The journey to reach the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season just became a little tougher for the Dallas Mavericks.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 66 points and Oklahoma City completed a 4-0 season-series sweep of the Mavs with a 107-101 victory at American Airlines Center on Sunday night.
The loss dropped the Mavs to 31-35 as they try to grab the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With losses in two of their past three games, the Mavs are four games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth playoff spot. The Lakers defeated Sacramento 113-102 on Sunday night.
With just 16 games remaining, the Mavs hope to make up some ground tonight at 6:30 when they visit the Atlanta Hawks.
Counting a 4-0 sweep at the hands of Oklahoma City in the first round of last year’s playoffs, this is the 10th straight time the Mavs have lost to the Thunder.
“We’re disappointed we lost, but a couple of plays down the stretch we didn’t make,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “These guys were hitting shot after shot.
“They made some breathtaking plays and they had some lucky things happen.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs had at least one unlucky thing happen to them when the outcome was still in doubt.
After Westbrook scored on a short jumper to put OKC up 103-101 with one minute remaining, the Mavs tried to counter. But Durant blocked a desperation jumper by Mike James off a busted play, forcing a 24-second shot clock violation with 36 seconds to go.
Thabo Sefolosha then sealed it for OKC with a 15-footer from the left corner with 12.5 seconds left, giving the Thunder a 105-101 lead.
“We could have done better. They were doing a lot of switching,” Carlisle said. “We got up against the clock and didn’t do a good job. It was a tough possession.”
It was a tough night for the Mavs, who played without Shawn Marion (strained left calf) for the sixth straight game. And then Dallas lost guard Rodrigue Beaubois for an indefinite time when he sustained a fractured second metacarpal of his left hand in the second quarter.
With Durant (31 points) Westbrook (35 points) and Serge Ibaka (18 points, 16 rebounds) playing well, the Mavericks couldn’t overcome their manpower shortage.
In the meantime, Durant scored 19 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-11 shooting.
“We had Durant under control for about 75 percent of the game,” center Elton Brand said. “He just came up big and hit some big shots.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing. Our fans were here loud and proud and had the house rocking. They just played better down the stretch.”
The Thunder held a 50-49 lead at the half and was still clinging to a 73-72 lead entering the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki had scored eight of his 23 points in the third quarter, but he didn’t officially attempt any field goals in the 8:52 he played in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t do a good job [getting Nowitzki the ball]; I take responsibility for it,” Carlisle said. “A few times they fouled him before he could get a shot off.
“When they get into all of that switching and denying, sometimes other guys have got to step up and make plays, and we weren’t able to make plays. Right now we’ve got to get on a plane and we’ve got to go to Atlanta and we’ve got to put it all out there.”