When Kevin Durant is putting on the kind of show that will win him the MVP award, as he was doing Tuesday night, the Thunder are very hard to beat.
Dallas did just that though.
They did it behind a vintage night from Dirk Nowitzki (well, except he continued to struggle from three going 2-of-8), who had seven of his 32 points in overtime. Behind Jose Calderon raining down threes in the clutch. Behind Monta Ellis, who had 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Dallas beat the Thunder 128-119 in a very entertaining overtime game Tuesday. With the win Dallas moved back into the eighth seed in the West — they are in a fight with Memphis and Phoenix, when the music stops one of those teams will be without a chair for the playoffs. Wins like this are huge for the Mavericks chances.
This game is also the perfect example of why the Western Conference playoffs will be so much fun — there are no easy outs. This is a potential first round matchup.
This game was within single digits one way or another almost the entire game, neither team able to pull away, both teams making runs.
Kevin Durant was a run of his own all night, playing like an MVP. He finished with 43 points on 15-of-27 shooting and he did his damage efficiently — 8-of-9 shooting in the paint and 5-of-11 from three point range. He was attacking off the dribble and knocking down shots. He was doing it all.
The biggest shot of the night was his three with :39 seconds left in regulation — with the game tied Dallas foolishly dared give him a little space three feet behind the three point line, so he drilled it and put the Thunder up three.
Then OKC got what it needed — with 30 seconds left the game Nowitzki missed from three. Then Dallas’ Brandon Wright grabbed the offensive board (Serge Ibaka mistimed his jump) and with two quick passes it was in the hands of Calderon at the top of the circle. And he buried it. Tie game.
The Thunder had one last shot, and when the Mavericks wisely doubled Durant 28 feet from the basket he whipped the pass to Russell Westbrook (who finished the night with a solid 23 points on 18 shots, he was up and down) and he dribbled in for a clean look 18 foot jumper… and it rimmed out. Dallas got one last shot, and only Nowitzki can make you think a contested 30-foot turnaround is going to fall. It just missed off the back of the rim.
But Dirk wasn’t missing much in overtime, including a vintage one-legged fadeaway over Durant. Calderon drained another three, Dallas started the OT on a 9-2 run, Nowitzki had 7 points in the frame and soon Dallas had a much needed win.
Russell Westbrook had reached his minutes limit of 30 at the end of regulation and Scott Brooks followed the plan and pulled him. When Dallas got back up he threw Westbrook back in, but by that time it was all over. Brooks needed to play Westbrook the full five or rest him, not go halfway in OT.
It’s not a bad loss for the Thunder, losing in OT to a good and desperate Dallas team on the road. It’s just a reminder that come the Western Conference playoffs every game will be hard fought. Every team has elite players.
There will be some drama. And some upsets.