Regular Season Recap: Mavericks vs Thunder

MAVERICKS 102

THUNDER 104
1.4 Seconds left when the Thunder inbounded the ball to Kevin Durant for the game-winning shot.

3 Blocked shots by Serge Ibaka, a game-high.

4 Victories by the Thunder … in as many games.

10 Ties in the game.

11 Rebounds by Kevin Durant, a game-high.

12 Deficit the Thunder fought back from in first quarter.

15 Lead changes in the game.

26 Turnovers by the Thunder. “The offense wasn’t as good as we needed it to be but we won the game off of the defensive end,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said.

58.7 Thunder’s field-goal shooting percentage for the game; the Mavs shot just 42.2.

60.6 First-half shooting percentage by the Thunder.

74 Combined scoring totals of both teams’ bench.

90 Field goal attempts the Mavericks took; the Thunder had just 67.

The Thunder returns to action Saturday night when it faces the Phoenix Suns in a New Year’s Eve match-up at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Game time is 7 p.m. and will air on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

GAME IN REVIEW


Is it May? June, perhaps? Can’t be; it still feels a little chilly.

Maybe that explains the ice in Kevin Durant’s veins with a game on the line.

With 1.4 seconds remaining in the game Thursday night …. with the Thunder down 102-101 to the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks … with 18,203 fans standing on their feet, which they had been since the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter … with a TNT national audience watching … Durant, breaking free on a screen set by James Harden, caught an in-bounds pass from Thabo Sefolosha, turned, faded back and released a jump shot over the Mavs’ Jason Terry that hit nothing but net.

THUNDER WINS! THUNDER WINS! … 104-102, Thunder wins!

“James set a great screen, Thabo made a good pass and I just tried to finish it off by shooting a good shot,” Durant said. “I am glad it went in. … It is special to hit a game-winner. The season is still young, but to beat the champs in the early season is still pretty cool, but we have to move on and get ready for the next game.”

Add teammate Russell Westbrook: “He lives for shots like that.”

This game – a rematch of the two teams that met in the Western Conference Finals in May – was everything it was supposed to be. The Mavericks jumped out to a quick 12-point lead, but the Thunder never panicked. It slowly chipped away at that deficit, took the lead late in the first quarter and trailed only 29-28 after the first 12 minutes.

It would be close the rest of the way, with the Thunder seemingly in control. Oklahoma City led by as many as eight points, yet the Mavericks would not fold. The Thunder led 101-96 with 46.0 seconds to play and had the ball after Westbrook soared above everybody to secure an offensive rebound. But a Thunder miss led to a Jason Terry 3-pointer at the other end and it was suddenly a two-point game, 101-99, with 39.5 seconds to go.

The Thunder had a chance to make it a two-possession game, but two missed free throws with 9.7 seconds to play kept the Mavericks’ hopes alive.

Then it hit: Dallas’ Vince Carter drilled a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left, giving Dallas a 102-101 lead and leaving Thunder fans wondering what had happened.

“We didn’t want to leave their shooters and we did,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “Kevin did leave Vince Carter.… He came back and made a big shot.”

Did he ever. Brooks said in the team huddle, every player was confident. There was still 1.4 seconds remaining, plenty of time to pull out the fourth win in as many games.

“When two tough teams go at it, it always comes down to the last play,” Durant said. “I made a bad play and tried to get a block on Dirk, but he made a great pass to Vince Carter. All I could remember coming to the bench was Reggie Jackson screaming out, ‘You are going to make the last shot.’ I just tried to be confident and told myself I could make it and I did.”

Game over. Thunder wins. Thunder wins.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins setting a screen to free a rolling Kevin Durant, who pulls up and nails a 15-foot jumper. … Serge Ibaka stepping in front of a pass intended for Dirk Nowitzki, securing the loose ball and driving down court for a slam. … Beautiful ball rotation that starts with a Russell Westbrook drive deep in the lane and a kick-out to James Harden, who drives and dishes to Ibaka on the wing for an opener jumper. … Durant and Harden working together to secure a defensive rebound that leads to a Thunder fast break and a Harden bucket at the other end. … Daequan Cook holding his ground on defense and drawing a foul on Vince Carter. … Harden securing a defensive rebound and racing the length of the court for a lay-in to the game at 35-all. … Talk about hustle: With the game tied 44-44, the ball is jarred loose and Perkins collects it at the top of the key. He drives the lane and finds Westbrook, who kicks it out to Harden for a 3 and a 47-44 lead. … Twenty-nine seconds later, Westbrook drives deep in the lane and dishes to Perkins, who scores and is fouled on the play. The ensuing free throw makes it 50-44. … Ibaka beating his man to the rim for a put-back of a Thunder miss.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Craziest play you’ll see: Russell Westbrook drives the lane and his shot is blocked by Jason Kidd. The ball, still in the air, is hit inadvertently by Brendan Haywood and goes off the glass and in. Two the extra-hard way for Westbrook. … Durant, leading all players with 23 points, working equally as hard on the defensive end to deny an entry pass to Lamar Odom. … Coming out of a time out, with Thunder trailing 73-70, Cook taps a Jason Terry missed shot to Durant for the rebound. That effort leads to a Nick Collison bucket inside at the other end. … Harden refusing to give up his defensive position despite the pounding he is taking from Odom. The effort results in an Odom miss, a defensive rebound for Collison and a 3-pointer by Cook at the buzzer for a 78-76 Thunder lead. … Colliison sprinting to the top of the key to set a screen for Harden, who uses it to drive the lane and dish the ball to Cook in the corner for a jumper. … Harden driving hard in the lane, drawing multiple defenders to him and dishing to Ibaka for a two-hand slam and 86-78 lead.. … Ibaka rejecting a Delonte West shot into the second round. … Westbrook soaring above all to grab an offensive rebound and keep alive a possession that ends with him scoring for a 96-93 lead.

SPECIAL CITY, SPECIAL MOMENT:
With the game tied at 91-91, Russell Westbrook came up with a loose ball, raced down court and threw down a dunk that had photographers ducking for cover and put the Thunder ahead with 3:17 to play.

The Mavs’ Jason Terry fouled Westbrook on the play. As Westbrook stepped to the line for the three-point play he would complete, Thunder fans united as one with Thunderous chants of “Russ-ell … Russ-ell … Russ-ell.”

“It is amazing what these fans do for you,” he said. “I love this city, I love my teammates and I am just thankful.”

Said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks: “I’ve never seen it in my 20-plus years with the NBA with what the crowd did. They knew he was struggling. … (They) started chanting his name out and that was special. This is a special place to play. I have never seen it before.”

QUOTABLE I:
“As a kid, you always dream about hitting a last shot in the NBA, so it was a dream come true. You cannot get too high on the wins and too low on the losses. I just have to move on and keep getting better.” – Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

QUOTABLE II:
“I thought that was about as hard as we could play. After the end of the game you always want your team to have an empty gas tank and our tank is empty. Everybody chipped in defensively. That’s the thing we have been focusing on. We held a very good team to a low shooting percentage. … We won the game on the defensive end.” – Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks.