“We stole one,” Nowitzki said.
While the authorities likely won’t be called due to theft, the Mavs clearly got away from Game 3 with a huge victory, thanks to Vince Carter’s dramatic buzzer-beating shot. It took Carter’s theatrics, but it also took flawless execution down the stretch just to have the opportunity to steal the game away.
Boris Diaw hit a running jumper to give the San Antonio Spurs a 100-95 lead with 2:11 left in the game. The Mavs were in the midst of a drought of 3:24 which saw them score only one point and it seemed as if their offensive efficiency would abandon them for the remainder of the game.
Luckily for them, that wasn’t the case.
Dallas went on to score on its final six possessions, going 4-of-5 from the field for a total of 14 points. On the other end, San Antonio scored on four of its final five possessions, going 3-of-4 from the field for a total of eight points.
What’s shocking is that Dallas was able to close the game better than the best closing team in the league.
San Antonio closed out its opponents down the stretch as the Spurs were able to produce 123.5 points per 100 possessions with a score differential of five points or less in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime during the regular season. That's not just shutting the door. That’s slamming it shut when you consider trying to walk through it.
Unlike their Game 1 meltdown, the Mavs were able to avoid empty, stagnant possessions down the stretch and created the necessary ball movement to create high-percentage scoring opportunities. This time, the shots hit their mark.
“That’s what is needed,” Carter said. “That’s why we come out here [on the practice floor], walk through, and make sure everyone is on the same page. We do that so when coach calls a play on the fly, everybody isn’t looking around and scratching their head. Everyone gets into their position and focuses in on what needs to be done.
“It’s just all about our preparation and guys staying focused, being engaged in the game and not really shying away from the pressure.”
The credit, once again, has to go to coach Rick Carlisle as he helps create plays that put his team in a position to succeed. With Nowitzki struggling to get going on a consistent basis in the series, players such as Carter and Monta Ellis have had to bail the team out on the offensive end of the floor. Those two carried the load down the stretch, guided by Carlisle’s tactical strikes against the Spurs.
“Literally, we’ve been working on some of those plays all season,” Nowitzki said. “Coach is obviously one of the best of the league. We work on it [end of game execution] a lot, and we work on all of the options.”
When asked about his team’s execution down the stretch, Carlisle didn’t use the opportunity the way it was presented.
“We made some plays offensively, but defensively we had our worst game,” Carlisle said. “There’s thing in the defensive area that we’ve got to get fixed. They’re too sophisticated, skilled, and savvy and those types of breakdowns are going to lead to baskets for them. We’ve got some work to do.”
If Carlisle gets what he wants in terms of the team’s defensive disposition and it equals some of Game 3’s excellent execution, that will put the Mavs in the driver’s seat in this series.