With 4:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder had two important things going for them: a 15-point lead and not having lost back-to-back games this postseason. What happened next was not only historic, but also “ri-DIRK-ulous.” The Dallas Mavericks closed regulation on a 17-2 run to force overtime and earn the eventual win.
The Mavericks have won five straight road games (longest postseason road streak since the 2005 Miami Heat) and are one win from their first NBA Finals trip since 2006. The Mavericks became the only team in the last 15 seasons to win a playoff game in which it trailed by 15 or more points with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
A huge part of the Mavericks' comeback was Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with his second 40-point game this postseason (both this series) and seventh of his career. After shooting 60.0 percent from the field in Game 4, and 80.0 percent in Game 1, the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Nowitzki is the first player to record two 40-point games and shoot at least 60.0 percent from the floor in the same playoff series since Shaquille O'Neal for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers.
The Mavericks are 10-1 in playoff games when Nowitzki scores more than 35 points, with the only loss coming in a 42-point performance in 2001 against the San Antonio Spurs. Oh and if that’s not enough, Nowtizki is 50-for-52 from the free throw line in this series.
The Thunder were outscored by 15 points in the final minutes of regulation, and a lot of that was because their offense changed drastically when James Harden fouled out at the 4:48 mark. Prior to Harden fouling out, the Thunder focused their offensive attention on the inside game. After Harden fouled out, though, the Thunder settled for long-range shots, missing their only two field goal attempts inside of 15 feet in the last 9:48 of the game.
Thunder Up and Down in Game 4
Offense Before/After Harden Fouled Out
The Thunder’s lackluster offense without Harden was also exposed in the pick-and-roll game. The Thunder ran 25 pick-and-roll plays prior to Harden fouling out but ran just two afterward. The transition offense also stalled, with the Thunder picking up 17 points on 14 transition plays prior to Harden fouling out. Afterward, the Thunder failed to score on their only transition play. This postseason, Harden has scored the eighth-most points as a pick-and-roll ball handler and the sixth-most transition points.
Kevin Durant finished with his fifth double-double of the postseason, and Russell Westbrook recorded his first game of the series with more assists than turnovers. However, his six turnovers give him nine career postseason games with at least five turnovers.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Dallas, but this series might already be over. When a team goes up 3-1 in a seven-game series, it has gone on to win the series 96 percent of the time (192 out of 200, including 6-0 this postseason).