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Harden and bench lift Thunder to victory

5/20/2011

The Dallas Mavericks entered Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on a seven-game winning streak with a chance to go up 2-0 for the third consecutive playoff series. The Oklahoma City Thunder and its bench had other ideas, as they carried most of the weight en route to a six-point win and 1-1 series tie.

The Thunder once again avoided consecutive losses this postseason and earned their first Conference Finals win since 1996 -- when the franchise was the Seattle SuperSonics led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.

The 2011 team is lead by Kevin Durant, who finished with a team-high 24 points, and Russell Westbrook, who bounced back from his 3-for-15 performance in Game 1 with a 7-for-15 effort in Game 2. Durant earned his 12th 20-point game this postseason, but was 0-for-5 from three-point range (his first career playoff game where he didn't make a three-pointer). Westbrook, an All-Star this season, did not play at all in the fourth quarter in large part because the Thunder’s bench was rolling.

After being outscored by 31 points in Game 1, the Thunder’s bench got 50 points, led by James Harden (23) and Eric Maynor (13). The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Thunder are the first team to get at least 50 points from substitutes in a road playoff win in over six years. The last team to do that was the Cleveland Cavaliers, with a 57-point effort from their bench in an overtime win at the Washington Wizards in May 2006.

Outbenched - Reserves in Game 2

Harden's 23 points were a playoff career high as the Thunder improved to 5-0 this postseason when Harden goes for 15 or more points (4-5 when he scores less than 15).

This loss was the Mavericks first home loss of the postseason (6-1).

Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t as dominant in Game 2 as he was in Game 1, but he did finish with 29 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. Nowitzki, who was perfect from the free throw line in Game 1, missed a free throw late in the fourth quarter which ended a streak of 39 consecutive free throws made, dating to Game 2 of the Conference Semifinals. The 39-for-39 streak is the second longest of Nowitzki's playoff career (42) and the longest free-throw made streak in a single postseason since Chauncey Billups made 41 straight for the Detroit Pistons in 2006.

The series now shifts to Oklahoma City where the Thunder are 6-1 this postseason. Durant has feasted at home averaging 31.7 points per game while leading the game (not just team) in scoring on six of those seven occasions.