DALLAS – Getting off to good start doesn't always result in victory, but it sure beats the alternative.
Poor starts were a common denominator in the Thunder's 4-1 playoff series loss to the Dallas Mavericks in last year's Western Conference Finals.
OKC began this year's first-round series against the Mavericks by falling behind early in Game 1 before slowly recovering for a 99-98 victory on a game-winning 15-footer from Kevin Durant.
Before a sellout crowd 20,640 on Thursday night in Game 3 at American Airlines Center, the Thunder jumped out to a 28-13 lead, eventually pushed the lead to 26 on two occasions and cruised to a 95-79 victory despite being outscored 10-0 to end the game.
The wire-to-wire romp gives OKC a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series that continues with Game 4 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in AAC.
The first quarter was a frantic display that included hot shooting from a previously ice-cold Kevin Durant – who had 15 points, shooting 5 for 7 from the field and 3 for 4 from 3-point range – and Serge Ibaka, who went 3 for 3 for six points.
There also were two technical fouls called by official Marc Davis. One was against Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki and the other against Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who stormed onto the court in protest for the second straight game.
“There were some distractions there,” Carlisle admitted. “Look, there's been some frustrations with the officials, but we're not going to make it about the officials.
“It's a long game, and I thought we came out of that well and got it to six (32-26) at the end of the first.”
In the second quarter, however, the Mavs shot just 4 for 16 (.250) and committed six turnovers and OKC stretched its lead to 50-41 at intermission.
“That really hurt us,” Carlisle said. “We never really recovered from it.”
After the Mavs' 4-0 start early in the third quarter, the contest soon morphed into a rout and the Thunder's quick start was not wasted.
Here are the beginnings to each playoff game against the Mavericks the last two seasons:
Game 1 – Dallas leads 10-3 (8:40) in first quarter; outscores OKC 35-21 in second quarter and wins 121-112.
Game 2 – Dallas leads 21-11 (5:12) and 28-17 (2:03) in first quarter; OKC comes back and wins 106-100.
Game 3 – Dallas leads 27-10 (26.7) in first quarter; 35-12 (10:08) in second quarter and wins 93-87.
Game 4 – OKC leads 18-8 (7:54) and 26-15 (3:30) in first quarter; leads 99-84 (5:06) in fourth quarter, but loses 112-105 in overtime.
Game 5 – Dallas leads 8-2 (9:47) and 12-6 (7:34) in first quarter and wins 100-96.
Game 1 – Dallas leads 23-15 (2:59) in first quarter, but OKC wins 99-98 on Durant jumper with 1.5 seconds left.
Game 2 – OKC scores last nine points of first quarter to lead 32-24 at end of first quarter, goes on to win 102-99.
Game 3 – OKC leads 16-7 (7:09) and 28-13 (2:16) in first quarter en route to a 95-79 victory.