Thunder über Dallas

Few things in life are quite as satisfying as sending the Mavericks home with a loss, mostly because it’s seldom easy to do. And it didn’t look like it was going to happen: Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, of course, presented the greatest challenges, and Dirk drilled home a three — his fourth of the night — with two and a half minutes left, giving him a game-high 27. But that was all he would get; in fact, that’s all any of the Mavs got, as the Thunder shut them out the rest of the way en route to a 95-91 win, taking the season series 3-1 and indeed sending the Mavs home to deal with the Knicks.

This one, though, was tight all the way through: lead changes left and right, especially in the fourth quarter. The Thunder didn’t actually pull ahead until the 0:46 mark, when Serge Ibaka drew Ian Mahinmi’s sixth foul and sank two free throws. Three more freebies, one from Kevin Durant and two from Russell Westbrook, iced the deal. For those who were wondering if James Harden was going to come to life after a less-than-indifferent opening, wonder no more: The Beard owned the place starting in the fourth, garnering 14 of his 16 points. Twenty-four for Westbrook, 22 for Durant, and 14 rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, who was on his best behavior all night.

Jason Terry, arguably Harden’s only competition for Sixth Man of the Year, wound up playing 37 minutes, more than any of the Mavs except Dirk, and he was his usual fearsome self. Mahinmi, pressed into service in the middle thirty seconds in after Brendan Haywood rolled his ankle somewhere over Perk, was the most efficient shooter on the floor: five of six and all three of his free throws for 13 points. But if Rick Carlisle was hoping for some Vinceanity, it didn’t happen: Vince Carter checked out in ten minutes, having missed his only shot. And Sean Williams essentially scored four for the Thunder, having goaltended two OKC shots in rapid succession.

But hey, this is what happens when you play Dallas, and we don’t have to see them again until the playoffs. The Suns will be here Wednesday, the Cavs on Saturday, and neither of them figure to be quite as much of a handful as the Mavs.

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