After defeating the Dallas Mavericks by a total of four points to grab the first two games of their opening round Western Conference Playoff series, the Oklahoma City Thunder took charge early in Thursday night’s game at the American Airlines Center beating the Mavericks 95-79 to take a 3-0 lead in their best of seven match-up. Kevin Durant led five Thunder players in double-figures in the contest while Russell Westbrook added another 20 points in the win.
Dallas never got on track on the offensive side of the court, as they shot just 34.2% (26-76) from the floor for the night; with even Dirk Nowitzki having a tough night as he shot just 6-15 for 17 points to lead his team. Unfortunately for the Dallas crowd, nobody was able to step up in place of the Maverick’s All-Star forward as only two other players were able to reach double figures.
Oklahoma City could sweep the series with game four in Dallas on Saturday; which would make for a far shorter Playoff run than the defending NBA Champions made last season. That could result in a backlash of resentment towards the franchise from their fan base; who have lambasted General Manager Donnie Nelson and Team Owner Mark Cuban all season long for allowing Jose Juan Barea, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler to all sign elsewhere as Free Agents before the campaign began.
The Thunder looked as if they were ready to run away with the game late in the opening period, as Serge Ibaka connected on a shot four feet from the basket with 41 seconds to play giving his team a 30-20 edge. Veterans Jason Kidd and Vince Carter buried treys down the stretch and the Thunder lead was 32-26 at the end of the quarter.
Oklahoma City kept the lead throughout the second and once again appeared as if they were ready to take the contest over, with 1:40 left in the period as Durant hit a mid-range jumper putting his team on top 50-37. Dallas would respond again in the closing seconds of the quarter to get their deficit under double-digits and at the half the Thunder held the upper hand with the score 50-41.
The visitors pulled ahead in the third but this time the Mavericks did not return fire with a run of their own. Derek Fisher hit a short jumper with 33 seconds on the clock, putting his team ahead 75-57 at the end of the period. The Mavericks were never able to regroup and mount a challenge in the final 12 minutes of action, as Oklahoma City would get their first easy win of the series.
Durant knocked down 31 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in the victory. Westbrook scored 20 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals while Ibaka notched a double-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 1 steal. Fisher and James Harden both came off the bench and added 10 points a piece.
Nowitzki had 17 points and 9 rebounds for the night. Kidd scored 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal while Jason Terry came off the pine with 11 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal. Dallas will try to extend the series on their home floor, as the two teams meet again on Saturday.