Another tension-filled game didn’t finish in the Dallas Mavericks’ favor again on Saturday night.
Enes Kanter came off the bench to score a career playoff-high 28 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks 119-108 in front of a sellout crowd of 20,516 at American Airlines Center.
The Thunder took a commanding 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
Game 5 is 7 p.m. Monday in Oklahoma City, and only nine teams in NBA history have battled back to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-1. But that’s the unfortunate situation the Mavs find themselves in after they couldn’t get their share of rebounds, couldn’t get their share of second-chance points, and couldn’t overcome their manpower shortage.
In what may have been the final game of the season at AAC, the Mavs got off to another slow start and effectively never led in any of the two home games they’ve played thus far in this series.
“I told all our guys — we’ve got a lot of guys banged up — the fact that they’re playing is meaningful,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re a fighting franchise and we’re going to fight through this thing all the way through it.
“We just believe there’s some things we can do better to give ourselves a chance to get back here for Game 6, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
If the Mavs are able to do what they did in Game 2 — win another game in Oklahoma City — they’ll have to do it without point guard Deron Williams. Just 40 seconds into Saturday’s contest, Williams ran into the scorer’s table while chasing a ball that went out of bounds.
Williams grimaced, and then with the game only a minute and 29 seconds old, he hobbled to the locker room and never returned after aggravating his left abdominal strain.
“I think he’s done for the year,” Carlisle said. “That’s what I think. I don’t expect him to play in Game 5.”
The Mavs also lost backup center Salah Mejri in the third quarter with a strained hip flexor shortly after he blocked a pair of shots.
Meanwhile, the game consisted of three technical fouls — one each against OKC’s Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and one against Mejri. And Thunder superstar Kevin Durant was ejected from the game with a Flagrant Type 2 foul with 50.6 seconds remaining after his hard foul on rookie Justin Anderson around the head.
As if that wasn’t ugly enough, less than a minute into the second quarter, Mejri went chasing for a loose ball that landed in the hands of OKC guard Anthony Morrow, who was sitting on the bench. As Mejri was attempting to get the ball from Morrow, Westbrook intervened from the end of the bench, and J.J. Barea and Ibaka also joined in.
In a matter of seconds, Mavs coaches and AAC security and the three referees were all near the Thunder bench trying to restore order.
Later on in the game, Ibaka was assessed a foul after popping Dirk Nowitzki in the face. Carlisle, though, said he wasn’t going to comment on the extra curricular activities.
The Mavs trailed 33-18 after the first quarter, 57-48 at the half and never got closer than seven points in the second half. Westbrook had 12 of his 25 points and five of his 15 assists in the third quarter when OKC outrebounded the Mavs 12-1.
“Hey look, they’ve got two superstar players,” Carlisle said. “I thought we played them a lot better, obviously, tonight than we did in Game 3.
“There’s no team playing harder than us right now. I’m really am proud of the way the guys have competed and we just got to keep doing that on Monday.”