How it happened: The Mavericks certainly weren’t carried by their superstar in this Western Conference finals win.
Dirk Nowitzki, who had a historically efficient 48-point performance in the Game 1 win, was awful. With Nick Collison harassing him most of the night, Nowitzki had as many turnovers (seven) as field goals and finished with 18 points on 21 shots.
But Dallas played the kind of defense required to win a championship, which was a welcome change after the Thunder averaged 109 points in the first two games of the series.
Oklahoma City shot just 36.5 percent from the floor. That’s partially attributable to an awful night by the Thunder’s superstar, as Kevin Durant missed a lot of good looks while bricking all but seven of his 22 attempts from the floor. But the Mavs were much more aggressive and intense on the defensive end than they’ve been since the eight-day layoff after their sweep of the Lakers.
That was the key to the lead swelling as large as 23 points. The Mavs withstood a Russell Westbrook-led run in the fourth quarter, when Nowitzki scored 10 of his points, to seize the series lead again.
What it means: Oklahoma City only owned home-court advantage for 48 hours. The Thunder’s odds of advancing to the Finals took a major hit. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when the home team has lost Game 3 in that situation, it has gone on to win the series only 16 percent of the time.
Play of the game: Shawn Marion picked off a Russell Westbrook pass and headed the other way, finishing a one-man fast break with an uncontested one-hand slam to put the Mavs up 21 late in the second quarter. That play personified the increased defensive pressure and intensity the Mavs had after allowing an average of 109 points in the first two games of the series.
Stat of the night: The Mavs have split the first two games of nine previous series during the Dirk era. The Game 3 winner advanced all nine times.