DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks are back in the NBA Finals. They won the Western Conference Finals on home court Wednesday night by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96.
It's the third time this season that the Mavericks won a closeout game on their first try.
"We made it too the finals," says Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. "We're happy about that. We're going to enjoy that for a day for two and then we'll probably know pretty soon who it is. We're going to prepare like we have in the first three series."
But the Western Conference trophy didn't see to impress him."We've got one of those trophies already," Nowitzki said. "This is nice for a day but we set our goals in October to win it all. We haven't done that yet."
This is only the second time that the Mavericks have been to the Finals.
"It feels good to finally go back," Nowitzki said. "This time, hopefully we can finish the job."
Now they must wait for the outcome of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami leads that series over Chicago 3-1.
If the Heat win Thursday night, the finals will begin Tuesday in Miami. If the Bulls win Thursday night, the finals will begin next Thursday in the East winner's city.
"It was big to (Jason) Kidd to rest after the last series and we're going to have a couple of extra days here again and then be ready for who ever comes through," Nowitzki said.
"It feels great," says Mavericks guard Jason Terry. "When we set out day one in training camp to win the championship, that's what our goal is. I know everybody realizes it. For us, it's just one step along the way. Now we know we have one final thing to do."
Mavericks forward Shawn Marion scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. "We just kept our poise at all times," Marion said. "It seemed like we never got rattled and just chipped away and chipped away."
Wednesday's win wasn’t quite as dramatic as the teams 15-point come-from-behind win in Oklahoma City on Monday, but it was close. Nowitzki hit two free throws with 13.3 left in the game for a four-point Dallas lead.
It would be enough to secure the win and a return trip to the finals. The last time they were there was in 2006, Dallas lost to Miami in six games that year.
"It's been a long stretch here," Nowitzki said. "We've been trying to get back to this stage ever since and fell short a bunch of times. This is a bunch of veterans who want to play and they're not selfish. That's what makes this group special."
With 1:14 left in the game, Nowitzki hit a go ahead 3-pointer for a 95-94 lead. Shawn Marion’s basket and foul on a break sparked by a tipped ball gave Dallas a 98-94 lead.
During the on-court trophy presentation, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said "All I can tell everybody is, we ain't done yet."
The Mavericks got off to a quick start and scored the first 6 points of the game before the Thunder finally got rolling. Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks tried to slow down the Mavericks' quick start, and called his first time out at 7:26 of the first quarter with his team down 12-6.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said Thunder forward Kevin Durant is the focal point of the Mavericks defense, but he still scored 12 points in the opening quarter. By halftime, Durant had 13.
Oklahoma City’s first lead came at 2:09 of the first on a basket and a free throw from Russell Westbrook at 21-19.
Dallas trailed at the end of the first quarter 27-26.
The Thunder took their biggest lead of the game at 8:27 of the second quarter on a three-pointer by Thunder guard James Harden. Oklahoma City was up 38-30.
There was a double personal foul call on Mavericks center Tyson Chandler and Durant when the two got into a shoving match, but that was the biggest personality conflict in the first half.
Thunder guard James Harden scored 10 in the second quarter to lead Oklahoma City with 16 at the half. Westbrook had 13 while Nowitzki lead Dallas with 13.
The Dallas bench was led by J.J. Barea, who had 11 points the half. His driving layups in the second quarter provided a spark that twice brought Dallas to within three. The Thunder’s bench outscored the Mavericks' bench 27-22 at the half as the Mavericks trailed 55-52.
The game was tied on three different occasions during the third quarter before Mavericks forward Peja Stojakovic got the crowd involved. He hit a 3-pointer at 4:38 mark, and that got the American Airlines Center rocking.
Dallas had a 66-63 lead a short time later.
But the Thunder quickly silenced the crowd with an 8-0 run to take a 72-66 lead. The third quarter ended with the Thunder up 76-72.
Westbrook had 12 points in the quarter. Oklahoma City has lead at the end of each of the first three quarters.
The Thunder increased their lead to 8 points early in the fourth quarter before Dallas narrowed the gap. A pair of free throws by Shawn Marion at 3:58 cut Oklahoma City’s lead to two at 92-90.
Dallas struggled to capture the lead until -- with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter -- Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks the lead 95-94. It was their first lead of the fourth quarter and the first since Stojakovic hit a 3-pointer with 4:38 left in the third.
Moments later, Mavericks forward Marion picked up a tipped ball and was fouled by Durant on the fast break for a 3-point play and a 98-94 lead. It was part of an 8-0 run by Dallas.
"I just think we played hard and just couldn't come up with the win, Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. "It's tough now. The only way to get better is to keep pushing."
Dallas will now wait on the winner of the Miami-Chicago series.
Wednesday's final was 100-96 to wrap up the Mavs' second Western Conference Championship in franchise history.
"All I can tell everybody is, we ain't done yet," Dallas owner Mark Cuban said during the on-court trophy presentation ceremony. Seconds later, fans began chanting, "Beat the Heat," drowning out coach Rick Carlisle's on-court interview.
The only other time the Mavs made the finals, they won in Phoenix. This time, the home folks got to enjoy it, including franchise founder Don Carter, who traded his signature white cowboy hat — the one that used to be featured in the team's logo — for a black hat that read "The Finals 2011" with a Mavs logo and the championship trophy.
Fans roared again when the overhead video board showed Nowitzki wearing the hat.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.