Thunder hold on to take two-game edge on defending champs

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma City Thunder protected its home court.
Despite a second poor shooting night from Kevin Durant, the Thunder notched a 102-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Durant scored 26 points on 5-of-17 shooting and had a game-high seven turnovers. However, he made 14 of 16 free throws to help the Thunder go 37-for-39 at the foul line and eke out the win.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas.
"It has become a rivalry," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said after seeing the first two games of this Western Conference finals rematch get decided by a combined four points.
Russell Westbrook scored a team-high 29 points for the Thunder. James Harden had 15 points, Kendrick Perkins scored 13 and Derek Fisher had 11.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki led all players with 31 points. Forward Shawn Marion scored 15, and Delonte West and Jason Terry added 13 apiece. Jason Kid had 10 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Durant made two free throws with 50.4 seconds remaining to give the Thunder the lead for good after being shoved out of bounds by Jason Terry after catching an inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds left on the shot clock. After Nowitzki missed a baseline fadeaway, Harden pushed the Thunder's lead to 100-97 with 25.5 seconds remaining on a pair of foul shots.
Terry scored a driving layup to bring the Mavs back within one, but Harden again sank a pair of free throws to up the Thunder's lead to three.
Terry missed two potential game-tying 3-pointers on Dallas' final possession.
"There's some interesting things going on. It's just tight. Seriously," Marion said. "It's going down to the last possession. Unfortunately for us, we didn't catch a break."
The Mavs pulled within 79-77 heading into the fourth quarter behind sharp and steady foul shooting. Dallas baited Oklahoma City into five fouls in the first 3 minutes, 10 seconds of the third quarter, landing the Mavs in the bonus for the rest of the period. After making 11 of 13 free throws in the first half, Dallas made 10 of 10 in the third quarter.
With the Thunder seeking to take control of the series, and the Mavericks looking to atone for a fourth-quarter collapse in Game 1, bad blood brewed and tempers flared early as both teams continued the emotional battle.
The end result was Nowitzki and Perkins being called for a double technical foul after exchanging shoves with 5:04 remaining in the first quarter. The brief fracas started after Nowitzki took exception to a shot to the head by Serge Ibaka following a jump shot 23 seconds earlier. When the Thunder gained possession, Perkins threw an elbow that went uncalled while attempting to back down Nowitzki. After passing out, Perkins and Nowitzki then got tangled up while going for a rebound, and that's when the physicality escalated and emotions boiled over.
"I saw it live," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I couldn't truthfully sit up here and say I knew exactly what happened. It's an intense game. That's what you want from both teams. We're playing against one of the best teams. Both teams are physical."
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was less diplomatic.
"The dirty (expletive) has got to stop," Carlisle said. "We don't want anybody to get hurt out there either way."
Once play finally resumed, the Thunder took control. Oklahoma City ended the first quarter on a 9-0 run before using the start of the second quarter to increase the surge to 19-3 and turn a 24-23 deficit into a 42-26 advantage.
The Thunder went on to lead by as many as 16 in the first half before Dallas answered with a 17-4 spurt to pull within three. At halftime, the Thunder led 57-50, with Dallas getting back in it behind 14 second-quarter points by Nowitzki.
"It was a big win," Westbrook said. "A lot of guys stepped up tonight, especially on the defensive end. We got defensive rebounds, getting loose balls, and that is what the playoffs are all about, toughness."
NOTES: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said before the game that backup point guard Rodrigue Beaubois could see more minutes as the series continues. Beaubois didn't play in Game 1 but made his first appearance with 5:48 remaining in the second quarter of Game 2. "He's ready to play. It's possible. If the situation presents itself, he'll be in there," Carlisle said. "It's one of the first times we've had all our guards healthy in a while." ... Dallas' regular center, Brendan Haywood, did not start the second half. He was replaced by reserve Ian Mahinmi and did not check in for the third quarter until the 5:35 mark. ... After its bench was outscored 39-19 in Game 1, the Thunder's bench outscored Dallas' 32-28 Monday night.

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