Mavericks hold off Thunder, lead series again
OKLAHOMA CITY — Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points during an off night for both of the game’s superstars, and the Dallas Mavericks built a huge lead early before hanging on for a 93-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder last night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Mavericks, who tied with Miami for the league’s best road record during the regular season, won for the fourth straight time outside Dallas in these playoffs and reclaimed home-court advantage just two nights after letting it get away in Game 2.
Nowitzki went 7 for 21 from the field but Dallas still called on him in the clutch to hold off Oklahoma City’s late charge.
“He’s the best, even if he’s not making shots early he wants the ball to make a play,’’ Dallas guard Jason Kidd said.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant also struggled from the field, hitting just 7 of 22 shots to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook responded to a fourth-quarter benching in Game 2 with 30 points, helping the Thunder rally from 23 points down to make it interesting in the final minutes.
Even with Nowitzki struggling, the Mavericks leaned on the big German with the Thunder closing the gap. Nowitzki got the ball on 10 of 11 possessions and scored just three times, but it was enough to keep Oklahoma City at bay.
Westbrook and Daequan Cook each missed 3-pointers that could’ve gotten the Thunder within 3, and Westbrook then lost the ball out of bounds before Jason Terry’s jumper stretched the advantage to 86-78 with 1:42 remaining.
Nowitzki added a jumper from the left elbow to put the lead back at 8 after Durant hit two free throws, and Dallas held on from there.
Shawn Marion also scored 18, and Kidd and Terry each chipped in 13. Tyson Chandler had 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
After outscoring Dallas’s reserves, 50-29, in Game 2, the Oklahoma City bench had just 16 points in this one.
The Thunder fell behind by as many as 23 after a dreadful start in which they made just 10 of their first 41 shots.
Dallas bumped its lead back up to 58-36 by scoring the first 6 points after halftime.