Game Recap

6 Steals combined for Russell Westbrook and James Harden on the night

11 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, part of his 24-point, 11 rebound double-double

11:14 Minutes for Nazr Mohammed, who stepped up to fill in for an injured Kendrick Perkins

22  Assists on the night for the Thunder, including six by Russell Westbrook, five from James Harden and four from Kevin Durant

29 Points on the night for James Harden on 11-for-16 shooting, a Playoff career high

35-16  Points advantage for the Thunder in the fourth quarter, a 19-point advantage

52 Bench points for the Thunder (Harden-29, Fisher-12, Collison-4, Mohammed-4 and Cook-3)

  52-28 Points in the paint advantage for the Thunder on the night

       
GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
With 2:02 remaining and the Thunder hanging onto a 98-95 lead against the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks, Nick Collison stepped to the free throw line, put the ball on his hip and took two deep breaths.

The reserve forward knocked down both free throws, pushing the lead to five and sealing the series-clinching victory. A mature, energized and determined Thunder group didn't get fazed by a 13-point Mavericks lead heading into the fourth quarter, and simply executed down the stretch and put the clamps on defensively to get the win.

"We were down 13 and a lot of things did not go our way because of us, and because they were making big plays," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "But we kind of changed that around by really getting into the basketball, getting through screens. Every time you have a screen you have a choice, you either go through it or get screened and we chose not to in that fourth quarter and made them miss a lot of shots. And we took care of the basketball… We needed every possession."

Using the idea of hitting singles instead of going for home runs, the Thunder found a matchup that was working and methodically exploited it throughout the final 12 minutes to go on a 23-5 run and take Game 4 at the American Airlines Center. The key on offense during the stretch was clearly James Harden, who in 34 minutes racked up 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, including 15 points and three assists in the final 12 minutes. Using screen-and-rolls from the top of the key, Brooks showed his faith in Harden to be a playmaker and facilitate the offense.

"Being in attack mode," Harden said when asked how he was so effective. "Scotty [Brooks] put the ball the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter, and he told me to make plays. So, I was just trying to make plays."

With a lineup of Russell Westbrook, Derek Fisher, Harden, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder utilized an agile, quick, aggressive unit that posed matchup problems, particularly in the pick-and-roll. Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki noted its effectiveness and double-edged sword nature after the game, as Harden with the ball in his hands seemingly drove to the basket at will to finish at the rim or kick to an open shooter.

"We went small, [and] all we had to do was rebound," Harden said. "And once we got the rebound, we've got so many playmakers on the floor, and some good shooters and once we get out in transition it's much easier. So, it was great effort by all of our guys in that fourth quarter."

The pretty plays and drives by Harden were easy to witness and it was clear that the Thunder showed maturity and poise, but it was the team's unwavering sure-handedness and underlying confidence that changed the game, and helped the Thunder close out the series 4-0. A focused full team effort, and one that used mental toughness, was a delight to see for Durant.

"We took it one possession at a time," Durant said. "The Mavericks went on a nice little run in that third quarter, and we didn't crumble. I think that's part of our team. We're growing in that area and we never gave up, and we kept fighting… James Harden's offensive input and Russ' defense is the reason we got that lead and kept the lead. Everybody helped out, rebounding, helping off on Dirk and helping Serge as well. Everybody's effort was perfect in the fourth."

Westbrook earned praise off the top from Brooks, Harden and Durant, all of whom said his defense was the spark that turned the game around. The fourth-year point guard made two consecutive steals that directly led to four Thunder points to help build a 94-91 advantage with 4:06 remaining, a lead the Thunder would never let dip below three again on the night.

Whether it was forcing missed shots or causing turnovers, the length, speed and athleticism of the Thunder's defense was stifling in the fourth quarter, holding the Mavericks to 4-for-18 shooting and forcing four turnovers in the final twelve minutes.

"I think it's just our team defense and toughness," Westbrook said. "Everybody did their job, we took one play at a time, one possession at a time, and the next thing you know the lead was closing and the advantage was on our hand. It was a good win for us."

Turning Point The Thunder had fallen behind by 13 points early in the fourth quarter, trailing 86-73 with 9:44 remaining in the game, but made a furious comeback to get the lead and change the game. Using a 23-5, the Thunder found itself up five at 96-91 with 3:00 remaining in the game. The Mavericks never got within three points gain after that. The Thunder's defense was suffocating during the stretch, forcing seven missed shots and four turnovers, while the offense was sparked by James Harden's offensive wizardry. Harden made a three point play, then hit two more shots on a drive. After that, Harden hit Kevin Durant for two three-pointers while sandwiching a driving dunk in between. After Durant drove baseline for a dunk and Russell Westbrook smartly fed Serge Ibaka for a slam, the Thunder found themselves ahead 92-91 with 5:17 remaining. From there Derek Fisher hit a finger roll and Harden knocked in two free throws to give the Thunder a five-point cushion.

Plays the box score won't show, first half Serge Ibaka makes two monster blocks right at the rim to prevent dunks on the first possession, then Russell Westbrook finishes it up with a layup… Kendrick Perkins snags a loose ball and kicks it to Thabo Sefolosha for a three pointer, then Kevin Durant makes a rebound and kicks it ahead for a Sefolosha run out… Nice team rebounding by Perkins, Ibaka and Westbrook then Westbrook sets a screen for Durant to free him up for a jumper… Great pass by Perkins to a cutting Westbrook leads to an offensive rebound and put back by Ibaka… Good hustle by Westbrook to make a steal after a missed shot, drawing a foul… Beautiful backdoor cut by Durant and a laser feed from Westbrook for a slam dunk… Harden steps up and nails a three at the end of the shot clock… Tough box out by Nick Collison to make a rebound, then he kicks it out to Harden for another three-pointer… Nice work by Collison to screen for Harden, who kicks it to Derek Fisher for a jumper, then Durant hits the defensive glass… Collison slides over in help defense and draws a charge, then Collison flips it to Harden for a three-pointer… Collison plays tough defense on Dirk Nowitzki, then Harden hits Collison who flips it to Fisher for a pump fake then jumper… Ibaka plays incredible defense on Nowitzki, forcing him into a missed finger roll, then the Thunder forces a long, contested missed three pointer at the end of the shot clock… Fisher drives and dumps it off to Nazr Mohammed for a layup, then Harden drives and gives a no-look dish to Mohammed for an easy bucket… Big offensive rebound for Mohammed, who kicks it to Durant who finds a cutting Westbrook to draw a foul… Great anticipation by Harden to make a steal in the lane then runs it out and draws a foul… Durant slides through the lane and dishes to Ibaka for a dunk… The ball ping pongs around but Durant sticks with it and finds his way to the rim for a layup, then Harden boxes out strongly on the defensive boards.

Plays the box score won't show, second half Nice job of running to the rim by Westbrook to follow up a missed shot with a put back… Good job by Durant to get to the free throw line area off a screen and hit a high-rising jumper, then Ibaka swats a shot and Sefolosha saves it in bounds… Pretty drive and dish by Westbrook to Ibaka for a jumper… Strong rebounding on the defensive end by Harden, which he turns into a transition layup… Beautiful drive to finish with the lefty layup by Durant, then Fisher shows quick hands to strip Jason Terry, then runs to the corner to hit a three pointer… Nice box out by Durant on the defensive glass, then a smart move by Westbrook to bring the ball back out after making an offensive rebound… Westbrook dumps one off to Fisher for a three pointer, who was freed up by a Collison screen… Smart dump off pass on a screen-and-roll from Westbrook to Collison for a layup… Harden drives left then twists back to find Daequan Cook for a three pointer, then the Thunder plays tough defense to force an airball… Perfect inbounds play as Harden found Ibaka for a slam dunk on a cut to the rim… Harden slinks into the lane and gets an old-fashioned three-point play, then Ibaka fights for an offensive board… Harden uses his Euro-step move to hit a runner, then Fisher draws another offensive foul… Ibaka sets a great screen to free up Harden to get to the rim, then Harden finds Durant for a big three-pointer… Great box out by Durant to grab a defensive board, then Harden flies through the lane for a big slam dunk… Beautiful ball movement from Westbrook to Harden to Durant for a three pointer… Durant drives baseline and rises up strongly to slam one home, then Westbrook makes a steal and dumps it back to Ibaka for a transition dunk… Another steal by Westbrook thanks to great anticipation, then Harden saves the ball to Fisher who drives and gets to the rim for a layup… Strong rebounding by Durant and Ibaka on the defensive end, then Harden's activity helps him draw two consecutive fouls… Collison takes a deep breath and hits two big free throws, then Durant and Collison both make blocks and force misses… Great box out by Durant on the defensive end to make his tenth rebound… Harden goes from the top of the key and glides to the rim for a huge bucket!

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