When the Dallas Mavericks visited the San Antonio Spurs for the Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference semifinals, the odds were heavily against them. Until then, 82% of all game 7s throughout NBA history had been won by the home team. Only eight teams up to that point were able to beat the historical odds.
The Mavs knew that. Facing the mighty Spurs squad, they knew that in order to advance, they would have to overcome a great team, loud home crowd, and the historical odds.
“I think more than anything you forget about everything right now, anything that happened before, what’s been said, it’s all out of your mind right now. It’s just one game, it comes down to one game, and you have to win it. I think that’s how we see it, we are on the road, unfortunately, but I think we played here well in this building, we won Game 2, and Game 1 and Game 5 were close. So, I think we are confident enough that we can come in here and steal Game 7. So, I think it’s all about this one game, and we’re focused.”Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki went to work from the very start of the game. On the first possession, he faked the Spurs superstar Tim Duncan and then went around him for an easy dunk.
The Spurs tried to hold him down by frequently exchanging defenders on him. Gregg Popovich used smaller Michael Finley, Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen in what happened to be an impossible mission of stopping red hot Nowitzki. Matched with them, 7’0” Nowitzki started to draw the Spurs double-teams dealing with them with tremendous ease.
In the furious first quarter, the Mavs knocked down 15-17 shots from the field and took 37-27 initial lead. However, the Spurs led by phenomenal Tim Duncan were able to maintain their composure, especially on defense. On offense, Duncan was able to explore his advantage over Mavs center Erick Dampier. The Spurs stormed back in the third quarter, eventually cutting down the Mavs lead to single digits.
Faced with the Spurs clutch time rally, Nowitzki displayed the best of his game. Simply unconscious down the stretch, he pushed Dallas towards the big win with his red hot shooting from the field and the free-throw line (16-17).
Duncan, who was having a great game himself (41 points, 15 boards, 6 assists, 3 blocked shots), eventually tied the game at 101 apiece by hitting one of his two free-throw attempts.
In the last minute of the thriller, Ginobili knocked out the triple for the Spurs 101-104 lead. But yet again, it was Nowitzki who was able to convert a three-point play after the unstoppable drive to the hoop.
After the final score of 104-104 in regulation, the game went to overtime. In an extra session, the Mavs were able to hold on and eventually win the game by 119-101. Nowitzki led the way for the Mavs with 37 points on 11-20 shooting from the field, to go along with 15 boards and 3 assists.