The Oklahoma City Thunder, dominant again from start to finish, had hit just about everything else.
More field goals. Way more free throws. Way, way more everything.
So why did Kevin Durant have to punk-smack Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson in the face in the final minute Saturday night?
You’re Kevin Durant. You’re a megastar. You plug Gatorade and Sprint phones and Sonic Slushes on TV.
You even raise the “Hook ’em Horns” when The Eyes of Texas begins to play.
So what was that all about?
What part of Thunder 119, Dallas Mavericks 108, got a star player who used to be one of the coolest guys in the NBA so riled?
The series heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Monday night with the Thunder firmly in command, three games to one. All three Thunder victories have been decisive. Until the final minute Saturday, all questions about the eventual winner of this series appeared moot.
Psst. Here’s a scoop:
It isn’t the pushing and the elbowing that have led to Oklahoma City leading from start to finish in each of their three victories.
It isn’t the officials.
Or the growing epidemic of Mavericks injuries.
Or any subtle dirty-play campaign that coach Rick Carlisle wants to plant in the minds of Ed Malloy and the other striped shirts.
It’s the Thunder. It’s Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka — all of them.
It’s even the OKC bench.
Leading scorer in Game 4, on a night when Durant, Westbrook and Dirk Nowitzki were all on the floor?
How about Enes Kanter, who scored 28.
The Thunder’s next playoff opponent is going to have its hands full. That is, of course, unless Durant is deemed too guilty to play.
There were 50.6 seconds remaining in Game 4 when Durant hit rookie Anderson in the face and was charged with what the NBA calls a “Flagrant 2” foul.
The NBA rules appear to somewhat dictate the disciplinary procedures for technical and flagrant fouls.
And while Durant is compiling a bit of a playoff rap sheet — the league assessed him a technical foul from New York after Game 3 — he likely will escape any suspension and merely be placed on double-secret probation.
Chill. There is no double-secret probation. I think.
Durant seemed to be reacting to another frustrating night. He was 7-for-20 shooting for 19 points. He made only 1 of 4 3-point attempts.
But the Mavericks’ hands and elbows were on him all night, as has become the tenor of play in these chippy first four games. The Thunder is a physical bunch — and highly motivated. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are short-handed and desperate.
If you’re the underdog Mavs, you can complain to the referees. Or drop hints to the assembled media. And you can wonder aloud how Dirk, on his way to a 27-point night, can go nearly 41 minutes into the game without going to the free-throw line.
But in the end, Oklahoma City is so talented, so deep, so challenging to defend that it’s no secret — or double-secret — why they’ve been the dominant team in this series.
If you’re Kevin Durant, simmer down, have a Sonic Slush.
You might want to stick around for the finish.