Through three quarters, it looked like the Thunder were actually going to put away the visitors from Dallas, who had only just arrived from a narrow win over Detroit and who had given the impression of looking a bit tired in spots. Then came the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks shut down everything the Thunder threw at them: with about seven minutes left, Dallas went on a 10-0 run and then kept on running. The final at the Awfully Quiet Arena was 111-103.
You can probably expect the next two words: “Dirk Nowitzki.” He led all scorers with 34, including a Durantean 14 of 15 from the foul line. But just as hazardous to Oklahoma City was Tyson Chandler, who once came within a physical of joining the Thunder, with 17 points and 18 rebounds. And Caron Butler wasn’t much of a factor in the second half, but 15 points in the first kept Dallas in the game until they were ready to make the big run in the final frame.
OKC technically outshot the Mavs, 48.2 percent to 44.4, but Dallas owned the boards (49-36) and the charity stripe (30 of 34 versus 17 of 23), and a double-double from Kid Delicious (32 points, 11 rebounds) wasn’t enough to keep the Thunder in contention, despite double figures from Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and, yes, Serge Ibaka. They didn’t play badly, exactly, but when you’re overrun 36-22 in the fourth quarter, Bad Things happen to you.
Now follow two road games, at Indiana (Friday) and Houston (Sunday), followed by a visit from the Hornets on Monday. It will take at least two out of three to stay up with the other contenders in the West.