Rapid Reaction: Thunder 95, Mavs 91
March, 5, 2012
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- How it happened: Dirk Nowitzki hit three 3-pointers with under five minutes to go (four total in the fourth quarter), including one to tie, one to take the lead and another for a 91-87 lead with 2:44 to go.
It would be the Mavs' final points.
Dallas had a chance to tie or take the lead on its final possession, but the play out of the timeout turned into an all-too familiar scramble. Jason Terry dumped the ball to Jason Kidd near the basket along the baseline and he shuffled back to Terry on the baseline. With a hand in his face, Terry's high-arching shot fell shot, bouncing high off the rim.
The Thunder will use this as proof that they continue to improve at closing out games. The Mavs, typically a tremendous close-out team, has been uncharacteristically sloppy in crunch time of late.
Oklahoma City overcame an awful shooting night from stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to score the final eight points of the game. Serge Ibaka hit a pair of big free throws.
The two OKC All-Stars were 12-of-28 combined from the floor. Durant finished with 22 points, but hit a key 3-pointer with 6:45 left for an 83-80 lead. Westbrook had 24 points and six assists.
Nowitzki, who had 12 points in the fourth quarter -- all on 3-pointers -- finished with a game-high 27 points. But he also had a late turnover, throwing the ball out of bounds while passing out of the lane on a drive, and missed his final shot attempt over Kendrick Perkins with more than two minutes to go.
Terry, coming of a hot game in Dallas on Saturday, was 3-of-10 in the final period.
The third quarter was costly. Dallas led 52-45 at the half, but Oklahoma City got off to a 7-0 start to tie it at 52-52. Dallas made it 57-54 before a 14-4 run put the Thunder up 68-61. Oklahoma City took a 68-65 lead into the final quarter.
Dallas lost center Brendan Haywood to a sprained left ankle in the first minute.
What it means: The Mavs couldn't secure their first winning streak since mid-February as they lost for a sixth time in eight games and dropped to 22-17. In the bigger picture, Dallas lost the season series to OKC, 3-1, but it was far more even than the ledger indicates. The Thunder needed a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Durant in the first meeting, and OKC certainly had all kinds of trouble separating from Dallas on this night.
Bold play of the game: With under a minute to go and the Mavs leading 91-90, Durant drove and dished underneath to Serge Ibaka. He went up and was challenged by Ian Mahimi, who got a piece of the ball, but was called for a foul. Ibaka made both for a 92-91 lad with 46.2 seconds left. The play fouled out Mahinmi as Jason Kidd argued the center's case to the referee Pat Fraher.
Stat of the game: The Mavericks followed up a 29-point second quarter with a 13-point third quarter.