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Monday, April 30, 2012
Did Thunder take Mavs' best shot?

By Jeff Caplan

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Mavericks were a Kevin Durant bucket away from seizing the lead in this first-round series. They did so many things right that led to a seven-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes to play.

The reactions from each side were obvious: The Mavs lamented the close loss, while the Thunder felt like they got away with one without playing their best ball. But do they think they got the best the Mavs had to offer while still walking away with a 1-0 series lead.

"Those guys, man, they’re a mentally tough team," Durant said. "They come at you in so many different ways so I don’t think we got their best shot. We’ve just got to keep playing. Our defense was decent. We’ve just go to continue to pick each other up. We’ll see what happens. This is a long series."

Dallas won so many of the key areas it emphasizes before everything broke down in the final 180 seconds or so. The Mavs outrebounded OKC 42-36 and outscored the Thunder in second-chance points 14-6. For much of the game they kept the Thunder out of the lane and forced jumpers. And they kept them off the free throw line, owning a 25-20 advantage in free throw attempts and a 20-17 edge in points.

The glaring miscues at the end were the difference with Dallas turning it over four times in the fourth quarter. Surprisingly, three came from Dirk Nowitzki, with two in the final 90 seconds.

"You always know that they can play better because they have in the past," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "They are the defending champions, although they don’t have a few of the players they won the championship with last year. But they have some key players that are champions and are going to have good games. We have to keep fighting them and forcing them to take tough shots. I thought we did that in the second half [of Game 1] as well as we’ve done."