is doing and simply push the ball right back at them, letting their superior talent and depth carry the day. Dallas is not a slow it down, post up team, so when the Mavericks try to do that and miss the Warriors get the ball, run down court and score in about five seconds. That quiets Dallas' crowd or fires up Golden State's crowd, depending on where the game is being played. Slowing the game down ironically works in Golden State's favor, because it allows them to drape quick bodies on Nowitzki and dictate to Dallas who gets open shots. On the other hand, when the Mavericks run then Nowitzki gets open jumpers in transition, the kind of shots that he loves to take. Just look at the scores of the five games so far: the two games that Dallas has won are the only two games in which they scored over 100 points. This series is not about Avery Johnson "calling out" Nowitzki or about a bunch of Xs and Os. If I were coaching Dallas, this is what I'd write on the chalkboard: Play loose, play hard, rebound and run, run, run. Dallas is not going to beat Golden State in a slowdown game because Nelson will not, under any circumstances, allow the Warriors to slow the tempo down; so Avery Johnson will simply have to bite the bullet and beat the Warriors at their own game.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:45 AM