Don’t throw any dirt on the Dallas Mavericks just yet.
The Mavs are still very much alive and well and kicking up a storm in the race to make the playoffs.
With Dirk Nowitzki bouncing back from his worst shooting game of the season by scoring 32 points, the Mavs stared defeat in the eye Tuesday night, then recovered in time to upset the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-119 in overtime before a loud sellout crowd of 19,607 at American Airlines Center.
The victory enabled the Mavs (43-29) to move ahead of the Phoenix Suns (42-29) for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot with just 10 games remaining. The Mavs are also percentage points behind the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (42-28).
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“It’s do or die for us, and we are aware of it,” said Jae Crowder, who had 10 points in 12 minutes. “We just want to win and win out, and win as many games as possible.
“We knew we were at home playing a good team, but if we stick together and play together we can win.”
Nowitzki was just 2 of 12 from the field with only 10 points during Sunday’s 107-104 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, and questions popped up as to whether the Mavs needed to sit the 16-year veteran so he could get some rest. However, Nowitzki proved that all he needed was to find a way to rediscover his shooting stroke, which is exactly what he did against the Thunder.
It was Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway jumper over Kevin Durant that opened up a 118-113 lead for the Mavs in overtime. And it was Nowitzki’s long 3-pointer with 57.2 seconds remaining that padded the Mavs’ lead to 123-115 and put this one on ice with 57.2 ticks to go.
Overall, Nowitzki was 11 of 23 from the field, and he also had 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals. It was Nowitzki’s first double-double since he finished with 38 points and 17 rebounds Jan. 29 against the Houston Rockets.
The Mavs needed all of Nowitzki’s heroics because Kevin Durant put on a show for the Thunder, piling up 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting.
A 3-pointer by Durant helped the Thunder overcome a late seven-point deficit to take a 111-108 lead with 39.9 seconds to go in regulation. However, with the Mavs desperately needing a bucket, Jose Calderon drained a 3-pointer to tie the score at 111-111 with 26.3 seconds remaining.
On to overtime the Red River rivals went, which opened with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer by Nowitzki, who got in some pregame work with his longtime mentor from Germany, Holger Geschwindner.
“He played great,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “He carried us. His emotion and his attitude carried the team.
“We had some tough stretches, but we just hung in there, kept battling.”
While Nowitzki was busy relocating his game, Calderon got back into the flow of things after playing just 45 seconds Sunday after suffering a facial injury.
Calderon poured in 16 of his 22 points in the first half, which concluded with the Mavs trailing 60-59. He also converted 6 of 9 3-point shots and added eight assists.
In addition, the Mavs got 17 points and five assists from Monta Ellis, 16 points and five rebounds from Vince Carter, 11 points from Shawn Marion, and 10 points and seven rebounds from Samuel Dalembert.
The Mavs won the season series form the Thunder 2-1 and also built some much-needed confidence going into Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It was like a playoff game and playoff atmosphere,” Crowder said. “From a player’s standpoint you’d much rather play in a packed house than an empty gym.
“It brings out the best in each player. You’ve got to show up, and that’s what we did.”