(Sports Network) – The Western Conference finals will resume tonight in Oklahoma City, as the Thunder host the Dallas Mavericks in the pivotal Game 3.
Kevin Durant got plenty of help from the bench on Thursday when OKC topped the Mavs, 106-100, in Big D to even the series at a game apiece.
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 as Oklahoma City swiped homecourt advantage in the set.
"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, including an NBA record 24 straight in Game 1 on Tuesday,
The loss was Dallas’ first at American Airlines Center this postseason and snapped the club’s franchise record seven-game postseason win streak.
Tyson Chandler pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds but scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, while Jason Kidd totaled 13 points and seven assists for Dallas.
"We really never got into rhythm offensively," Mavs guard J.J. Barea said. "We started strong but didn’t keep it going. They did a good job defensively."
Despite scoring 18 points in the first three quarters, Russell Westbrook did not play in the fourth for the Thunder as head coach Scott Brooks went unconventional by sticking with his reserves in crunch time.
"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."
Westbrook did not reveal any hostility after watching the deciding quarter from the bench, after all Oklahoma City became the first NBA team to get at least 50 points from the bench in a road playoff win since Cleveland turned the trick in Washington back in May of 2006.
"Not when we’re winning. I’m good," Westbrook said. "I think as a team we did a good job of staying together."
Westbrook remained calm at practice Sunday.
"He’s [Brooks} the head coach and he makes the decisions on the floor, and he made the best one yesterday," the All-Star said. "My main focus is we got this far because the team is doing well, not if I’m doing good or bad."
The Mavs, meanwhile, hope Game 2 serves as a bit of a wake up call.
"We didn’t deserve to win last night," Chandler said on Sunday. "I’m not going to say a loss is ever good because I never like to lose. It doesn’t do well for my sleep pattern. But you know, sometimes you need to get hit on the chin and get woke up, and last night they hit us on the chin, and hopefully that woke us up.
"We fooled ourselves in the first game because we outscored them so much, we felt like we’ll just throw the ball in to Dirk and watch. "But we can’t do that. We’ve got to play basketball."
Dallas won two of three over Oklahoma City in the regular season. Interestingly, the Mavs won both games in OKC while the Thunder took the lone contest in north Texas. Nowitzki, however, didn’t play in the Thunder win.
The teams have met just twice in the postseason when OKC was based in Seattle but haven’t squared off since 1987. In 1984, Dallas took a first round set while the Sonics returned the favor in ’87.
Game 4 of the series will also be in Oklahoma City on Monday.