DALLAS -- The Oklahoma City Thunder took a big swing and hammered the final nail into the Dallas Mavericks' coffin Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
With James Harden scoring 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, the Thunder completed a four-game sweep of the Mavs by claiming a come-from-behind 103-97 victory before a crowd of 20,533.
In kicking the final pieces of dirt on the Mavs, the Thunder made sure another organization besides the Mavs would be NBA champions this season.
"They're a great young team, and the thing that impressed me the most about them is that they have a certain look in their eye right now," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Not just that they belong, but that this could be their time."
Never miss a local story.
After the way the Thunder rallied to win a game that was going the Mavs' way, maybe it is Oklahoma City's time. After all, the Mavs led 86-73 with 9:44 left following a 3-pointer by Jason Terry, and the arena noise was unbearable.
The Thunder's 4-0 sweep marks just the second time in Mavs history that they've been swept out of a playoff series. In 1990 when the NBA still had best-of-five series, Portland swept the Mavs in three games in the first round of the playoffs.
Oklahoma City will play the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets series, which the Lakers lead 2-1.
With seemingly every member of the Mavs guarding him at one time or another, Harden kept attacking the basket until he scored 15 fourth-quarter points, one fewer than the entire Dallas team scored in the final period.
"He beat us on individual drives, he beat us on pick-and-rolls, he beat us on double teams," Carlisle said. "He just got up a head of steam and he was just great.
"We tried everything. We probably had five or six different coverages going, we had different guys guarding different guys, we had a guard guarding a big man so we could try to switch it. We needed to be better, but it was more about how good he was."
Harden scored nine points during a 15-2 rally by the Thunder that tied the game at 88-all with 6:06 left. Then he had a driving basket and a floater to put OKC up 98-93 with 2:31 remaining.
The series-clinching basket came when Harden milked the 24-second shot clock, then drove and scored for a 102-97 lead with 10.2 seconds to go.
"That was a hell of a game there for 3 1/2 quarters," said Terry, who scored 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. "They doubled us up 35-16 in the fourth. You're not going to win any ballgames like that."
The Mavericks used third-quarter runs of 17-7 and 14-7 to break loose from a 47-47 halftime tie and carry an 81-68 lead into the final period. But it all came crumbling down quickly.
"They just outplayed us tonight," guard Delonte West said.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with a game-high 34 points on 10-of-25 shooting, Jason Kidd scored 16 points to go with seven rebounds and eight assists. Ian Mahinmi added 10 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. But the Mavs made just 4 of 18 shots in the fourth period (Harden was 6 of 9 in the fourth quarter) when they also committed four of their 13 turnovers.
"I thought we had them," Terry said. "But they showed a will, they showed a great ability to make shots and make plays, and then get stops. It's sad to see it end the way it did. We have a lot of basketball left in us."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760