Dirk Nowitzki swished a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left, breaking a tie and giving the Dallas Mavericks a 97-94 victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night that also clinched a playoff berth.
Dallas got in on the combination of the victory and Golden State losing to Denver. With three games left, the Mavericks have a two-game edge on the Nuggets for the No. 7 seed.
Nowitzki scored 32 points for the second time in five games since returning from knee and ankle injuries. The victory wasn’t sealed until Deron Williams, who banked in a tying 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left, missed a long 3 with Nowitzki flying at him.
The Mavs have reached 50 wins and made the playoffs for eight straight seasons.
As recently as two weeks ago, fans weren’t sure Dallas was going to make it — the team was struggling after trading for Jason Kidd in February, then Nowitzki went down.
But now the Mavericks are rolling. They won in Phoenix on Sunday and they answered every challenge from Utah this time. Both were the kind of tight games against good teams that Dallas was losing just a few weeks ago.
The Mavs led by 14 early on, but neither team led by more than five over the last 15 minutes of this game. There were 14 lead changes and seven ties in that span, and Dallas played nearly all of it without Josh Howard, who was lost to a bruised right knee early in the third quarter.
So Nowitzki and Jason Terry took over.
Terry scored all 21 of his points in the second half, with 13 coming in the final period. Nowitzki scored 12 in the fourth. For the game, he was 12-of-23, including 4-of-5 on 3s.
Kidd scored Dallas’ first seven points but didn’t score again. He still contributed seven assists and six rebounds.
Memhet Okur had 19 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, which had won four in a row and seven of eight. The Jazz clinched a division title in their previous game, and are only playing for seeding now. The Jazz will be no worse than fourth.
Williams had 18 points and 12 assists. He was 7-of-16 after going 6-of-24 in his previous two games. Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points and Carlos Boozer only 10 points and five rebounds.
This was the first time the teams met since an early March game in Utah when Nowitzki hit Kirilenko, sending the Russian to the hospital and earning a one-game suspension for the German. There were no hard feelings, though, with Kirilenko the first person Nowitzki slapped hands with and hugged at midcourt before tipoff.