Dec. 29, 2011 – The Oklahoma City Thunder, by all rights, should have lost the fourth game of the season, a rematch with the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. However, the Thunder seem to be living the charmed life and, in front of a sellout crowd in Oklahoma City, the Thunder beat the Mavericks, 104-102, to move to 4-0 on the young season.
The end of the game will go down as one of the best finishes of the season, regardless of how the year plays out. With ten seconds remaining in the contest, Dallas was down by two. Kevin Durant missed a jump shot and Serge Ibaka missed two free throws to give Dallas an opening. With 1.4 seconds left on the clock, Dirk Nowitzki dished an assist to Vince Carter who hit a wide open three to put the Mavs up 102-101.
Everyone knew Kevin Durant was getting the ball. However, after Thabo Sefolosha threw the inbound pass to Durant, no one could stop him. With just one second on the clock, Durant turned and drained a picture perfect three with nothing but net as the buzzer ended the game and the Thunder left Chesapeake Arena with the win.
The shot also put Durant at 30 points for the game, the first time a player has opened a season with four straight 30-point games since Kobe Bryant did it in 2005-06.
“As a kid, of course you dream about hitting a game-winning shot in the NBA,” said Durant, who has hit two other game-winners at the buzzer in his five seasons. “It’s a dream come true.”
Overall, it was a tough game for Oklahoma City. Dallas didn’t play like a team that had not won a game since last year’s championship victory. Dirk Nowitzki finished with a double-double, with 29 points and ten rebounds, and Jason Terry added 16 with nine assists from the bench.
It was almost enough to beat a Thunder team whose star point guard, Russell Westbrook, struggled for the second game in a row. Westbrook, who went 0-for-13 the night before against Memphis, finished this game hitting 6-of-15. He ended up with 16 points and most of his hard work came in the fourth quarter.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks benched Westbrook for long stretches, his field general only playing 31 points in this game, after the young guard turned the ball over seven times in the game. However, he proved his worth at the end when Perkins stole the ball from Nowitzki and dished it to Westbrook, who hit a thunderous dunk to put the Thunder up 93-91. He then made a free throw to make it a 3-point game. He made three of his final four shots of the game.
Serge Ibaka finished with 16 points, his highest total of the season, and blocked three shots for the second game in a row. He now has nine blocks on the short season. James Harden added 15 points from the bench.
The Thunder franchise is now 4-0 for the first time since the 2002-03 season when the team was still in Seattle.
Oklahoma City’s next game is a home contest against the Phoenix Suns on New Year’s Eve.