Just when the coals that have fueled the NBA's hottest team were finally cooling off, a courtside spectator inside Oklahoma City Arena fanned the flames and re-ignited the fire by throwing some misguided trash talk on the red-hot Mavericks.
In the end, the Mavs went home with a 103-93 win.
The fan went home before subjecting himself to the final score.
With Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki saddled with a right knee injury, it was reserve guard Jason Terry who supplied the theatrics. And the always affable Terry thoroughly enjoyed swishing shot after shot in the decisive fourth quarter to sit down and shut up the blabbermouth who took aim at him from the opening quarter.
â€œEvery arena I go to, they always pick on me,â€ Terry said. â€œI don't think it's the high socks, but I always find one or two fans that will pick on me.â€
Monday night, it was a middle-aged man who regularly sits in the first seat next to the scorer's table by the Thunder's bench. The chatter intensified when Terry missed six of his first seven shots.
â€œTerry, keep shooting. You're with us tonight,â€ Terry recalled the fan saying, enunciating every syllable as he reiterated the statement. â€œI said: â€˜Don't worry. I'm really going to keep shooting now.'â€
Terry entered the fourth quarter shooting just 1-for-9 from the field. He had two points and two fouls. The fan blurted out that fact to Terry, suggesting the shooting guard keep scoring or keep fouling.
Terry did the former.
Terry made five of eight shots in the final frame to help Dallas outscore Oklahoma City, 24-12. Terry had 11 points, including a back-breaking 3-pointer with 8:36 remaining that gave the Mavs an 86-84 lead they never relinquished. Terry then assisted on two pivotal buckets that pushed the Mavs lead to seven and then eight.
And as Terry splashed each shot through the net, he pointed to the fan and passionately rattled off a few words unsuitable for print.
â€œWhen you're having a tough night, you're looking for anything to get (you) going,â€ Terry said. â€œAnd I just used that to motivate meâ€¦ Tonight was just a tough night for me. I turned the ball over. I didn't make shots. But in the fourth quarter, I just used it as motivation.â€
Terry alone outperformed the Thunder offensively in the fourth quarter. OKC made just four of 18 shots and committed five turnovers in the final period. The Thunder's 12 points matched a season low for points in any period.
â€œWe just picked a bad time to miss shots,â€ said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
It was almost predictable.
The Thunder's 111-103 loss to the Mavs on Nov. 24 came in similar fashion. In that game, Dallas outscored OKC 36-22 in the fourth quarter. Only that time, it was Nowitzki who torched the Thunder to the tune of 17 points in the final quarter.
Nowitzki, however, rolled his right ankle as he landed following a jump shot with 9:10 remaining in the second quarter. He completed a three-point play by hitting a foul shot but immediately departed for the locker room and never returned to the game.
Dallas (24-5) also won for the 17th time in 18 games despite being without head coach Rick Carlisle, who underwent knee surgery last Wednesday.
But on this night, Terry was enough.
As teammate Caron Butler slammed the ball to the ground at the final buzzer, putting a stamp on a statement win by Dallas, Terry never got to deliver his last laugh.
The courtside seat sat empty.
â€œHe knew the game was out of control there in the last two minutes,â€ Terry said of the fan. â€œHe got out of there before I could get my parting shotâ€¦He'll see the newspaper in the morning. And he knows we got the win. That's sweet enough.â€