Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points during an off night for both of the game’s superstars, as the Dallas Mavericks hung on for a 93-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
The Mavericks, who tied with Miami for the league’s best road record during the regular season, won for the fourth straight time outside Dallas in these playoffs and reclaimed home-court advantage just two nights after letting it get away in Game 2.
Nowitzki went seven for 21 from the field, but Dallas still called on him in the clutch to hold off Oklahoma City’s late charge.
“He’s the best, even if he’s not making shots early he wants the ball to make a play,” Dallas guard Jason Kidd said.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant also struggled from the field, hitting just seven of 22 shots to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook responded to a fourth-quarter benching last outing with 30 points, helping the Thunder rally from 23 points down to make it interesting in the final minutes.
Dallas had already blown a 23-point lead in the final 13 minutes in the first round at Portland, and led by 22 with 17 minutes to go this time.
Even with Nowitzki struggling, the Mavericks leaned on the big German with the Thunder closing the gap. Nowitzki got the ball on 10 of 11 possessions and scored just three times, but it was enough to keep Oklahoma City at bay.
Shawn Marion also scored 18, while Kidd and Terry each chipped in 13. Tyson Chandler had 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
Oklahoma City fell behind by as many as 23 after a dreadful start, and they didn’t get much better for a while. The Thunder had made only 10 of their 41 shots when Dallas extended their lead to 58-36 by scoring the first six points after halftime.
Harden — the bench star with 23 points in Game 2 — started a rally by driving for a layup and then taking an elbow from Chandler to draw a technical foul. That started a burst of eight straight points to get the Thunder within 65-52, the closest they had been since the end of the first quarter.
Westbrook continued the comeback in the fourth by exploiting a matchup against J.J. Barea to get to the rim and the foul line repeatedly.
The rally fizzled after that, though, and the Mavericks now hold the advantage going into Game 4 at Oklahoma City.