In back-to-back playoff road games, the Dallas Mavericks showed convincingly they can win both early and late.
In turn, the Oklahoma City Thunder was slapped with book-end defeats with a horrendous beginning that was capped by a devastating conclusion.
In Game 3 on Saturday night, the Mavs built a 23-point lead in the second quarter. The Thunder narrowed the deficit to four within the final minute, but Dallas held steady for a 93-87 victory.
On Monday night, OKC owned a 15-point lead with less than five minutes remaining, but the Thunder was anything but steady. The Mavs closed out regulation with a 17-2 run and went on to post a 112-105 victory before a devastated sellout crowd inside Oklahoma City Arena.
Both teams showed their age. A veteran Dallas group was wise enough to realize being down 15 with less than five minutes remaining does not mean the game is over, which quickly became a harsh lesson learned for a naïve OKC team.
"Five minutes left in a game is a long time," Mavs reserve guard Jason Terry said afterward.
Interestingly enough, a Thunder squad that frequently had been fidgety at the outset of playoffs home games got off to an impressive start. OKC jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter and never trailed in regulation.
Dallas didn't take its first lead until overtime, and never lost it.
"If this loss did not hurt, there's no such thing as a loss that can hurt you," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
The Mavs now own a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals, with Game 5 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. inside American Airlines Center in Dallas. In the NBA, the team with a 3-1 lead has won the playoff series 96 percent of the time.