How it happened: After struggling most of the night, Dirk Nowitzki delivered when it mattered most.
The Dallas Mavericks had allowed a 13-point second-half lead to melt away when Nowitzki got the ball with about 10 seconds to go at the 3-point line, just right of the top of the arc. After facing up against Kevin Garnett's physical defense, Nowitzki drove hard to his right and went right to the rack, making an and-1 layup despite being knocked down by Brandon Bass and Garnett.
He made the free throw, giving the Mavs a three-point lead and Nowitzki 16 points on the night.
That, along with some stingy defense in the final seconds, prevented the Boston Celtics from pulling off a comeback.
If coach Rick Carlisle meant to spark the Mavs with his rant at the referees, his plan worked well.
Carlisle marched all the way in front of the Celtics’ bench to protest Garnett’s physical defense on Nowitzki, promptly drawing a pair of technical fouls to earn an early exit. That occurred early in the third quarter, when the Celtics had seized momentum and the lead.
The Mavs responded with a 24-6 run to build a lead that swelled to as large as 13 points. The Celtics battled back to pull even a few times in the fourth quarter, but the Mavs never trailed again, pulling out a pretty ugly win in the final minute.
What it means: The Mavs left Dallas without a road win this season and return home with a couple after back-to-back victories at Detroit and Boston. This could be the beginning of the Mavs, who had the NBA’s best road record the last two seasons, re-establishing themselves as a beast away from the AAC. It also pushed the defending NBA champions above .500 (6-5) for the first time this season.
Play of the game: The Finals MVP had an and-1 game winner. What more do you want?