Despite a heroic effort from Dirk Nowitzki, the Thunder were just too much Saturday night in Dallas.
Dirk put up 27 points on 12-21 shooting, doing everything his 37-year-old body would allow him to keep his team in the game. It wasn't enough.
The Thunder weren't able to open up a really big lead the way they did in games 1 and 3, but they led by a decent margin almost the whole way through. Give the Mavs credit: they fought hard, and several times trimmed the lead to 7 or 8. OKC simply had/has more firepower, dominating the home team on the glass and burying them in the paint.
If you'd been told that Dallas would shoot nearly 52% from the field collectively, and that Durant/Westbrook would combine to go 14-39, you might have thought the Mavs had a chance. Unfortunately, the Thunder role players stepped up big time, as Dion Waiters went 4-5 and Enes Kanter destroyed Dallas to the tune of 28 points on 12-13 field goals.
It should surprise no-one that the Thunder out rebounded the Mavs, but it's hard to overstate how much all those second chance points hurt Dallas, who did well making Durant and Westbrook work for shots but simply couldn't contain the Thunder big man trio of Kanter, Adams and Ibaka, who all together scored 58 points on 31 shots.
The theme of the last two-plus months for Dallas has been finding a way to overcome a lack of healthy bodies and -- let's face it -- a nightly disparity in talent. Rick Carlisle has used smoke and mirrors to hide all these deficiencies, but the thing about making the playoffs is that the opponents get much, much better.
Deron Williams tried to go again in this one, but didn't even make it through the second minute of action. Salah Mejri also limped off-court at one point, albeit much later. J.J. Barea stayed on the floor, but clearly isn't physically anywhere to close to 100%. He failed to score on 7 shots in 27 minutes. A bone bruise didn't seem to bother Dirk Nowitzki too much, but undoubtedly the Big German is toughing it out at this stage, as well; he must be weary from a long season where he's been forced to play far more minutes than anyone wanted.
The Mavs' best quarter came in the second, when the insertion of Mejri and Justin Anderson into the lineup energized both the team and the crowd and Dallas was able to make a run and keep the game from getting away from them. It would be the only quarter where the Thunder didn't score at least 30 points.
Hats off to Wes Matthews and Raymond Felton, too. With all the injuries, those two have had to take a much larger share of the offense, while also being tasked with guarding two of the best players in the league. Felton continued a fine series with 19 points and 11 assists. Matthews also scored 19 points, and most of them came against Durant, who has about five inches and 15 pounds over him.
So...the series now shifts back to Oklahoma, as Dallas will face elimination Monday night. Can the Mavs keep their season alive?