DALLAS – So much for the idea that the Dallas Mavericks would be devastated by the way Game 3 ended. Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t about to let them get swept.
Nowitzki scored 19 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, including a high-arching shot with 1:05 left that put the Mavericks ahead for good on their way to a 119-117 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, extending this second-round series and providing it with a lot more excitement.
“We’re not done yet,” Nowitzki said. “We played for one more chance.”
Carmelo Anthony scored a career playoff-best 41 points and hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left from nearly the exact spot as his winning basket in the previous game, only this time it left Denver a point shy of a tie.
Dallas’ Jason Terry made a free throw with 1.1 seconds left, then missed another – perhaps intentionally – because Anthony got the rebound but didn’t have a timeout left to call or enough time to get off a 90-foot heave.
The buzzer sounded and confetti fell as the teams left the court, knowing they will meet again Wednesday night in Denver. The scene was a little calmer than after the end of Game 3, although it may also wind up getting reviewed by the league office because Denver’s Kenyon Martin clearly exchanged words with Dallas owner Mark Cuban.
This game had all the intensity of a Game 7, with seven technical fouls and multiple flagrants. There were video reviews and concerns for the safety of Anthony’s wife and Martin’s mom, all of it started by the wacky Game 3 finish, then stoked by a silly elbow from Anthony early in the second quarter.
Denver led by 14 and was scoring at will when Anthony tangled arms with Dallas’ Antoine Wright. It was like an alarm clock for the drowsy crowd of 20,523 – and for the Mavericks, who all season have been at their best immediately after hitting rock bottom. It was a quality coach Rick Carlisle expected to see Monday night, even if it showed up more than a quarter late.
After the tussle between Anthony and Wright – the main combatants of the Game 3 finish, which the league admitted was botched by officials – Dallas kept getting close, and even tied it three times, but never went in front until Nowitzki’s rainbow over Martin that hit nothing but net.
Martin lost the ball on offense, leading to a pair of free throws by Dallas’ Josh Howard. Anthony countered with two foul shots of his own with 30 seconds left.
The Mavericks went back to Nowitzki near the top of the key, guarded by Martin. The big German drew a foul and Martin knew it was his sixth; he went straight to the bench and took a seat, watching Nowitzki sink two more free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining.
Then Anthony kept alive hopes of another miracle finish for Denver, somehow escaping the defense enough to make the 3-pointer.
But the Nuggets were out of tricks. Unable to steal the ball from Terry, they fouled him instead, but it was too late. Denver wasn’t going to pull off the first four-game sweep in franchise history and Dallas avoided getting swept for the first time in a seven-game series.
“We’ve still got our hands full,” Nowitzki said. “We’ll let it all rip again and see what happens.”
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