OKLAHOMA CITY — One bounce. That's how close the Mavericks came to stealing Game 1 of their first round NBA playoff series against the Thunder.
Instead, the Mavs left staggered by another knockout blow from Thunder star Kevin Durant. He lofted a jumper over Sean Marion's outstretched hand, it hit the front left part of the rim, and bounced in with a second-and-a-half left.
Final score: 99-98. Thunder rolls to a 1-0 series lead.
"You know, Durant made a tough pull up there," said Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. "We played him as well as you can."
That's twice now Durant has broken Maverick hearts. He buried a long 3-pointer to beat Dallas at the buzzer when the two teams played in the regular season here in late January.
"We were in a great position tonight... just didn't finish it off," said Mavs guard Jason Terry.
Dallas had a chance to inject some doubt into an Oklahoma City team that's still on the rise, but must prove it can get it done against the league's best. On this night, the young guns were able to pull it out and the Mavs failed to connect when they needed it most down the stretch.
Dallas coughed up a 7-point lead with 3 minutes and change left. It's not what you expected from the defending champs, but Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle refused to let the frustration make him forget the positives he saw in a solid performance from his team.
"We're going to keep coming at these guys, trust me," Carlisle said. "We have a tough-minded team. We have a locker room full of champions, and these guys have big hearts. We put ourselves in a good position tonight and we just didn't get it done, and it's on us... it's on us. But we will not be deterred; we have to keep coming back at these guys. That's what we have to do."
"We'll see another situation like this in the series, mark my words," Terry added. "Next time we'll be victorious."
Bring it on.