by Brian Floyd

As the horn sounded to signal the end of the first quarter in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, it looked like the Dallas Mavericks were on their way to steamrolling the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavs were outstanding to open the game as they took a 27-12 lead into the second quarter. Even at the half, Dallas was sitting pretty, up 52-36 and in complete control. But in the waning moments of the game, that early lead was needed as the Thunder came storming back.

Dallas’ first half was just about picture-perfect. The Mavs assisted on 14 of 21 made baskets in the half as the team scored with crisp passing to find open looks. It was superb team basketball on the offensive end and excellent team defense on the other end of the floor.

But the Thunder made a run and, somehow, made it a game. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Mavs still held a double-digit lead and looked to be on their way to an easy win. Led by Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City came roaring back, cutting the Mavs lead to single-digits and making it interesting, if only for a moment.

With the game in the balance, Dallas turned to Dirk Nowitzki once again and he came through in the clutch. An off-balance runner in the lane with just over five minutes to go stopped the bleeding and another jumper with under a minute to go pushed the Dallas lead back to six, which ended up being the final margin.

The Mavs escaped with a six-point win, 93-87, that shouldn’t have been that close in the first place. Whether it was Dallas’ complacency or Oklahoma City’s urgency, a game that was a blowout turned into a tight one in the fourth quarter. The end result was a 2-1 series lead for the Mavs after a much-needed road win in Oklahoma City.

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