Too much Dirk Nowitzki in overtime lifts Mavericks over Thunder

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When Kevin Durant is putting on the kind of show that will win him the MVP award, as he was doing Tuesday night, the Thunder are very hard to beat.

Dallas did just that though.

They did it behind a vintage night from Dirk Nowitzki (well, except he continued to struggle from three going 2-of-8), who had seven of his 32 points in overtime. Behind Jose Calderon raining down threes in the clutch. Behind Monta Ellis, who had 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Dallas beat the Thunder 128-119 in a very entertaining overtime game Tuesday. With the win Dallas moved back into the eighth seed in the West — they are in a fight with Memphis and Phoenix, when the music stops one of those teams will be without a chair for the playoffs. Wins like this are huge for the Mavericks chances.

This game is also the perfect example of why the Western Conference playoffs will be so much fun — there are no easy outs. This is a potential first round matchup.

This game was within single digits one way or another almost the entire game, neither team able to pull away, both teams making runs.

Kevin Durant was a run of his own all night, playing like an MVP. He finished with 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting and he did his damage efficiently — 8-of-9 shooting in the paint and 5-of-11 from three point range. He was attacking off the dribble and knocking down shots. He was doing it all.

The biggest shot of the night was his three with :39 seconds left in regulation — with the game tied Dallas foolishly dared give him a little space three feet behind the three point line, so he drilled it and put the Thunder up three.

Then OKC got what it needed — with 30 seconds left the game Nowitzki missed from three. Then Dallas’ Brandon Wright grabbed the offensive board (Serge Ibaka mistimed his jump) and with two quick passes it was in the hands of Calderon at the top of the circle. And he buried it. Tie game.

The Thunder had one last shot, and when the Mavericks wisely doubled Durant 28 feet from the basket he whipped the pass to Russell Westbrook (who finished the night with a solid 23 points on 18 shots, he was up and down) and he dribbled in for a clean look 18 foot jumper… and it rimmed out. Dallas got one last shot, and only Nowitzki can make you think a contested 30-foot turnaround is going to fall. It just missed off the back of the rim.

But Dirk wasn’t missing much in overtime, including a vintage one-legged fadeaway over Durant. Calderon drained another three, Dallas started the OT on a 9-2 run, Nowitzki had 7 points in the frame and soon Dallas had a much needed win.

Russell Westbrook had reached his minutes limit of 30 at the end of regulation and Scott Brooks followed the plan and pulled him. When Dallas got back up he threw Westbrook back in, but by that time it was all over. Brooks needed to play Westbrook the full five or rest him, not go halfway in OT.

It’s not a bad loss for the Thunder, losing in OT to a good and desperate Dallas team on the road. It’s just a reminder that come the Western Conference playoffs every game will be hard fought. Every team has elite players.

There will be some drama. And some upsets.

Watch DeMar DeRozan score 40 as Raptors beat Heat, 101-84 (VIDEO)

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MIAMI (AP) DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, marking the first time he’s had that many in consecutive games, and the Toronto Raptors pulled off their 19th double-digit comeback of the season to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 on Thursday night.

DeRozan shot 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line. He needed 38 shots to score 42 against Chicago on Tuesday.

Norman Powell scored 14 and Delon Wright added 13 for Toronto, which never led until midway through the third quarter. The Raptors allowed 33 points in the first quarter, then held Miami to 35 points over the next 27 minutes.

Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, Hassan Whiteside scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Miami. Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each had 13 points for the Heat, with Dragic shooting just 5 for 18.

He wasn’t the only Miami player to struggle. The Heat shot only 39 percent, 26 percent from 3-point range. The 84 points tied for Miami’s second-lowest total of the season, and was the first time the Heat failed to reach 90 at home.

The Raptors trailed by 15 points early and eventually led by as many as 17 – a 32-point turnaround. No one in the NBA has been better at pulling off big comebacks than the Raptors, who have come from behind six times since the All-Star break alone.

“It talks about toughness, heart,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Our give-a-crap level is pretty high, and it’s one of those things where when you count us out, we find a way. My thing is just find five men who are going to play hard.”

Neither team moved in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Toronto (43-29) remained in the No. 4 spot, pulling within a half-game of No. 3 Washington. Miami (35-37) stayed No. 8, now just a game ahead of No. 9 Chicago and No. 10 Detroit.

TIP-INS

Raptors: DeRozan has two 20-plus-point halves against Miami this season. He had 22 in the second half on Nov. 4, and 24 in the first half of this one. … P.J. Tucker started for Serge Ibaka, who served his one-game suspension for fighting Chicago’s Robin Lopez on Tuesday. … Toronto outrebounded Miami 51-36.

Heat: Wayne Ellington played, one day after the birth of his son. Wayne Ellington III arrived Monday afternoon. … Miami’s three second-quarter field goals were a season-low for any quarter. The previous low was four, done four times. … McGruder reached double figures for only the second time in his last 14 games.

DEROZAN HISTORY

DeRozan became the second player in Toronto history to have a season where he scored 32 or more points at least 20 times. He was an 11-year-old when it last happened – Vince Carter had 28 of those games in 2000-01.

WAITERS UPDATE

Heat guard Dion Waiters missed his third game with a sprained left ankle, and remains in a walking boot. There’s still no timetable for his return, but the Heat said the swelling in his ankle continues to decrease.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Visit Dallas on Saturday. It’s the second time this month Toronto faces Miami and Dallas consecutively.

Heat: Visit Boston on Sunday. Miami is 0-3 against Boston this season, losing by eight, 10 and three points.

JJ Barea goes after Blake Griffin, earns Flagrant 2 and ejection (VIDEO)

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Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea didn’t like that Los Angeles Clippers big man was coming to set a screen on him, so he slapped his hand away. Griffin then retaliated with an elbow — which may or may not have connected — and that kicked off a row between the two players that resulted in Barea claiming a Flagrant 2 and an ejection.

It came during the third quarter with Barea at the top of the key and both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on either side of him.

Here’s how the play looked from multiple angles:

Curious that Griffin wasn’t assessed a foul at all given his own handsy nature. After the game referee Bill Spooner responded to pool reporters by saying that Barea was ejected for his contract above the throat. Meanwhile, Spooner also said that whether Griffin flopped or not was irrelevant.

“It has nothing to do with the merits of the play,” said Spooner.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks beat the Clippers, 97-95.

Spurs honor Richard Overton, the oldest living U.S. veteran at Military Appreciation Night

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San Antonio is a military town, and on Thursday night against the Memphis Grizzlies the Spurs held a Military Appreciation Night. The team donned their camouflage uniforms, then held court for a very special guest: Richard Overton.

Mr. Overton is the oldest living U.S. veteran at age 110. He was in the Pacific theater during WWII and served in the Army with the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion.

The team honored Mr. Overton during the game, and he received a standing ovation during a timeout.

Via Twitter:

Plus, Mr. Overton got to hang with the Spurs dancers:

Pretty neat of the team to do.

James Harden has been fouled on 3-pointers more than any single NBA team

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Houston Rockets star James Harden is a leading candidate for the 2017 NBA MVP, and for good reason. The Arizona State product has been exceedingly efficient, unburdened by Dwight Howard clogging the lane and fueled by a Mike D’Antoni offense that treats the ball like it’s radioactive.

But Harden has a new claim to add to his statistically-important season. He has been fouled more times on 3-point shots than any team in the NBA.

Not player. Any team.

This revelation is the result of some serious digging by ESPN’s Chris Herring. In an article published to 538, Herring outlined the situation in great detail. It’s worth reading in full, but the shocker comes here:

Harden has drawn a whopping 108 shooting fouls from distance this year with 11 games left to play. For context, consider that, outside of the Rockets, no team has garnered more than 73 of those calls.

If you subtract Harden’s numbers from the rest of the league’s, the average NBA player has drawn fouls on 1.6 percent of his 3-pointers this season, according to BigDataBall, which tracks the league’s play-by-play logs. Harden is drawing 3-point shooting fouls at a 16.7 percent clip, or more than 10 times as often.

Herring’s article goes into how Harden draws the contact (hint: he’s the one initiating it) and why he’s so good at it. Just like on his drives, Herring says Harden uses his arms to his advantage. It’s best to read 538’s article so you can see the visual cues on how Harden does it, but it’s suffice to say it’s impressive.

The immediate discussion here is whether Harden is “gaming” the system by adding this to his already foul-reliant arsenal. The answer is absolutely he is, and that’s why he’s one of the top MVP candidates this season.

Change the rules or change how officials respond to the game. Until then, James Harden is a basketball wizard.