OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant's fifth consecutive basket to start Game 4, a resounding dunk that put the quick-trigger Thunder up 18-8 at the 7:24 mark. Thirty seconds later, Shawn Marion, the primary defender on Durant, took a seat to think things over.
Durant had dropped two pretty turnarounds, one on Jason Kidd, and pulled-up for a 15-footer. He was on fire and 40 points looked locked in his wheelhouse.
But after scoring 10 points in less than five minutes, he would make just four more field goals the rest of the game -- going 4-of-17 over the last 48 minutes of regulation and overtime -- and he matched his nine buckets with nine turnovers. His frustration at finding so little space to operate and a feeling that, like Dirk Nowitzki in Game 3, he wasn't getting the benefit of the whistle spilled onto his face and his body language. At one point in the third quarter, after a possession of body bumping with Marion, Thunder coach Scott Brooks had to calm Durant down during a timeout.
Later in the quarter, Durant just shoved Marion for an easy offensive call.
For a second consecutive game, Marion rose to the challenge and choked off the NBA's scoring leader. Durant still managed 29 points, but he needed 22 shot attempts and he was just 3-of-12 in the second half with six turnovers and 0-of-3 in overtime.
"When he plays that way," Mavs guard Jason Terry said of the man called The Matrix, "he's the best on-ball defender in the league."
Marion got a piece of Durant's last-gasp 3-pointer from 30 feet that remarkably sent the game into overtime.
"He had nowhere to go," Marion said.
Durant said as much: "I didn't have anything else to do. I caught the ball almost at the halfcourt line, saw three Mavericks in front of me and had three seconds on the clock. I didn't know what else to do. I tried to get a shot up. I didn't want to run into their defense and get another turnover. I didn't know what else to do. He [Marion] played good D."
Durant hit a 3-pointer with 5:05 to play for a 99-84 lead as the crowd went wild. Durant, uncharacteristically angry at the team's practice Sunday, gave a little hip-thrust celebration -- more like making as though he was securing the WBO championship belt -- and the youthful Thunder were rollicking in what looked to be an evening up of the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.
But those were the last points Durant would score as the Mavs went on to shock the Thunder and their home crowd. Marion, who has battled through some tough moments in the playoffs -- most notably an awful stretch late during Brandon Roy's heroics in Game 4 in Portland, and then the first two games of this series that prompted some tough love from teammates and coaches -- has gotten the better of Durant in both road wins.
"Trix’s defense?" said backup center Brendan Haywood, who was active and productive at both ends in Game 4. "Everybody’s going to talk about Dirk’s 40 [points], but we don’t win this game without Trix’s defense."
Marion had help. The An active Mavs defense trapped Durant up high, typically with a center, a full-bore scheme to keep the 6-9 long-limbed one out of the paint and away from rim. One time Durant get through, it was Haywood, the victim of Durant's outrageous Game 2 slam, delivering a hard playoff fouls the referees deemed worthy of being flagrant.
"We really shrunk the court. Jason Kidd was playing centerfield in the middle of the lane, Tyson was back there. Everybody was concentrating on not letting KD get to the hole."
Kidd again put his defensive chops up against Durant and came away with steal of the game with a minute left in overtime and tied at 105. Marion, logging more than 38 minutes, anchored the crew.
"It's become clear to Shawn exactly what we need from him," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "And we need just tenacity defensively. We need him to -- Durant needs to be wearing him like a suit."
Marion's certainly been in his shirt.
"I’m a competitor," Marion said. "What more do I need to say? He’s a handful. It’s hard to stop somebody who gets those shots, but I can make it harder."