By Ryan Costello
Another game, another fourth-quarter collapse.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s growing trend of late-game miscues bit them for the first time Wednesday night, as they were dealt a 111-103 defeat courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks and their one-man Wehrmacht, Dirk Nowitzki.
The Thunder entered the contest having shot a collective 14-52 in the fourth quarter of their last three games, allowing late comebacks by the Celtics, Bucks and Timberwolves.
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In each of those games the Thunder survived. Wednesday night was different.
Leading 81-75 following the third, the Thunder were outscored 36-22 in the final frame, including a 24-3 run that would be the home team’s death knell.
Oklahoma City shot 39 percent (9-23) to the Mavericks’ 59 percent in the closing quarter.
“We missed shots in the fourth quarter. We missed shots and we were giving them energy and they got hot,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks explained.
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Nowitzki scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, and started the Mavericks’ game clinching run with seven consecutive points in two possessions; a three from the corner one trip and a four-point-play on the next.
“Dirk, there’s sometimes you can’t do much [with him]. He’s one of the best shot-makers in the history of the game, and the way he does things, he’s hard to defend,” Brooks said.
Nowitzki continued his dominance of the Thunder franchise since their move to the plains. While the team has been in Oklahoma City, Nowitzki has averaged 33.7 points per game when sharing the floor with the Thunder.
“[Nowitzki] was huge,” Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “Sometimes there is just not a whole lot you can do about it. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat and try to get ready for the next time that we play him.”
There were several moments in the game when it seemed the Thunder would pull away, but the experienced Mavericks answered every run with one of their own.
Dallas trailed by nine in the second quarter before narrowing the gap to a single point at halftime. They trailed by 11 in the third, but used an 11-2 run to close within two at 77-75. Trailing 90-83 in the fourth, they scored 10 straight points in under a minute and a half to gain a lead they would never surrender.
“The thing I like about this team is that they never quit on a situation,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “They keep encouraging each other and we just looked for good things to happen.”
Tyson Chandler, who was nearly traded to the Thunder last season before the team balked at his tendency for injury, scored 17 points and amassed a game-high 18 rebounds for the Mavericks.
“Tonight I went out there with the energy that I wanted to bring and make sure the guys were sprinting ahead of me. We just kept pushing for the win.” Chandler said.
Caron Butler scored all of his 15 points in the first half, at times keeping his team afloat, and Jason Kidd scored 8 points with 12 assists.
Kevin Durant, the only player ahead of Nowitzki in scoring this season, finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds, Jeff Green scored 17 points, and Russell Westbrook put together his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 assists.
The loss ended a five-game win streak for the Thunder (10-5), who will travel to Canseco Fieldhouse to play the Pacers Friday night, and the Mavericks (10-4) follow with their in-state rival Spurs in San Antonio.