OKLAHOMA CITY -- The kids have learned how to close.
"It’s been a pattern with them," Mavericks guard Jason Terry. "They’ve played probably the most close games all year long whether it was with us or somebody else and so it’s just their style and they know how to get it done."
The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly won Game 1 of this first-round best-of-7 series with style. Kevin Durant hit the game winner with 1.4 seconds to go. The soft jumper from just beyond the free throw line hit front iron, bounced back and dropped in. It was Durant's second buzzer-beater of the season against Dallas and the Thunder's third time in four wins to pull the game out in crunch time.
Jet's right. It is a pattern for a Thunder team that was criticized in the West finals last season for not being able to close and still hears about it. OKC won its sixth game of the season by three or fewer points to move to 6-4 in those games. The Mavs dropped to 7-9 in such games with two of those losses coming to the Thunder.
"We came up with those bounces [last year] and we were the ones on top," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Too many times in close games, I think we have a losing record in those games, it's tough. It's definitely as tough a loss as you can get."
If the Mavs hope to even the series on Monday and eventually win it, they'll have to figure out quickly how to regain their late-game mojo, both getting stops defensively and executing on the offensive end. Terry says there are more fantastic finishes coming.
"It’s always been like this with these guys and it’s going to continue to be like that," Terry said. "I expect us to come out and put up a championship performance and come out and be the aggressor."
Here are three more areas of interest heading into Sunday's day of rest:
1. Stopping Serge: The Thunder's explosive power forward had a huge Game 1 with 22 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots. His two and-1s in the final 1:47 of the game got OKC within 94-92 and game it the lead 97-96 with 53.9 seconds to play. Ibaka was 9-of-12 from the field with six dunks, a layup and a 3-point buzzer-beater to end the first half. Several dunks came when his defender helped on a driving Durant, leaving Ibaka free to catch the dish and soar for the dunk.
2. Ailing West: Delonte West spent Friday night and Saturday morning vomiting, but he managed to get himself together enough to play in Game 1. He played 27 minutes, but clearly he did not look in peak condition. He had an awful time early trying to stay with Russell Westbrook, who was nailing his mid-range jumper. West was just 2-of-5 from the floor for five points, including a big 3-pointer from the corner in the fourth quarter. He had two assists and a bad turnover. He acknowledged that he wasn't involved much in the game. That will have to change in Game 2 and the Mavs should get a more spirited effort from West as his body recovers from the stomach ailment.
3. Dirk's turnovers: Is Nowitzki becoming turnover-prone in crunch time? It was an issue in a couple of games late in the season and his two turnovers in the final 90 seconds of Game 1 were obviously crucial. Nowitzki had three of his game-high six turnovers in the fourth quarter and five in the second half. Several of his turnovers came as he tried to drive into the lane, but was swarmed by Thunder defenders.