OKLAHOMA CITY - For the second straight game in their first round playoff series against the Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks held the lead late, but failed in late-game situations, losing 102-99.
"We're just a couple bounces away from being up 2-0," said Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks forward.
He led Dallas with 31 points, but misfired on both attempts with less than a minute-and-a-half left.
"If I hit that three at the corner, it's game time," he said. "We would have went up four. It's tough and it's frustrating, but we're going to keep coming. We're not going to lay down. If they beat us, we're going to make them earn it."
Then trailing by one with less then 30 seconds left, Nowitzki took a patented fade-away jumper from about 12 feet to try and put the Mavs back on top. A year ago, that shot would have went, but the 2011 post-season seems so much more than a year ago.
"I've made it 100 times," Nowitzki said. "It bounced, hit every part of the rim and bounced off. That's kind of the way our season's been going. They get that bounce last game and we don't get it, so that's frustrating."
"As my good friend Ron Washington would say, 'That's how baseball go,'" said Rick Carlisle, Mavericks head coach.
The Mavs vowed they would fight to the end, and showed as much on several occasions in game two. The Thunder opened a 16-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Nowitzki put the Mavs on his back, scoring 14 points in the quarter to cut the deficit to just seven at the half.
And in the first quarter, after Serge Ibaka hit Nowitzki in the face following a jumper, Nowitzki gave him a shove going back up the court.
Then, it was Nowitzki and Kendrick Perkins who got into it after jostling in the lane on a first-quarter possession. Nowitzki hit Perkins with a shoulder and he pushed back. The two squared off, but left it at that.
Carlisle and Perkins would exchange some choice words in the aftermath of the confrontation.
"He tried to bully me and I bullied back a little bit and talked about some stuff and moved on," Nowitzki said.
"It's playoff basketball," Carlisle said. "It's physical. We don't like the cheap shots when they give them, and they don't like them if we give them. That's the nature of competition. I love hard-played, clean, competitive playoff series. You throw the ball up and may the best team win."
"The dirty [expletive] has got to stop," Carlisle said. "We don't want anybody getting hurt out there, either way."