Thunder rally to complete 1st-round sweep of Mavs

Associated Press Modified: May 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm •  Published: May 5, 2012
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DALLAS (AP) — Down by 13 points with less than 10 minutes remaining, youthful Oklahoma City could have easily have been content knowing they could go home for a Game 5 still needing to win only one more game.

The Thunder, with their 20-something All-Star duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, are instead going home to wait and see who they will play next.

And it was their other emerging star who led the way.

James Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, including nine in a 12-0 run, and the Thunder rallied for a 103-97 victory Saturday night to complete a first-round series sweep of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

"I got into attack mode. I was determined to make plays," Harden said.

"He was phenomenal," said Durant, who scored 24 points. "His pick and roll game is unreal. It's fun to watch, fun to be part of. The best part about our team is that we have a lot of guys who can play off each other, and we complement each other well."

Dallas led 86-73 after Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer with 9:44 left before the Harden-fueled surge over 3 minutes when the only other score was a 3-poitner by Durant.

Oklahoma City finally took the lead, and kept it, after Westbrook stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and passed to Serge Ibaka for a two-handed slam that made it 92-91 with 5:17 left.

"This goes without saying, I'm excited we won the series," coach Scott Brooks said. "James had an incredible game. We ran pick and rolls at the angles. ... He was making plays for himself or our shooters."

Durant had 11 rebounds, while Westbrook and Fisher had 12 points each.

Oklahoma City plays the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver. The Lakers lead that first-round series 2-1 going into Game 4 on Sunday night in Denver.

It was the first four-game postseason sweep for the Oklahoma City franchise since 1996, when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics and swept the Houston Rockets in the second round.

Dallas is the second defending champion in five years to be swept in the first round. Miami lost in four games to Chicago in 2007, after beating the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.

Dallas had never been swept in a best-of-seven series. And the Mavericks hadn't lost four playoff games in a row since 2006 against the Heat.

But now they are the oldest team in the NBA, and vastly changed from last year's championship squad.

"It was an up and down year," said Nowitzki, the 11-time All-Star who had 34 points. "We weren't consistent enough throughout to be an elite team."

Even when Harden bobbled the ball after Oklahoma City took the lead for good, Fisher ended up with it and drove for a layup to make it 96-91. Fisher, a late-season addition to the young Thunder, won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Nowitzki then had a shot that hit the rim a couple of times before falling out, among several near misses for him down the stretch.

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