Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) – The Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a big lead in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and held off the slow-starting Oklahoma City Thunder, 93-87, to take back home-court advantage.
Dallas held Oklahoma City to 29 percent shooting in the first half and led by as many as 23. The Thunder mounted a comeback, but a 1-for-17 showing from three-point range sealed their fate.
“It was a great defensive effort early on. It set the tone for us,” Nowitzki said. “We just played off our defense and executed well … We had more aggression to our play.”
Russell Westbrook came alive late and ended with 30 points in defeat.
Kevin Durant had 24 points on 7-for-22 shooting, and the Thunder reserves netted 16 just two days after outscoring Dallas’ vaunted bench, 50-29.
“They doubled a lot more off pick-and-rolls and post-ups. They made it tough for us,” Durant said. “We have to figure out ways to have a better start.”
Game 4 of the series will also be in Oklahoma City on Monday.
Scott Brooks made a tough decision to bench a struggling Westbrook in the fourth quarter of Game 2, and the Thunder backups came through in a 106-100 victory to tie the series.
Brooks stayed with Westbrook on Saturday, and the All-Star point guard responded with 14 points in the final quarter.
Westbrook’s personal 8-2 run cut the deficit to single digits for the first time in the second half, and two James Harden free throws near the midway point made it a six-point game, 80-74.
Nowitzki briefly quieted the suddenly erupting crowd with a pair of buckets, but the Thunder were still within six, 84-78, coming down the stretch.
The hosts had three chances to inch closer, but Westbrook and Daequan Cook each missed from long range and Westbrook coughed it up on a drive to the lane, the sixth of seven turnovers for the 22-year-old.
Jason Terry ended the scoreless stretch with a short pull-up jumper to extend Dallas’ lead with 1:42 showing. The closest it got from there was four, and the Mavs sealed the win by hitting 5-of-6 from the free throw line over the final 33.6 seconds.
Oklahoma City Arena was hosting its first-ever game in the conference finals, but the home team came out infinitely less fired up than its fans.
An eager crowd watched Marion get inside for two buckets and toss an alley-oop pass to Chandler on Dallas’ game-opening 9-2 run.
The electricity amongst the blue-clad fans dwindled significantly when the Mavs ended the opening quarter just as strong as they started it, as Peja Stojakovic and Kidd each drained three-pointers to spark a 12-4 flurry.
The run yielded a 27-12 lead, which ballooned to 23 following eight straight Dallas points to open the second.
“[The Mavs] came out and did a great job with their defensive pressure. They took us out of our sets and trapped the basketball, just got us playing on our heels,” Brooks said. “I give our guys a lot of credit, they made it a game in the fourth quarter.”
Free throws were the only thing keeping the Northwest Division champs relatively close, making 12-of-13 from the stripe in the second frame alone.
The halftime score, 52-36, still heavily favored Dallas despite Nowitzki only tallying four points, and Oklahoma City went scoreless for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the third to go back down by 22.
The Mavs, who won both regular season meetings at Oklahoma City Arena, held the Thunder under 100 points for the first time this series…Terry totaled 13 points and six assists off Dallas’ bench, which scored 28 points in all…Chandler pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, while Durant led the Thunder with 12 boards…The Thunder outscored the Mavs at the foul line, 32-14…Harden went 2-for-9 from the field for seven points after exploding for 23 points to spark Oklahoma City in Game 2.