DALLAS – So much for the idea that the Dallas Mavericks would be devastated by the way Game 3 ended. Inspired was more like it.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead, high-arching shot with 1:05 left in a 119-117 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 on Monday night that prevented the Mavericks from being swept and injected a whole lot more excitement into this second-round series.
“It was an unbelievable game,” Nowitzki said. “We were down the whole game, but were able to come back and win and we’ve been doing that all season long. We’ve got to go back to Denver and let it all hang out again.”
Denver’s 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, an ex-Arizona Wildcat, made a free throw with 1.1 seconds left, then missed another – intentionally, he said. Anthony got the rebound but couldn’t stop the clock and didn’t have enough time to even 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 with Denver leading 3-1.
“We’re still in control of this going back to our home court,” Anthony said. “We’ll be ready.”
The postgame 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.
Martin wouldn’t talk in the locker room, telling reporters to “go someplace else. All you (expletive) are trying to do is cause trouble.”
This game had all the intensity of a Game 7, with seven technical fouls and multiple flagrant fouls. There were video reviews and concerns for the safety of Anthony’s girlfriend 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.
Once things started going out of control, they hardly stopped. Denver led by 14, then Dallas got close several times only to fall back by several baskets. The Mavs tied it several times before finally breaking through on Nowitzki’s rainbow over Martin.
“They’re allowed to be fans, but when it gets personal, it goes over the top,” Denver’s Chauncey Billups said. “They’re drinking before the game started, drinking all game, and it probably got a little out of hand. They’re allowed to be fans, but sometimes it can get over the top.”
Added Nuggets coach George Karl: “I would probably use an uglier word than hostile, but I’m not going to do that right now. I don’t think it was very classy. I’ve been in hostile buildings, but you can do it in a classy way.”
Denver was headed to another blowout win early 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.
In the final minute, Dallas led by by two after Mavs forward Josh Howard and Anthony each hit a pair of free throws. Dallas got the ball to Nowitzki and he drew another foul on Martin. K-Mart knew it was his sixth and went straight to the bench and took a seat, watching Nowitzki sink two more free throws with 8.3 seconds left.