Russell Westbrook scored 29 points and NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant added 26 to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder over defending champions the Dallas Mavericks 102-99 on Monday in their NBA playoff game.
The final eight Thunder points came from the free-throw line as the hosts held off the Mavericks down the stretch to seize a 2-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference best-of-seven series. Game 3 is scheduled for tomorrow in Dallas.
“We just came out and won with our hearts,” Westbrook said. “Definitely we did a good job of getting good stops. That is what got us the victory.”
Durant struggled from the field, making only five-of-17 shots, but he went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“He’s a scorer,” Westbrook said of Durant. “He is the best scorer in the league. He has been doing it for us all season long and he is going to continue to do it for us.”
James Harden added 15 points for Oklahoma City, going 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points to lead the Mavericks, the German star going 10-of-19 from the field, but perfect in 11 attempts from the free-throw line.
Nowitzki scored 20 points in the first half when Dallas began a fightback. The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, but rallied within 57-50 at halftime and 79-77 entering the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Westbrook and Derek Fisher put the Thunder ahead 92-88, but Nowitzki followed with a three-point play on a layup and free throw to pull Dallas back within a point.
Durant and Dallas’ Jason Terry exchanged baskets, then the Thunder’s Kendrick Perkins and Nowitzki exchanged free throws, leaving the Thunder ahead 96-95 with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left.
Vince Carter connected on a bank shot to give the Mavericks a 97-96 lead, but Durant hit two free throws after being fouled by Terry with 50 seconds to play and Harden hit two more free throws with 25 seconds remaining after being fouled by Shawn Marion to give the Thunder a 100-97 lead.
Terry made a driving layup with 20 seconds remaining to pull Dallas within a point, but the Mavericks were forced to foul again to stop the clock and Harden sank two more free throws for a 102-99 lead with 15 seconds remaining.
Terry missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game, but Carter grabbed the rebound and threw it back to him for one final chance, which bounced off the rim at the final buzzer to give Oklahoma City the victory.