This is beginning to sound like a broken record.
The Dallas Mavericks play a game in Oklahoma City. The game gets close, tensions are high, nerves are frazzled, and somehow the Oklahoma City Thunder find a way to emerge with the win.
The same scenario happened for the fourth time in this city between the Mavs and Thunder. And the results were the same – a Thunder victory.Russell Westbrook tallied 29 points and the thunder squeezed past the Mavs again on Monday, 102-99, in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. The win enabled Oklahoma City to take a commanding 2-0 lead in this bets-of-seven series.
Games 3 and 4 will be played at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
The Mavs kept knocking at the door Monday, but never could quite get it open during critical stages of a game that was marred by a first-quarter dustup between forward Dirk Nowitzki and Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.
Jason Terry missed two three-point baskets in the final 3.9 seconds and the defending NBA champs went home needing a win to get in this series.
“I thought one of them would have gone in,’’ said Terry, who scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. “I had two shots at it, but it didn’t go in.’’
Because Terry’s final two shots didn’t go in, and because the Mavs haven’t been able to solve whatever it is the Thunder are doing to them, their chances of repeating as NBA champs are getting slimmer by the game.
“We’ve got to win one to get in the series,’’ Terry said. “We’re not even in the series yet.
“These are one-possession games. It’s going to be like that the whole series, so we’ll go home and we’ll see what happens.’’
The Mavs battled back from a 16-point deficit (46-30) and last led, 97-96, when Vince Carter hit a short jumper with 2:17 left. From there, Jason Kidd turned the ball over on a pass intended for Shawn Marion and Nowitzki missed a wide open three-pointer on the left wing.
Kevin Durant hit two free throws with 50.4 seconds to put the Thunder up for good at 98-97 with 50.4 seconds to go. Durant was fouled by Terry on the inbounds pass after Oklahoma City was bringing the ball inbounds with only 2.6 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Nowitzki then missed from the baseline with less than 30 seconds left, and James Harden’s two free throws padded the OKC lead to 100-97.
Terry scored on a layup with 20.8 seconds left, then Harden added two more free throws with 15.6 seconds left to set the stage for Terry’s last two three-pointers.
Counting Saturday’s 99-98 loss to OKC in the series opener, these were certainly two winnable games for the Mavs that got away from them down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the game got chippy early when Nowitzki and Perkins were jostling for position and drew double technical fouls. The play was so physical that coach Rick Carlisle ended up on the floor, and Perkins had to be restrained by assistant coach Maurice Cheeks as he was exchanging unpleasant words with Carlisle.
“It’s two teams playing hard,’’ said Nowitzki, who poured in a game-high 31 points. “I think they really came out at us early and we had to respond physically.
“I think the play was nothing. He tried to bully me and I bullied back a little bit, talked a bunch of stuff and moved on.’’
The Mavs may have moved on, but they’re not moving in the right direction. So far, Dallas has lost all four games played in this building this season by a total of 10 points.
“We just haven’t made enough plays,’’ Carlisle said. “They’ve made one more play than we have in both games and that’s how playoff basketball is.
“As my good friend Ron Washington [the Texas Rangers manager] would say, ‘That’s how baseball goes sometimes.’ You have to give them credit for what they’re doing.’’
The Thunder is beating the Mavs at a game the Mavs used to beat a lot of folks at last season. Usually, the Mavs walked off the court with close victories and balls bouncing their way at crucial points of the games, but none of that has happened in this series.
“We were really just a couple of bounces away from being up 2-0,’’ Nowitzki said. “So it’s tough and frustrating, but we are going to keep coming.
“We aren’t going to lie down. We are going to make them earn it.’’
In addition to Westbrook, the Thunder got 26 points from Durant, 15 from Harden, 13 form Perkins and 11 from Derek Fisher.
Besides Nowitzki and Terry, Marion tallied 15 points, Delonte West scored 13 and Jason Kidd had 10. But none of that mattered for the Mavs, who shot 41.8 percent from the field.
“We did a good job in fighting back and we’ve got to figure out why we were down 16,’’ Terry said. “Just shake it off.
“Again, we will be in this position real soon. We’ve got a lot of basketball left in us and we’ve got to win one to get in the series.’’
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760