Dallas, TX (Sports Network) - Kevin Durant didn't need to carry Oklahoma City in Game 2, as the league's leading scorer got plenty of help from the Thunder bench to beat the Dallas Mavericks, 106-100, and even the Western Conference finals.
Durant ended with 24 points and was backed by James Harden's 23, Eric Maynor's 13 and Nick Collison's defense on Dirk Nowitzki to send the series back to Oklahoma City tied, 1-1. Game 3 will take place on Saturday.
"I was just trying to play off those guys. They really won the game for us," said a humble Durant, whose 40 points went for naught in Game 1.
Nowitzki, fresh off an incredible 48-point effort in the series opener, netted 29 on 10-of-17 shooting, though he missed a key free throw late in the game after making 39 in a row from the foul line.
The loss was Dallas' first at American Airlines Center this postseason and snapped the club's seven-game win streak.
Despite scoring 18 points in the first three quarters, Russell Westbrook did not play in the fourth as head coach Scott Brooks went with his reserves in crunch time.
Westbrook did not reveal any hostility after watching the deciding quarter from the bench.
"Not when we're winning. I'm good," Westbrook said. "I think as a team we did a good job of staying together."
While Tuesday's showdown was a free throw clinic -- the teams went a combined 71-of-79 from the line -- Thursday's contest was a testament to depth and unconventional coaching decisions.
Westbrook was pulled after committing his fourth turnover and first foul in the final minute of the third quarter. After two Jason Kidd free throws gave the Mavs a 76-73 lead, Harden hinted at a sign of things to come by draining a three-pointer while taking contact from Jason Terry with 7.5 seconds left.
His free throw yielded a one-point advantage, and the Thunder never trailed from there, nor did they go back to their All-Star point guard.
"I thought [Maynor] did a good job. [Westbrook] is an incredible player. He's our starting point guard, but we weren't getting a lot of things done," commented Brooks.
"We had a good lead, playing good defense, we couldn't mess that chemistry up," explained Durant. "Coach [Brooks] made a good decision ... Russell understands that. From a leader that's what you like to see."
A major reason they had that good lead was Harden, who began his 10-point fourth quarter with a three and hit another from long range for a 91-87 lead with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.
J.J. Barea, an unlikely catalyst for the Mavs throughout the playoffs, answered with a deep make of his own, but the Thunder responded with 11 of the next 13 points to take a double-digit lead.
In a span of three Mavs possessions during the pivotal stretch, Collison blocked Nowitzki at the basket and picked the German sharpshooter's pocket near the foul line.
The result of the latter turnover saw Harden connect on a long jumper with the shot clock winding down, capping the flurry for a 102-92 cushion with 3:15 remaining.
A pair of Nowitzki baskets and two DeShawn Stevenson free throws pulled Dallas within four with just over a minute to play, but that was as close as it got.
Collison made up for a pair of missed free throws on the previous possession by hitting 2-of-2 for a 104-98 lead. Then he fouled Nowitzki shooting a three the next time down.
Nowitzki, who set an NBA record by hitting all 24 of his free throws on Tuesday, failed to make it a one-possession game when he missed his second attempt.
The Mavs, down 104-100, still had a chance by forcing a shot clock violation with 12.7 seconds to go, but Peja Stojakovic missed a quick three, and the Thunder held on from there.
"We really never got into rhythm offensively," Barea said. "We started strong but didn't keep it going. They did a good job defensively."
The final stanza was much different than the first, when the Thunder came out sluggish.
Kidd and Tyson Chandler hooked up on back-to-back alley-oops to end a string of 10 straight Mavericks points midway through the opening frame.
The dunks gave the hosts a 21-11 lead, and Dallas led by as many as 11 before the Thunder awoke from their slumber with a rare highlight-reel take to the hole by Durant. Best known for his perimeter prowess, Durant drove the right side of the lane and challenged Brendan Haywood, skying over the seven-footer for a "slam" -- he released the ball just short of the rim -- while getting knocked to the ground.
Effectively sparked, Oklahoma City eventually trimmed its deficit to 31-26 by the end of the first and scored 10 consecutive points early in the second to take a 40-35 lead on a Daequan Cook three-pointer three minutes in.
The teams traded punches from there, and Westbrook drained a three in the final minute of the half for a 59-57 cushion at the break.
The Mavs did not allow 100 or more points in any of their first 10 playoff games. They have done so in both games this series...The Thunder also lost Game 1 of their quarterfinal series with the Grizzlies before pulling it out in seven games. They have not lost two in a row this postseason...Chandler pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half...Kidd totaled 13 points and seven assists...After turning the ball over 13 times in the first three quarters, Oklahoma City had just two in the final 12 minutes...The Thunder shot 56 percent overall, compared to Dallas' 44 percent performance.