Dallas is two games ahead of Portland in the compressed Western Conference standings where 3 games separate the 2nd place team from the 8th. Needless to say, but this game had meaning. Dallas jumped out to a quick lead 25-14 after the first quarter and still maintained an 18-point lead after halftime, but the Trail Blazers saved their best for last.
Aldridge led the charge for Portland scoring 15 of his game high 23 points in the fourth quarter. This was the lion’s share of the Trail Blazers’ points in the 4th as they only put up 26 as a team. Aldridge also got them to drop when it mattered most by dropping in a turnaround with just 12 seconds left on the clock in regulation to pull Portland even with Dallas at 81. Nowitzki had a chance to win it in regulation, but missed a 21 footer.
Then in the first overtime Nowitzki made a 17-footer and Marion hit a layup and converted two free throws with 37.3 left on the clock. This put the Mavs up 87-85, but once again Aldridge nailed the game tying shot with a jump-hook from 11 feet out. Nowitzki again had a chance to end the game, but missed a 13-footer as time expired.
In the 2nd overtime Dallas substituted Delonte West in for Jason Kidd and it was possibly the smartest thing they’d done all night. West went off for the first 6 points in the second overtime and gave Dallas a solid lead. With additional buckets by Dirk and Haywood Dallas lead 97-94 with just seconds left on the clock. This left Portland with one more chance. Crawford got the inbounds pass and tried to do his best Kobe imitation, but came up far short on a well contested 3-pointer.
Aldridge led all scorers with 33 points and grabbed 12 boards. Dallas was lead by Nowitzki with 20, Terry with 19, and perhaps most importantly West with 6 critical points to start the 2nd OT. With all the hype over how so much talent is in the Eastern Conference this year, this game demonstrates how evenly balanced and competitive the Western Conference is in 2012.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS