A drained and dejected Scott Brooks sat and fielded questions from reporters Monday night with little energy or emotion. The Oklahoma City Thunder had just watched a 15-point lead evaporate with less than five minutes left in Game 4, and the team's coach struggled to find the words or answers to describe what had just happened.
Behind 40 points from Dirk Nowitzki, the visiting Dallas Mavericks clawed back, forced overtime and used a 17-2 run to escape with an improbable 112-105 victory, taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Oklahoma City coach looked as if he had been awakened from a nightmare and Nowitzki was the monster haunting him.
"He made a contested three, you can't double team that," Brooks recalled of Nowitzki's fourth quarter heroics. "He made a spin off the wrong foot contested [shot], he made that. He made one that we double-teamed on the baseline, that was an impossible shot. He made that. He took over. He took over the basketball game like he is capable of doing."
The memorable comeback started after Thunder superstar Kevin Durant buried a triple at the top of the key with 5:05 left in regulation. Oklahoma City was ahead 99-84, but would score only two more points until overtime.
After Shawn Marion, Nowitzki and Jason Kidd converted five of their next six free throws, Nowitzki began the historic sequence that Brooks described.
Over the next minute and 15 seconds, Nowitzki hit all three of his field goal attempts, none of which were closer than 13-feet from the bucket.
"It was almost over," Nowitzki said. "If we mess up one more time, we give up one more offensive rebound that would have been the game. We couldn't afford any mistakes down the stretch and we were almost perfect."
Nowitzki then added a five-foot jumper and the Mavericks were within three with 1:25 remaining.
"We free flowed," Nowitzki recalled. "I don't remember actually calling a play the last couple of minutes. We just ran down and pick and rolled and free flowed it."
Marion hit one of his two free throws with 39 seconds on the clock and Nowitzki tied the score at 101-101 by burying a pair of free throws with six seconds left. The Mavericks then went on to outscore the Thunder 11-4 in overtime, capturing their first lead of the night on a Nowitzki free throw early in the extra session.
"He pretty much put us on his back, offensively," Mavericks center Tyson Chandler said of Nowitzki.
The 7-foot veteran has witnessed his share of late game heroics over his more than 12 years in the NBA. But even he recognized that this comeback was as special as any that he has been a part of while playing in Dallas.
"It was a great comeback for us," Nowitzki said. "Definitely one of the best that I can remember, being a Maverick, definitely in a very important game."
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