One does not expect a titanic defensive struggle from Thunder/Mavs, and indeed we didn’t get one; the 13-3 run with which Dallas began the fourth quarter was due less to sparkling Maverick defense than to sputtering Thunder offense. Even then, OKC was still shooting about 50 percent; the problem was, so was Dallas, and the Thunder wasn’t putting up much resistance to the Mavs’ long-ball. (Late in the first half, the Mavs put up three treys in a row in less than a minute.) And then with a minute left, it was tied at 108 following one of those patented Derek Fisher treys from the corner; Russell Westbrook just walked up to Dirk Nowitzki and took the ball away from him, setting up a Kevin Durant trey. José Calderón replied with a three of his own to reknot the game with 1.8 seconds left in regulation. Dirk’s jumper over Westbrook at the buzzer fell short, and the Ghost of Overtimes Past was seen hovering over the arena.
A dilemma: At the horn, Westbrook had logged 31 minutes. Would he come back during the overtime, in violation of his time limit? He didn’t come out for the beginning — but with Dallas up seven with two minutes left, Westbrook was indeed brought back. It didn’t matter, really; Dallas filled up the period with free throws and claimed the season series, 2-1, with a 128-119 win.
Did I mention free throws? The Mavs hit 23 of 28, including seven in the overtime period. (OKC was 15-19.) Oh, and there were those 14 Dallas steals, a 48-37 advantage on the boards, and seven Mavs in double figures, led of course by Dirk with 32 and 10 rebounds. Calderón, the squad’s three-point specialist, knocked down six of nine from outside; Dallas finished with 15 of 38. (OKC was 12-33.) Vince Carter headed the reserves with 16 in 26 minutes.
It’s to the point now where you just want to know if Durant broke 30 or not. Well, yes, he did; in fact, he had 43, on 15-27 shooting including five from deepest Plano. Westbrook, in his slightly limited time, came up with 23; once again, Fisher led the bench with 13 (and the team with +13, all the starters being minus for the night). No sign of Lamb or PJIII.
Now if the season ends up with OKC 2nd and Dallas 7th, which it well may — let’s just hope we didn’t see a preview of the first round.