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Friday, May 27, 2011

Nowitzki drives Mavs to berth in NBA Finals


DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki stood on the court wearing a baseball hat celebrating the Dallas Mavericks' return to the NBA Finals. As his team received a silver trophy for winning the Western Conference, he looked as if he had just been named the player of the week in November.

News photo
Finishing the job: Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks goes up for a shot against Oklahoma City in the first half of Game 5 on Wednesday night. Dallas beat the Thunder 100-96 to win the series 4-1. AP PHOTO

Nowitzki's indifferent attitude during the pandemonium around him shows just how locked in he is right now.

"We've got one of those trophies already," Nowitzki said. "This is nice for a day, but we set our goals in October to win it all. We haven't done it yet."

The superstar who has dominated this postseason added yet another highlight Wednesday night, hitting a straightaway 3-pointer with 1:14 left that put the Mavericks ahead for good on their way to a 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder that ended the Western Conference finals in five games.

After clawing back from 15 down with 5:06 left in Game 4, the Mavericks were down by six with 4:37 left when they rallied again, outscoring the Thunder 14-4 the rest of the way. The biggest on-court celebration in franchise history followed, with the greatest player in franchise history hardly soaking it in.

"It feels good to finally go back," Nowitzki said. "This time, hopefully we can finish the job."

The Mavericks have long been among the NBA's elite, winning 50 games for 11 consecutive seasons. However, it's been a bit hollow because they don't have a title to show for it. They reached the finals in 2006, went up 2-0 and had a big, late lead in Game 3, only to lose to the Miami Heat in six games. They had won only a single playoff series since until this spring.

Dallas is 12-3 this postseason, and has won 10 of its last 11. Nowitzki has been at his best throughout, especially this series. He scored nine of his 26 points in the fourth quarter; for the series, he averaged 32.2 points, 11.8 in the fourth quarters.

But it wasn't just him. A roster filled with guys seeking their first title made big plays down the stretch, from Jason Kidd to Shawn Marion to Jason Terry.

"We just kept our poise at all times," said Marion, who scored 15 of his 26 points in the final quarter.

Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, and Kevin Durant and James Harden each had 23 for Oklahoma City in the loss.

Lakers set to hire Brown


LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers have reached an agreement in principle with former Cleveland coach Mike Brown to succeed Phil Jackson, the team said Wednesday.

"We've met with Mike and are very impressed with him," said a statement issued by the Lakers. "In addition, we have an outline for an agreement in place and hope to sign a contract within the next few days."

Brown will get a four-year deal worth roughly $18 million, a person with knowledge of the discussions said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

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