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OKC Thunder: James Harden leads Thunder to win, first-round sweep of Mavericks

James Harden scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City rallied for a 103-97 victory Saturday night to sweep the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks out of the playoffs.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 5, 2012

Miami in 2007 was swept in the first round by Chicago. The Philadelphia Warriors in 1957 were swept out of the first round by the Syracuse Nationals. Chicago in 1999 and Boston in 1970 failed to qualify for the postseason.

The Thunder notched the 152nd sweep in playoff history and just the 60th in a seven-game series. “They have a certain look in their eye right now,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. “Not just that they belong but this could be their time.”

James Harden led the comeback by scoring 15 of his team-high 29 points in the fourth quarter. He also dished out three assists, all leading to 3-pointers, to contribute to nine more points in the final period. The final helper, a feed to Kevin Durant, capped a 20-7 run that lifted the Thunder from an 81-68 hole and into an 88-all tie. Harden scored or assisted on 18 points during the run.

Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki responded with a three-point play to put Dallas ahead 91-88with 5:47 remaining. But by then, the wheels carrying Dallas already had gone from wobbly to wrecked.

The Thunder answered with a 10-2 surge over the next 3 minutes, 17 seconds to take a 98-93 lead with 2 1/2 minutes left to play. Four players scored during the spurt, with Harden leading the way with four points.

Harden later hammered the final nail in the Mavs' coffin with a driving finger roll with 10.2 seconds remaining to again give the Thunder a five-point cushion.

“In many ways, this was a mirror image of last year's series, with the only difference being we weren't able to get a game,” Carlisle said. “I think five of those games last year could have gone either way. And three of these four could have gone either way, and they were the ones who got it done. So you have to tip your hat and give them credit. They're going to be tough to beat.”