Thunder's Season Ends After Another Heartbreaking Loss
Thursday, May 26th 2011, 12:25 pm
News On 6
Originally Published: May 25, 2011 11:10 PM CDTCorey DeMoss
Oklahoma Sports Staff Writer
DALLAS – For the second game in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder carried a lead into the fourth quarter. And for the second game in row, they let it get away.
The Dallas Mavericks went on another run late in the final frame to elminate the deficit, and handed the Thunder a 100-96 loss to bring Oklahoma City’s season to a heartbreaking end.
The Thunder led 76-72 going into the fourth quarter and held a two-point lead with only 75 seconds left in the game. But after a controversial no-call on a rebound under the Thunder basket, Dirk Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer to give the Mavericks the lead.
On the ensuing possession, the Thunder lost control of the ball and Shawn Marion ended up with a breakaway dunk that he converted into a 3-point play that gave Dallas a four-point cushion. The Mavericks carried that lead through the rest of the game.
Nowitzki finished with 26 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Marion added another 26 for his best performance of the series, and 14 of his points came in the fourth.
Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant was held mostly in check for the night, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting. But Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 31 points, and James Harden added 23 points and six assists off the bench.
The Thunder was left with a dubious sense of d?j? vu after surrendering an even larger lead in Game 4 at home. In that contest, a 17-2 run to end the fourth quarter eliminated a 15-point deficit in only five minutes and forced overtime.
In Game 5, the Thunder led by as much as eight points in the fourth quarter. But an eerily similar run of 17-6 gave the Mavericks the lead they didn’t surrender.
The Thunder’s year comes to an end after a 55-win season, its best output since moving to Oklahoma City. It remains one of the youngest teams in the NBA, as well as one of its most promising up-and-coming franchises.
The Mavericks now will advance to the NBA Finals, where they will await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. The Heat lead that series 3-1, and one more win would force a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
That year marked the last time the Mavericks advanced to the finals, and was most memorable for their collapse. Dallas won the first two games of the series before losing the next four in a row to give the Heat the NBA title. The Mavericks have never won the NBA Championship in franchise history.