Friday, December 30, 2011
Sports News

Durant leads Thunder past Mavericks 104-102

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[December 30, 2011]  OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Kevin Durant thought he might have just given away a victory and let the Dallas Mavericks steal another one in heartbreaking fashion.

Then he found a way to take it right back.

Durant scored 30 points and hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-102 win against Dallas on Thursday night in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals.

"As a kid, of course you dream about hitting a game-winning shot in the NBA," said Durant, who has hit two other game-winners at the buzzer in his five seasons.

"It's a dream come true."

The Thunder let Dallas wipe away a five-point deficit in the final 46 seconds to go ahead on Vince Carter's 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining. That was just enough time for Thabo Sefolosha to get the ball to Durant, who drilled a 3 from the right wing that improved his team to 4-0.

"It was crazy, a crazy course of events," Durant said. "When two tough teams always go at it, it always comes down to the last play."

Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mavericks, whose title defense is off to a 0-3 start. Dallas had been blown out in its first two losses against Miami and Denver before letting a close one slip away.

"I think the more we go out and just play the game itself more, good things happen on the court," Shawn Marion said.

"We've got to just go out there and stop worrying about other things and just go out there and just play the game and just play hard."

Russell Westbrook had 16 points in his second straight subpar performance, but he made up for it with a few critical plays down the stretch.

He started the game 3 for 11 -- with one of the makes coming when Jason Kidd blocked his shot and Brendan Haywood tipped it up and in -- and had seven turnovers before getting a longer-than-usual benching in favor of Eric Maynor.

Westbrook returned when the game got close midway through the fourth quarter, providing a momentary lead with a two-handed breakaway dunk that turned into a three-point play.

He followed that with a 17-footer from the right wing for a 96-93 lead, but the Mavericks -- who made it a habit to stage late comebacks against Oklahoma City in last season's West finals -- had a few tricks left.

Nowitzki tied it at 96 with a 3-pointer but, after a Durant jumper, was called for a technical foul for arguing an offensive foul. Durant hit that foul shot and Westbrook added another jumper from the right elbow to put Oklahoma City up 101-96 with 46 seconds left.

Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer to get Dallas within two. Durant then missed a 3-pointer at the other end and Serge Ibaka missed both of his free throws after getting fouled on an offensive rebound.

Nowitzki pitched it back to Carter for the go-ahead 3, and Durant blamed himself for going for a block against Nowitzki and leaving Carter open.

Durant returned to the bench for a timeout, with rookie Reggie Jackson screaming encouragement that he was going to hit the game-winner.

"I just tried to be confident, tell myself I could make it and luckily I did," Durant said.

"It's special to hit a game-winner," he added. "The season's still young. To beat the champs in the early season is always pretty cool, but we've got to move on and get ready for the next game."

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Ibaka finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for Oklahoma City.

Terry had 16 points and nine assists, and Delonte West scored 15 for the Mavericks, who rallied from 15 points down in the final 5 minutes of regulation in Game 4 of the West finals -- the teams' last meeting that counted in the arena. Dallas also overcame an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit in the clinching Game 5.

Before the game, both Oklahoma City All-Stars downplayed a report in The Oklahoman of a dispute between them during the team's win at Memphis a night earlier.

"It wasn't nothing that people should be blowing out of proportions," Durant said. "It happens every single day. Teams go through emotions, things happen. It's a competitive sport. Everybody's not going to always come in and be happy every single day."

Westbrook simply said: "What happened? I don't know what you're talking about."

Coach Scott Brooks said the whole team was frustrated over a series of bad possessions of pick-and-roll defense and everyone, not just the superstars, but he didn't see it as anything out of the ordinary.

"To me, an altercation -- in my world, it's a fight or it's a shove or something like that. A debate or a discussion is totally different than an altercation but that did not happen," Brooks said. "I've been coaching these guys for four years and we haven't had one fight, which surprises me, and we haven't had any issues that were below the belt that I had to step in."

Brooks said he thinks it drew more attention only because the Thunder are now a prominent team.

"I don't really think nothing happened. ... Everybody on the bench was yelling, the coaches was yelling, not at each other in a bad way but trying to get everything in order," Durant said.

NOTES: The Mavs beat the Thunder in five games in the West finals, then lost both preseason games against Oklahoma City. Yet another meeting is scheduled for Monday in Dallas. Thunder coach Scott Brooks admitted revenge could be a factor. "Most of our guys are not too far out of high school, so when your crosstown rival beats you, you want to beat them the next Friday night," Brooks said. ... After being outrebounded 98-68 in its first two games, Dallas was even on the boards. Both teams had 38. ... Oklahoma City had 26 turnovers.

[Associated Press; By JEFF LATZKE]

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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