2011 NBA WEST FINALS GAME 4 -- Mavericks 112, Thunder 105: My Top 10 Observer-ations

10. Battle scars. The Mavericks are fueled by them. As of last night, the Thunder now have one of their own. Who feels worse about their closing confidence this morning: Harold Camping and his May 21 oops or Chokelahoma and its 15-point implosion?

9. Whether it was an epic meltdown or simply the Red River Rally, it's been 15 years since we've witnessed an NBA team win a playoff game after being down 15 points with 5 minutes to play. After the game Dirk Nowitzki said "It was almost over ... we had to be perfect." And you know what? The Mavericks were.

8. Since I can't fathom losing a 3-1 lead with two swings at home to close this thing out, no, I don't think it's too early to look ahead. In the regular season Dallas was 2-0 against the Heat and 0-2 vs. the Bulls. But based on regular-season records, Mavs will not have home-court advantage against either.

7. Don't remember ever seeing an NBA team have a plus-22 rebounding margin in a playoff loss. But then again, Kevin Durant (9) and Russell Westbrook (6) combined for 15 of OKC's fatal 25 turnovers. Down the stretch the immature, inexperienced Thunder ran zero set plays, instead sitting back and relying, hoping their talented brand of 1-on-1 basketball could coax it to the finish line. Nope. And props to Dallas' Shawn Marion for the final play of regulation. Durant was hoisting a panicked 27-footer, but Marion had both the skill and the stones to block it.

6. After Durant's straightaway 3-pointer off yet another Thunder offensive rebound gave OKC a 99-84 lead with 5:06 remaining, I'll admit, I thought Game was 4 done. Still liked the Mavs in the series, but I figured we were driving back to Dallas for a pivotal Game 5 Wednesday in a 2-2 series. So did Durant, who did that silly "belt" hand gesture, as if to mimic a champion boxer re-adorning his title hardware around his mid-section. Dirk Nowitzki has no "belt" move, but he did have 40 points, including half of Dallas' points -- and two calm, game-tying free throws with 6 seconds remaining in regulation -- in a bewildering 28-6 closing run over the game's final 10:06 of the fourth quarter and overtime. Flamingo Fadeaway > Belt.

5. In the final 5:06 of regulation, Dirk outscored the Thunder, 12-2.

4. Tied at 105 in overtime, Dirk drove on Nick Collision and was double-teamed by Westbrook. Making the right basketball play, he passed to open teammate Kidd in the corner. After a savvy pump fake that sent a scrambling Westbrook flailing harmlessly past him and into the seats, Kidd calmly set his feet behind the line and sank a 3-pointer that buried the Thunder. Like Neftali Feliz' curveball that struck out A-Rod looking in the ALCS, it will be the play that sent the Mavs to the NBA Finals. I know Dallas has one more win to grab, but it's gonna be awfully difficult to top that as the series' signature moment.

3. Sad moment in the wake of his toughest loss as a pro: Durant hugged his mom, unbuttoned his trademark backpack and trudged into the OKC night ... all by his lonesome. I almost felt sad for him. Almost, I said.

2. Don't look now but the Mavs are 11-3 in these playoffs and have something very rare in any NBA postseason: A 5-game road winning streak.

1. In the aftermath of blowing a 23-point lead and losing Game 4 in Portland on April  23, it looked iffy for the Mavs getting out of the first round. Now they're one win from the NBA Finals. It's why we so love sports. It's why we're beginning to so respect these Mavericks.


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