Gil LeBreton

‘Amazing’ Mavericks return from the dead to stun, silence OKC

Raymond Felton, left, Dirk Nowitzki, right and the Mavericks held Thunder guard Russell Westbrook to only 19 points on 8-of-22 shooting Monday night.
Raymond Felton, left, Dirk Nowitzki, right and the Mavericks held Thunder guard Russell Westbrook to only 19 points on 8-of-22 shooting Monday night. AP

In the postgame interview room, the eternally reserved Rick Carlisle began a litany of amazings.

Raymond Felton played “an amazing game,” the coach of the Dallas Mavericks said.

Deron Williams, injured and limping, put in “an amazing effort.”

“We had some amazing performances tonight,” said Carlisle, who more commonly keeps his praises and his adjectives to himself.

But on this night, the coach picked the right word.

Two nights after one of the most embarrassing defeats in their franchise history, the Mavericks stunned, silenced and, yes, amazed the Oklahoma City crowd with an 85-84 victory over the Thunder.

The victory evened the best-of-seven at a game apiece and allowed Carlisle to say, “Now we know it’s on.”

Two days ago most of us amateur undertakers had pronounced the Mavericks dead.

Cause of death? Too many key injuries, too wearying a battle just to reach the playoffs.

As Carlisle reflected Monday, the Thunder’s lightning start in Game 1 had staggered his team.

“We just didn’t recover from that haymaker,” he said.

The final score was 108-70, a margin that sent us scurrying for the record book to see what was the franchise’s largest ever playoff defeat. (It was 43 points in a Game 1 loss to the Lakers in 1984).

And thus, in dispatches throughout the weekend, most reports — mine included — pronounced the Mavericks dead.

But as Carlisle himself had noted at Sunday’s practice, “It’s still only one loss.”

Owner Mark Cuban agreed before Monday’s game.

“You know what?” he mused. “I’ve never seen a greater than 1.0 value assigned to a win or a loss. They all count the same. They’re either on the left or the right.”

In the interview room afterward, Carlisle added the words “pride” and “resilient.”

“Our resolve was there,” he said.

They did it with defense. Oklahoma City shot 31 of 92 (33.7 percent) for the game.

With Wesley Matthews hounding him all night, the Thunder’s Kevin Durant made just 7 of 33 shots. Russell Westbrook, whose ball-hogging took on an air of urgency, was 8 for 22.

That’s 15 of 55 shots from maybe the best one-two scoring pair in the league.

Prominent among the Mavericks heroes was Williams, who was listed as doubtful before the game because of a sports hernia. But guard Williams ended up playing 26 minutes, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the key early moments that announced the visitors had come to play.

“None of this would be possible without Deron Williams,” Carlisle said. “His effort in the Utah game a week ago — he played a huge game that night — got us into the playoffs.

“Had he not played the first 26 minutes tonight, we wouldn’t have been in position to win.”

There are few words in sports more abused and overused than amazing. But Carlisle used it well.

His team showed amazing heart. It played amazing defense and rebounded . . . well ... amazingly.

And the coach did an amazing job as well.

Adding to the stunning verdict was the game’s abrupt ending, when the Thunder missed two chances near the rim to win and Steven Adams put back a rebound at the buzzer.

The shot went in. The home crowd erupted. The Thunder players pounded their chests and celebrated.

But when the officials reviewed the replay, Adams’ bucket was waved off.

The audience instantly turned eerily mute. The only sounds were the Mavericks, left for dead two nights ago, now celebrating.


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