When the game looked precarious, both stood tall. Westbrook scored five straight points to forge an 80-80 tie with 6:13 left.
The Mavs zipped back in front by seven with three minutes left, but two Ibaka three-point plays changed momentum, the latter giving OKC a 97-96 lead with 53.9 seconds left. Both came off assists from Durant, who seems to realize that his passes can be as lethal as his shots.
“Just trying to make the right play,” Durant said. “That's what it's all about in the playoffs. Playing together. We don't care who scores.”
The Thunder is considered a top-heavy team, with Durant and Westbrook and often James Harden dominating the scoring. But the Thunder was a missed Harden foul shot from having four 20-point scorers Saturday night.
Get that kind of production, and a team can live with its biggest superstar missing 17 shots. Durant had 25 points but needed 27 shots to get them.
Don't expect that number to change a lot in this series. Dallas knows how to defend Durant. Proved it last year; proved it Saturday night.
But Durant's teammates are better this year. Westbrook is better. Harden is better. Ibaka is a lot better.
And now the Thunder is where it's never been before. Ahead of the Mavericks in a playoff series.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.