Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals eventually went to the Dallas Mavericks, a hard-fought 93-87 win. But the mere fact that it was hard-fought was a surprise: Dallas had played a near-perfect game for three-plus quarters, and yet, the Thunder still made the Mavericks sweat late.
Russell Westbrook carried Oklahoma City early in the fourth quarter, and had 14 points in the frame, but it was the Mavericks that kept the Thunder in the game.
Dallas made its fair share of seeming daggers — a Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway from the foul line, a Jason Terry pull-up from nine feet — but the Mavericks missed just enough free throws and committed just enough poorly timed turnovers to keep things close, but kept the miscues just rare enough to maintain a lead of more than one possesion at all times.
On this night, three quarters of grade-A basketball and one C-plus period were enough for Dallas, which got 18 points each from Nowitzki and Shawn Marion and 13 each from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. It helped that the Thunder made just one of 17 threes, and that Durant made only seven of his 22 shots.
But Dallas could have blown out the Thunder; through three quarters, they certainly had ample opportunity. That Oklahoma City fought back, even only to the point of making a lead precarious, is evidence that this series may have a few more classic rounds.