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Nowitzki, Marion send Mavericks back to NBA finals

By Jaime Aron

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 25 2011 9:51 p.m. MDT

He averaged 32.2 points this series, including 11.8 in the fourth quarters. He scored in the 40s twice and was sensational in the Game 4 rally. This wasn't his best performance, but he came through when it mattered most, making that crucial 3 and a pair of free throws with 13.3 seconds left for Dallas' final points.

The Mavericks have long been among the NBA's elite, winning 50 straight games for 11 consecutive seasons. However, it's been a bit hollow because they don't have a title to show for it.

For Kidd and Nowitzki, it would pry them from the group of "best players to never win a ring." At 38, Kidd also would become the oldest point guard ever to guide a team to a title — by several years. Then there's Cuban, Dallas' maverick owner, who could silence many of his critics with a title.

The Mavericks certainly have reason to feel like this is their year.

Since blowing a 23-point lead in the final 14 minutes of Game 4 of a first-round series against Portland, Dallas has won 10 of 11 games. The Mavs joined the 1994 Rockets and 2002 Nets as the only teams to squander at least an 18-point lead going into the fourth quarter of a playoff game, and now all three of those clubs have recovered to reach the finals. The '94 Rockets won the title, the '02 Nets (with Kidd) didn't.

NOTES: Teams with at least eight days off before a series, as Dallas did, are now 12-7 in the next round during the shot-clock era. If the Bulls win Thursday night, the Mavericks would have seven days off before the next series. ... The Mavericks are 12-3 this postseason. They are 7-1 at home, with this victory avenging their only home loss. ... The Mavs, Spurs and Lakers have combined to win the last 13 West titles. ... Dallas-area sports fans are getting spoiled. The World Series was here in October/November, the Super Bowl in February and now the NBA finals are coming.

Western Conference finals

Dallas wins series, 4-1

Game 1: Dallas 121, OKC 112

Game 2: OKC 106, Dallas 100

Game 3: Dallas 93, OKC 87

Game 4: Dallas 112, OKC 105 (OT)

Game 5: Dallas 100, OKC 96

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