“Get the ball,” Auerbach told Perkins. “Don't give up the ball. Every possession is key. Is key.”
But this wasn't all a Thunder meltdown. Providential hoops went the Mavericks' way.
In the final minute 80 seconds, three loose balls went Dallas' way:
* Westbrook leaped to grab Dirk Nowitzki's missed 3-pointer but was bumped by Tyson Chandler. No call as the ball bounced to Shawn Marion, who passed to Nowitzki again. Swish. The 3-pointer gave Dallas its first lead, 95-94, since early second quarter.
* After Eric Maynor missed a 3-pointer on the Thunder's next possession, Nick Collison flew down the baseline for a hustle rebound but feared falling out of bounds and heaved the ball high towards midcourt. Dallas' Shawn Marion speared the ball and sped to a breakaway dunk, made worse by Durant's foul that produced a three-point play and a 98-94 Mav lead.
* Finally, with Dallas up 98-96, Nowitzki missed a contested shot with 17.8 seconds left, but the scramble for the ball was won by Jason Kidd, who tipped it to Nowitzki, producing the game-clinching foul shots.
“Wish we could have some of those plays back,” Collison said. “I'll think about those plays all summer.”
That's good. That's fuel. That's motivation for the Thunder to make sure they return to this stage, only next time hoist the trophy.
“We're not ashamed of how we played tonight,” Brooks said. “We fought ... we gave ourselves a chance to win.
“I can't complain about anything we did. We fought for 48 minutes. We played tough for 48 minutes. We're a heck of a basketball team.”
Just not quite good enough. Not yet.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.