DALLAS, Texas — The Oklahoma City Thunder humbled the Dallas Mavericks 95-79, pushing the reigning NBA champions to the brink of elimination in the first round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant on Thursday scored 31 points to lead the Thunder, who took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and will try to complete the sweep on Saturday in Dallas.
No NBA team has rallied from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven post-season series.
Russell Westbrook added 20 points, James Harden scored 10 and Serge Ibaka finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Thunder, who narrowly edged the first two games of the series.
The Mavericks had hoped to reverse their fortunes as the series shifted to their home floor, but instead the Thunder never trailed and led by as many as 26 points.
Dirk Nowitzki, the Most Valuable Player of last season’s NBA finals triumph over Miami, led the Mavericks with 17 points.
Jason Kidd added 12 and Jason Terry scored 11, but the Mavericks shot just 34.2 percent from the field.
“The second quarter we were 4-for-16 and we never really recovered from it,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a tough game. We needed to be a lot better than we were.
“Our mistakes, we weren’t able to overcome. Their talent, we weren’t able to overcome,” added Carlisle, who showed more emotion than his players in his fiery objection to the lack of a goal-tending call on Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins late in the first quarter.
Carlisle moved onto the court to chastise referee Marc Davis and was restrained by an assistant coach.
Dallas came into the contest saying they would treat it as a must-win, but it was the Thunder — who fell to the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals last season — who showed a sense of urgency.
“We were treating it like a game seven as well,” Westbrook said. “We knew these guys were tough here in their building.”
Added Harden: “We needed it, it was a must-win for us, and we came out with that intensity. Same thing for next game as well.”
Durant, uncharacteristically quiet in the first two games, had 21 points by half-time, when Oklahoma City led by nine.
“Finally I was able to make a few (shots),” Durant said.
“They came out firing,” said the Mavericks’ Vince Carter. “They hit us first, at home, in a game that we needed. We have to hit first and you know the rest is history.”
In Friday’s only Western Conference contest, the Los Angeles Lakers will try to build on their 2-0 lead over the Nuggets as their series shifts to Denver.