Rapid Reaction: Thunder 104, Mavs 102
December, 29, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- How it happened: Unbelievable.
First off, there are no moral victories and, as coach Rick Carlisle stressed prior to the game, no excuses in the NBA. But the Dallas Mavericks can at least go back to Dallas knowing they showed up, were highly competitive throughout, and if not for a Kevin Durant buzzer-beating 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 1.4 seconds to play, would have earned their first win the hard way.
Instead, it was a third consecutive loss in the hardest way possible.
Vince Carter was having an awful shooting night, yet he buried the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds to go that looked to have put the Mavs in the win column.
Instead, it was Durant for a second consecutive night who hit the biggest shot of all, a fall-away 3-pointer from the right wing with, incredibly, really no one with a hand in his face thanks to well-executed screens.
Dallas had a chance to put the tiring Thunder away in the third quarter but couldn’t hold an eight-point lead with four minutes left and went into the fourth quarter down by two.
OKC opened a 101-96 lead after several Mavs mistakes, including an offensive foul called on Dirk Nowitzki setting a screen out by the 3-point arc. He was so incensed by the call that he drew a technical and the Thunder appeared to have it sewn up.
But Jason Terry buried a 3-pointer and the Thunder's Serge Ibaka, who was having a big night, missed two free throws with less than 10 seconds to play to keep Dallas alive.
Jason Kidd inbounded to Nowitzki, who drove and kicked it back out to Carter, who buried just his third bucket of the night for a 102-101 lead.
But Durant had the final shot and made it count.
What it means: Dallas falls to 0-3 and has to play a rested Toronto Raptors (1-1) team that was waiting in Dallas. The Mavs will have to find their legs in a hurry if they want to snap their losing skid against former assistant coach Dwane Casey.
Play of the game: Russell Westbrook was having another awful night shooting, so anytime a freebie comes you take it. His bucket nearing the seven-minute mark of the third quarter is one that might not happen again this season. Westbrook drove the lane and as he collided into Delonte West, Jason Kidd blocked the shot. Brendan Haywood spun around to try to corral it, but his outstretched arm unintentionally knocked the ball skyward and cleanly off the glass and in to tie the game at 62-62.
Stat of the day: The Mavs’ centers, Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Sean Williams, combined for 19 points and nine rebounds. Five rebounds came by way of Haywood, who finished with eight points.