Thunder hold off Mavericks for 2-0 lead

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 01, 2012
Russell Westbrook scored 29 points, Kevin Durant added 26 in an off-shooting performance and the Oklahoma City Thunder clawed out a 102-99 victory over defending champion Dallas on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. Durant hit two free throws with 50.4 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a 98-97 lead, and James Harden hit four more foul shots to close it out for the Thunder. Jason Terry missed two 3-point attempts from the left wing in the final 5 seconds that could have tied it. Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 31 points and Shawn Marion scored 15. The Mavericks led in the closing minutes of both road games but couldn't even manage a split. Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas. Durant put the Thunder ahead to stay after salvaging two key points with Oklahoma City inbounding the ball with only 2.6 seconds left on the shot clock. He grabbed the inbounds pass from Harden while headed toward the sideline, and Terry was called for a foul for bumping him. Durant hit both foul shots, and Nowitzki missed his chance to answer with a short jumper from the left side at the other end. Marion fouled Harden on the rebound, and the league's top scoring reserve -- only eight days removed from a concussion as the result of Metta World Peace's elbow to the head -- also converted both free throws. He hit two more with 15.6 seconds left after Terry got the Mavs within one with a driving layup. After losing both of their home games to Dallas in last year's Western Conference finals, the Thunder barely got by in the rematch. Durant hit a jumper with 1.5 seconds left to win the first game 99-98 on Saturday night. Dallas was up seven points with 2 1/2 minutes left in Game 1 and just a point in the final minute of Game 2. Beforehand, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks downplayed a rivalry blossoming along Interstate 35. ''Right now, they beat us one time last season. I don't know if that's considered a rivalry,'' he said. ''It takes more than one or seasons, but definitely it's there for the making.'' Maybe he spoke too soon. The tension escalated quickly after Serge Ibaka tried to block Nowitzki's jumper midway through the first quarter and smacked him in the left eye on his follow-through, without getting called for a foul. Nowitzki hit another jumper along the baseline on Dallas' next possession before he got shoved in the back by Kendrick Perkins while jockeying for rebounding position on a made 3-pointer by Durant. Perkins followed Nowitzki for a few steps before Nowitzki bumped him away, and Perkins responded by taking a swing at Nowitzki's head with his open hand. Official Zach Zarba stepped in front of Perkins and backed him away, and both were assessed technical fouls. The Thunder erupted a few minutes later, scoring the final nine points of the first quarter -- all within an 82-second span -- to go up 32-24 and then carrying over the momentum after the break. Derek Fisher hit three jumpers and Dallas started the second quarter just 2 for 8 from the field and committed five turnovers as Oklahoma City charged to a 46-30 lead with 5:55 left before halftime to prompt Mavs coach Rick Carlisle's third timeout in less than 3 1/2 minutes. When Nowitzki and Perkins finally got back on the court together, the Mavericks' All-Star exacted some revenge while getting his team back in the game. He went on a personal 10-2 run, with all of the points coming while he was matched up against Perkins, to get the deficit down to 50-47. The Mavs pulled ahead in the first 5 minutes of the second half, as the game turned into a foul fest and the Thunder made only one basket in the first 7 minutes. Notes: After going back and forth responding to each other's comments on how Oklahoma City's defense on Nowitzki was officiated in Game 1, Brooks insisted any dispute with Carlisle wasn't personal. Years ago, the two roomed together while playing in the Continental Basketball Association. ''He was a good roommate. He didn't snore,'' Brooks said. ''That's all it takes. Buy me a meal every now and then and not snore, you're a perfect roommate.'' He later playfully retorted: ''If you want it to be personal, I was a better player. How many years did I play in the league? How many years did he play? I played over a decade. He played three.'' ... Marion hadn't made a playoff 3-pointer since 2007 before making two in Game 1. He had another in Game 2. ... Ibaka, who tied his regular season best with 22 points in the first game, got into foul trouble and scored only two.
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