“Our goal was to come out swinging,” Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said of Game 3. “You've got to give them credit. They threw a heck of a game at us.”
When the Thunder came out Thursday and played its best game of the series, it was a gut punch. The Mavs were staggered from start to finish.
The Thunder never trailed.
It started on the defensive end. What Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison did against Dirk was clinical. They forced tough shots. They kept him moving. They never let him find a rhythm.
Dirk's final line: 6 of 15 for 17 points.
Really, though, those guys have been playing well against Dirk throughout the series.
But the biggest improvement?
He went 15 of 44 from the floor in the first two games, but on Thursday night, he went 11 of 15. He scored 31 points. He looked smooth. He seemed confident.
And with Russell Westbrook and James Harden continuing to produce offensively, this was as complete a game as the Thunder has played in weeks.
“We were treating it like a Game 7,” Durant said. “We wanted to come out with a sense of urgency.”
The Thunder did just that, and in the process, it served notice of just how good this team can play, how tough this team can be. Doing that against a team that was in a must-win situation was a huge statement.
“I think this might've been one of the best games of the year,” Westbrook said.
The Thunder Bandwagon is picking up some serious steam.