2011 NBA WEST FINALS GAME 5 -- Mavericks 100, Thunder 96: My Top 10 Observer-ations
10. Much as I'm giddy over the victory and the Mavs' second berth in the NBA Finals, I'm almost as happy for the way they handled the win. No confetti on the floor. No champagne in the locker room. Not even a drop of celebratory Ginger Ale. Says Dirk Nowitzki, "It's a great moment. But we've already got one of those trophies and it didn't mean anything at the end." While the players got dressed, the Western Conference trophy sat alone on the sink near the showers. Fantastic! The Mavs are like efficient shoppers at the grocery store. Yes there are checkmarks on their list, but there's also one aisle to go.
9. Props to owner Mark Cuban for maintaining his low profile/media silence. And when handed the trophy on the victory podium, he quickly recorded an assist -- passing it to Dirk. Bravo.
8. Rick Carlisle earned his reputation in this one. With OKC's Russell Westbrook -- he's forever "Westpunk", because he scowls even more than he scores and he ducks off the court like a classless chicken shit before the handshakes even start -- getting to the rim at will in the fourth quarter, the Mavs' coach stagnated him by applying Shawn Marion defensively and playing a couple of possessions of zone. Westbrook scored 31, but didn't have a basket in the final 9 minutes.
7. The Mavs ended regulation of Game 4 on a 17-2 run in the final 5:06. In the final 5:28 of Game 5 their finishing kick was 17-6. For the last time, Poise > Panic. Especially in the playoffs. I'd rather have the Thunder's future, but I'll take Dallas' present. Example: Down 1 with less than a minute to play in an elimination game and Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Bin Harden on the court, OKC backup point guard Eric Maynor decided to shoot a foul-line jumper over Dirk. The result? Air. Ball. Nick Collision grabbed the rebound, but then desperately heaved it into the air while falling out of bounds under his own basket, leading to a Mavs' fast break that Marion punctuated with a dunk and ensuing free throw.
6. Surreal scene to end the game. While ESPN's Doris Burke was introducing the new Western Conference champions, AAC's speakers blared "Cotton-Eyed Joe." Was this the NBA Playoffs or the bottom of the 7th in Arlington? And while the Mavs talked humbly about vanquishing the Thunder, the crowd broke out into "Beat the Heat!" Awesometown.
5. For the series Dirk had as many dunks (4) as 3-pointers (4) and made an incredible 59 of 61 free throws. With the Mavs up 98-96 and two free throws coming with :13 left, I'm thinking there's nobody in the world I'd rather have at the line than Nowitzki. Auto. Matic.
4. Cuban hasn't said much this postseason, but if Dallas can win four more games I have a feeling his post-game "We ain't done yet!" will find a comfy legacy alongside Jimmy Johnson's "How 'Bout Them Cowboys!"
3. Better finish to a local landmark home win: Neftali Feliz striking out A-Rod looking to cap the Rangers' Game 6 ALCS win that clinched a trip to the World Series, or Jason Terry's breakaway dunk that accented the Mavericks' Game 5 win over the Thunder and a return to The Finals? I know, easy. Because it was unchartered territory and a public enemy, the Rangers' moment is more, well, momentous. And I know that Terry's dunk didn't officially count, but it should've. Not that it matters, but the backboard's red light illuminated with 0.3 left on the clock, same time the ball left Terry's hand.
2. I only thought Jason Kidd's 3-pointer in overtime of Game 4 was this series' signature play. Instead, Dirk saved his best for last. After Nowitzki missed a wing 3-pointer with Dallas trailing by two late, Tyson Chandler kept the possession alive by tipping the rebound to Terry, who passed to Jason Kidd, who went cross-court to Marion, who flipped it right back to Dirk, who confidently again pulled the trigger, stepping into a 3-pointer that gave the Mavs a 95-94 lead with 1:14 remaining. I've never heard a Dallas sports theater any louder. And the fact that all five Mavs had a hand in the play? Cue the goosebumps.
1. Where Terry left slack in this game, Marion picked it up with 26 points, 8 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal. And when he really needed to, he was the only Maverick that could handle Westpunk.
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