Rapid Reaction: Thunder 102, Mavs 99
April, 30, 2012
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- How it happened: The Thunder, a bunch of kids who couldn’t close out a game against the Mavericks in last season’s West finals, slammed the door in the defending champions’ face again.
That has happened in all four of the Mavs’ trips to Oklahoma City this season. This was the most heated, heart-pumping game of them all.
A wild first half featured Dirk Nowitzki and Kendrick Perkins exchanging shoves and profane unpleasantries, a 19-3 run by the Thunder and a 17-4 response by the Mavs. That set up a thrilling back-and-forth second half.
It all came down to crunch time again.
Oklahoma City didn’t have a field goal for the final 4:52, but the Thunder pulled out the win with suffocating defense and perfect free throw shooting down the stretch. The Mavs scored only two points in the final 2:18. A pair of free throws by Kevin Durant gave Oklahoma City the lead for good with 50.4 seconds remaining, and James Harden protected the lead by going 4-of-4 from the line in the final minute.
Nowitzki had a spectacular performance, scoring 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting, highlighted by a 14-point second quarter. But the Thunder got another big game from Russell Westbrook (29 points, 10-of-21 shooting), 26 points from Durant despite a 5-of-17 shooting night and got surprise scoring contributions from veteran role players Perkins (13 points) and Derek Fisher (11 points).
What it means: The defending champions are in serious danger of having their repeat quest end in the first round. Oklahoma City has a 2-0 lead as the series heads south on Interstate 35.
Bold play of the game: Delonte West put Westbrook -- maybe the most athletic guard in the NBA -- on a poster with a left-handed dunk in transition traffic. West stripped Durant and outraced Durant and Harden down the floor before soaring over Westbrook for the slam. That gave the Mavs a 73-72 lead with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter.
Stat of the night: Jason Kidd became the fifth player in NBA history with 1,000 playoff points, rebounds and assists. Kidd, who has career postseason totals of 2,004 points, 1,004 rebounds and 1,227 assists, joined a club that includes Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant is eight assists away.