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Bet on the NBAWhen the NBA Playoffs began, no one expected the Dallas Mavericks to be the final team left standing in the Western Conference.

In fact, many experts thought that the Mavs would have a tough time against the Portland Trailblazers, potentially being upset, while the Lakers would walk back to the Finals and get their three-peat. But now, Dallas has eliminated their last rival in the West with another fourth-quarter comeback, to win 100-96 over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Give the Thunder credit, though – they came out aggressive and kept the lead just out of reach for most of the first three quarters. They were lead by Russell Westbrook's 31 points and 8 rebounds, and forced the Mavericks to commit some early turnovers. OKC lead almost the entire game until the veteran Mavericks began their final surge in the middle of the fourth quarter, and the Thunder could not keep them contained.

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Nowitzki's three-pointer that put the Mavericks up for the first time sent the Dallas crowd into a frenzy, and Oklahoma City did not respond well to the increased pressure. A poor foul on a fast break dunk gave the Mavs a three point lead, then the free throw made it a two-possession game at 98-94. From there, all the Thunder got was a couple of free throws, as they were unable to hit a couple of clutch three-point attempts to cut the lead.

In both of these final two games, the Thunder have fallen short in clutch time, while the Mavericks have shown the poise and focus of a truly veteran team. OKC has many reasons to be happy with their overall performance this season and postseason, and their younger players can only grow and learn from these playoff experiences. The Thunder also have a bright future in front of them as their players get used to taking those late-game shots with the pressure on.

But this year, it has been all Dallas, and they will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals starting next week. A rematch with the Miami Heat seems most likely, but many of the games the Bulls have lost have been incredibly close until the fourth quarter. But it may be a happy coincidence if the Mavericks have to go through Miami, staging a rematch of the 2006 Finals where Nowitzki and the Mavs did not have enough. Maybe this year will be different.


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